Our teenage son Blake is currently infatuated with a new video game called "World of Warcraft." It's an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game); an online computer role-playing game in which hundreds of thousands of players can interact together (or against one another) in the same game at the same time. Your avatar (a graphical representation of the character you play) explores the online world, vanquishing enemies, completing quests and accumulating points. The longer you play, the more points you accrue.

Blake with pool volleyball trophiesAye, there's the rub. After high school lets out, Blake has volleyball practice, which often runs late. This cuts into his World of Warcraft game playing time. As a result, all of his friends' online characters are at a much higher level than his character.

So it's eBay to the rescue. Blake came to us, told us that he was behind in points, and told us that, via eBay, you could BUY points from other gamers. He wanted to use our credit card for the transaction. We declined to have our card used in this manner.

I mentioned this to my friend Bill, and he told me that he'd read an article in the New York Times that reported on "electronic sweatshops" in China where children sit at video terminals and play these games for hours on end, so they can accumulate points for the company they work for. The company sells the points on eBay, pockets the profit, and pays the children a pittance for their labors.

We mentioned this to Blake, hoping to elicit some teenage moral outrage. He replied, "Cool. They get to play video games all day." We reminded him that the kids get little compensation for their work. He said, "Cool. They get PAID to play video games all day." We informed him that these kids don't get to go to school. He countered, "So, what's your point?"

Suddenly, I feel very old.

© Robert Bendesky 2006
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