This month marks the debut of the most anticipated online
game ever, "the Sims Online". Ten bones a month
will get you access to your own Sim community where you
can walk around and interact with hundreds of other Internet
denizens. Online gaming has become a booming business. Last
year $6.35 billion was spent on software and $196 million
was spent on subscription fees for online games. That figure
is expected to grow to $1.4 billion over the next five years.
If you're unfamiliar with online gaming, "the Sims"
or what's going on here, The Beefboy is here to help. Not
only will I tell you about all of that, but I'm going to
take a look in crystal ball and tell you where we're headed.
So sit back, relax, enjoy, and let The Beefboy do, what
The Beefboy does best… and that's break it right on
down for you.
Back in 1997, Electronic Arts launched the first highly
successful multiplayer online role-playing game, "Ultima
Online". Players loved to log on and "live"
in this fantasy world, where they were rewarded for spending
more time online than their counterparts. Sony's "Everquest"
and Microsoft's "Asheron's Call" soon followed
and the war for the hearts and minds (and dollars) of online
gamers ensued. The latest and greatest shot in that war
happens this month as "the Sims Online" is rolled
out for the masses.
"The Sims Online" game follows the same set-up
as "the Sims" PC game which basically allows players
to "live" in a neighborhood much like the one
Mr. Rogers lives in. Players build houses and interact with
other computer-run Sims that come to visit. You can develop
a career, get married and have kids, just like in real life.
"The Sims" is basically a game about time management
and figuring out how to do all the things that you want
to do, with limited time and resources. Again, just like
real life. The difference between the PC Sims and the online
version is that everyone you run into online has a real
person behind the icon. So now, the interaction takes on
another layer of reality. Or does it?
The Beefboy has heard stories about people who spend an
inordinate amount of free time in these alternate realities.
In one case, a married couple spent more time online, sitting
in different rooms, playing characters in a fantasy world,
than they did interacting with each other in the real world.
Newsweek interviewed Christy Rogge, a 23-year-old mother
of two, who plays the online game "Counter-Strike"
six hours a day (where she is a counter-terrorist leader).
Tamara Bryant, 30, spends five to six hours a day playing
the test version of "the Sims Online" game from
Monday to Friday and more on the weekends "because
work gets in the way."
The question I have for you is, at what point does the escape
from reality become someone's reality? We're a society that
is obsessed with entertainment and flights of fancy. Let
The Beefboy be clear here, if he's not knocking heads or
knocking boots, then you can be certain that he's in front
of either a TV or a monitor at any given time. I see no
difference between watching movies, television, playing
video games or even reading a book, to escape reality. However,
these online games provide a more sophisticated form of
entertainment, so sophisticated that they take on the veneer
of reality and of course this is just the dawn of the medium.
Software and hardware developers are constantly working
on even more enticing forms of entertainment. Porn peddlers
already have teledildonics, where a person can use a prosthesis
that is connected, via the Internet, to another person who
can regulate your pleasure. Virtual Reality goggles were
introduced a decade ago and they are already working on
a full sensory suit. Within a decade it will be possible
to entirely immerse yourself in a world of fantasy.
What is the cost to the individual, much less society, if
everyone is so jacked in to fantasy that "work gets
in the way?" When a 23-year-old mother of two can live
a fantasy life as a counter-terrorist agent, why would she
ever return to the grind of reality? What happens when a
real counter-terrorist agent would rather live online as
a 23-year-old mother of two in "the Sims?" The
point is that while entertainment is more diverse, available
and engaging than at any other time in history, we have
to be aware of the long-term mortgage we are putting on
our personal life by living too long in a world that doesn't
Then again, the Star Wars Galaxies online game is coming
out soon and The Beefboy has always wanted to be a Jedi…