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Computer Games - The Power Leveling Business

I happened to catch the final episode of the documentary Gamer Revolution on ABC2 last night and I was totally blown away with just how much the computer game industry has progressed. If you're interested to read a more detailed summary of the topics covered in the documentary there is a good article on CBC-TV's web site.

Although I knew the computer gaming industry is worth millions more than the Hollywood movie industry and I've heard about online games/worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life it's an area of computing that has largely passed me by. I'm just not interested in spending hours upon hours playing computer games (though I am partial to the occasional game of Tomb Raider).

What gob smacked me the most about this episode was the story about a man who runs an online business to 'power level' a player's character in various online gaming worlds.

Here's how this works...

Say you're playing an online game where the top power level for a player character is 60. Unfortunately you're crap at the game and languishing around level 15 whilst all your friends, whom you game with, are at level 40. Such a power difference makes you more of a liability to the team in battles than a help.

One solution might be to practice, practice, practice...right? Isn't that what the game is all about, building up your characters experience and power yourself? Learning how to be a better player? Apparently that's not what it's about for everyone.

In the new world of computer gaming you can pay someone, who can play the game well, to play your character until they reach the desired power level you've requested and paid for. Say level 40 - like your friends. The catch? Whilst this person is powering up your character you have no access to the character or the game. Depending on how much of a boost you want this can take up to ten or more days.

When you get your character back your power level is much like your friends and, hey presto, you're no longer a liability. Well, assuming your not just blatantly crap at the game and fair no better at level 40 than what you did at level 15.

The unbelievable part - if that wasn't enough - is that the man who started this business of power leveling player's characters has had to out source the actual playing of the games part of his business. i.e. he no longer plays the games himself.

It gets better.

His business is based in the US but he's hired a manager in Romania to run a Romanian centre of about 30 computers where his players work on a shift basis to power up characters. Let that sink in just a bit.

This practice is so popular that he hired at least 30 players (probably more since they work on a rotational basis on 30 computers) in a developing country (read low paid workforce) to work around the clock power leveling people's characters in online games. Not only that but he's gone off shore to be competitive i.e. there are other people/businesses earning a living power leveling characters in online computer games.

Are you following this?

It's probably not new to you online gamer freaks out there but this is a whole online industry that I never imagined. I knew that Second Life has virtual money that can be turned into real money. I also knew that there's plenty of money to be made in other similar online games that have monetary systems but I never imagined there was this side industry in power leveling online player characters.

To me, it just smacks of people who want all the glory without the work.

If you're a gamer who's worked really hard to build up your character's level and experience then I just know you're not going to be all that impressed by these pretenders with money to burn.

If you want to know more about Power Leveling, BOG is one such service. I have no idea if it is the same service mentioned in the documentary however reading their about page I'm guessing not. This operation, with 700 computers and more than one thousand 'professional technicians', is much larger. Totally mind blowing!

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