A Gaming Obsession: Buying Virtual Currency Without Limits
Since the appearance of MMO games, players around the world have taken an interest by participating in online games varying in genre. As games continued to evolve adding in characters, cosmetic items and power-ups, the demand for these items increase by the day. Many gamers took this a step further: purchasing items in an Item Mall. An Item Mall is a dangerous place for players who demand more from the game. Instead of focusing their efforts on the task at hand, players usually turn to the Item Mall to spend real world money in it. It is a trend which continues to happen now, across every MMO which can be labeled an obsession.
Item Malls in games is a place that host items which cannot be purchased directly through vendors. So much so an Item Mall can be tempting to the average player. This brings me to the main topic of this article: purchasing cosmetic items in the Item Mall using real world money until it transforms into a deadly, yet uncontrollable obsession.
In 2006 I was introduced to a game called MapleStory, a 2D MMORPG fantasy game. The game was simple: choose a class then venture through the game by completing quests. Eventually while playing the game, I noticed other players wore things that aren't usually sold by vendors. MapleStory had a large Item Mall, hosting a variety of items from clothing, weapons, pets, pet accessories and so forth. For the longest time I ignored it until temptation got the best of me; I headed over to the Item Mall and checked out what the fuss was about.
I purchased a $30 game card which gave me 20,000 Nexon points to be used in the Item Mall. Only purchasing a couple of things, I ran out of money. Wearing my new clothes (which had no added stats) I continued in the game and I did notice the change in my behavior; I'd be entering the Item Mall more often to look at the new cosmetic items posted for purchase. Eventually I caved in and bought more items which included a staff, a cat and accessories. Needless to say the idea of buying virtual items was appealing to me. Through my purchases, I was constantly reminded these items lasted only 60 days until they expire. Regardless of the reminders, I continued to purchase more items until the point it became a direct obsession and a habit which couldn't be mended easily.
On slow days, I'd enter the Item Mall and browse for a full hour, mixing and matching clothes for my character. Playing the game itself is an afterthought. I couldn't remember exactly how much I used in purchasing these items but I'm pretty certain the value totaled over $100 CDN (Canadian Dollars). Buying these items became second nature spending more and more time in the mall rather than completing assigned quests.
This behavior lasted for 6 months straight until it affected my schooling. My grades dropped plus, I was placed on probation for the semester. Of course, in addition to failing my subjects, the tension at home intensified; I was banned from the laptop. Taking matters into my own hands, I stopped myself from playing MapleStory for a week but it was unbearable; once I gained access back into the game, I immediately headed for the Item Mall and purchased new items. After a month or so, I began to realize what I was becoming: an Item Mall addict. By that point I realized this got a little too out of hand and I uninstalled the game before the damage was permanent; getting kicked out of school.
Now when I look back at my behavior, it was unacceptable. Although I can understand and sympathize why buying virtual items was addicting; you character was dressed up in the most fashionable threads or holding a bad-ass weapons others couldn't afford. It gives you a sense of 'uniqueness' if it can be called that. I'm glad I quit the game before it couldn't be controlled. It was money wasted when placed into perspective. Though I was lucky (in a way) I had own my own credit card and I didn't use my parents' card for the purchases.
In conclusion, buying virtual items is a waste of money and time. Most of if not all virtual items contain an expiry date after which the item disappears from your inventory. They don't provide any stat boosts except making you look cool and stand out from the crowd. If such behaviors are identified early enough, the buying could stop immediately but if someone was buying hundreds of dollars worth of virtual items, an intervention was needed. I was lucky I wasn't a complete addict but I was close to being one. In addition, after I quit the game, I focused on my studies and amended my grades plus my relationship with my family. Things went back to the normal to the way they used to be before the introduction of MapleStory and it's tempting Item Mall.
Guest post by: Anonymous
We'd like to thank you the article contributor for sharing her personal virtual asset addiction story with us. On the contrary, although gaming addiction has been debated a lot, it is not a topic in and of itself. In-game virtual assets do play a role in building up that addiction.
When we refer exclusively to virtual assets, there has been several incidents whereby as intangible as they are, these assets seeps into our society in various forms such as broken relationships, failing school, losing a job, getting arrested and sentenced to prison even. For instance, the divorce case in China wherein the wife played online games through her husband's account sees her demanding for her share of their virtual assets on top of the split of other real world assets. Then there was the incident about a Japanese woman who was arrested in 2008 for breaking into her husband's virtual account on the same interactive game we're discussing here, MapleStory and killing his avatar. Currently, she faces a fine and prison sentence of up to five years. Such stories often end tragically. As harmless as virtual assets may seem, the effects of prolonged attachment do result in real-life crimes which although seems innocuous and almost ridiculous to some, are life altering and sad for individuals involved.