As final exams and papers are quickly approaching, I am finding procrastination more and more of a problem as I am surfing the Web for addicting games and Facebook applications to download. But I must admit, these 5-minute games are hardly fulfilling in comparison to the 5-hour long sessions spent playing online games that many of my friends play, even as it nears finals week.

Needless to say, one of these games is none other than the massively multiplayer online role-playing game “World of Warcraft.” Blizzard Entertainment certainly struck gold when introducing this game in November of 2004, but I believe the company may have simultaneously struck lives – and I am not referring to a warrior that can easily re-spawn at the nearest graveyard with the touch of a mouse.

My first exposure to the “world” was during the second semester of my freshman year, as I noticed fellow students on my floor slowly disappearing from the hallways. WoW literally spread as quickly as a virus; once one friend heard about the game and downloaded the free 10-day trial, his or her roommate was lured into the game and, soon afterward, friends of friends. I was never one for video or online games other than the old-school “Roller Coaster Tycoon” or the original “The Sims,” but, I must admit, the WoW graphics – even the music – caught my attention. This carefully crafted and remarkably detailed game was so appealing that it wasn’t long before I had subscribed to my 10-day trial and joined in on WoW conversations on my floor.

It wasn’t long before I considered myself addicted, either. The summer following my freshman year, the majority of time when I wasn’t at work was spent developing my character by entering five-hour long instances with a group of other players, or completing quest after quest to gain experience and gold. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my own world had changed – for the worse. If I wasn’t playing the game, I was talking about it with my friends, or, if I wasn’t talking about it, I was certainly thinking about it. I soon became so absorbed in the game that all of my other responsibilities and real social network seemed too monotonous, and I preferred to stay in my room with my own social network consisting of other players assuming the identity of warlocks and paladins.

It wasn’t until I had substantial arguments with my close friends that I realized how I was not only hurting my life, but those whom I cared for as well. After four months of playing the game – 800 hours, or 33 days in total – I discontinued my subscription to the game. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t the end of my WoW problems.

My close friends weren’t so close anymore. I was able to repair those relationships with people who were not online gamers, but those who still were continued to be so consumed by the game that they had essentially formed separate lives from mine. And their relationships were not the only area of their lives that had been damaged. Their grades had been on a downhill slope since the day they installed the game, not to mention their physical health.

The negative effects of online games can be so severe that many people develop symptoms of depression. There was a case of a young adult who committed suicide in 2002, and it has been suggested by his mother that the suicide may have been the result of his addiction to Sony Online’s “EverQuest.” Although the sole explanation for his suicide cannot be determined, it is plausible that the main contributor to this incident was his incessant online playing.

I am certainly not suggesting that Blizzard is a scapegoat and should be sued for millions for having “ruined” people’s lives. That would be on the same level as the 2002 lawsuit against McDonald’s for being the cause of obesity in two teenagers. I am merely suggesting that those who are spending excessive amounts of time on online games, or more specifically, MMORPGs, should reconsider the negative effects they may have (including the effect on this semester’s final exams and papers). Or, if you are the considerate friend or roommate of a person who is hooked on an online game, and everything else has failed, try showing him or her the South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” or uninstall the game and hide the back-up CDs (un-installation will not destroy characters). I will happily take all of the blame for you.

Khan is a member of the class of 2009.

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