Fun and Profit From Computer Gaming



For some students, the fourth hour of dungeon exploring and bomb defusing comes all too quickly.

Students in campus residences, with high-speed Internet connections and easily available software, often fall victim to the latest crop of hot computer games, such as this year's "Diablo II" and the "Half-Life" add-on "Counter Strike." Along with other top selling games such as "Black & White" and "The Sims," students have a wide variety of choices when it comes to avoiding school.

Although the games range in price from $19.99 at K-Mart for Counter Strike to $34.86 for Diablo II at Wal-Mart, some addicts have found a way to justify their cost and even profit from the numerous hours mastering the games demands.

Cosmin Banciu, a sophomore computer science major and avid Diablo II player, has made $120 by auctioning four 'items' used in the game, such as swords and weapons necessary to advance to the higher levels. After paying $35 for the game and another $35 for the expansion pack, titled "Diablo II: Lord of Destruction," Banciu has already made a $50 profit.

"I've seen items sold on eBay for $2,500 and at that rate, I could easily pay for my college tuition," said Banciu. One noteworthy item, the Grandfather Colossus Blade, a weapon attainable only after reaching level 81 of 99, is currently auctioning for $500.

"If you start a character today, just to get the opportunity to find that sword would take three months playing four hours a day seven days a week," said Banciu, who himself is near level 81.

For those ready to dedicate their leisure - and possibly class - time, but unable to part with the necessary funds, UB's vast residential network, along with an extensive unofficial search site, offers almost every game available on store shelves for free.

"Accessing games on the network is as easy as typing in the name of the game you want and pressing search," said sophomore Kai Magnus McNeil. "If the video game needs a key, you download a key generator."

The network also allows students to host local area network (LAN) parties, where gamers can join games with others on the network. Typically, however, players join games on the wider Internet, where greater competition and more sales opportunities can be found.

To many outside the gaming world, games like Diablo II and Counter Strike may seem to be variations of the same concept. Dave Shyu, a sophomore management information systems major, explained that Diablo II creates a mythical, fantasy role-playing environment while Counter Strike, a first-person "shooter," offers a more realistic approach.

"I play Counter Strike more because you get to mess with people," said Shyu. "In Diablo you are just playing against the computer. In Counter Strike, people surprise you."

Shyu said he plays games for about two or three hours of every day, a significant decrease from his freshman year. "It takes your mind off things. Some kids smoke weed, I play games," said Shyu.

According to Banciu and Shyu, students do not only play games to make money and shoot at each other, but for entertainment and an escape from hectic schedules and homework.

"That is all I do. I play video games and fail classes," said sophomore Alex Santiago. "It is entertaining. ... Rather than watching TV, you can play with your roommates."

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, several video games, which have often been criticized for their violent content, have had realistic material removed. The release of Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2002, which, like previous releases, contained scenes with a striking resemblance to the attacks, was postponed the day they occurred until further notice.

"With Flight Simulator 2000 there are some scenes of New York City with the World Trade Center in them. I know that it was pulled from some shelves," said Don, a Microsoft Customer Service Representative. "We have delayed the release of [Flight Simulator 2002] because it has scenes of the World Trade Center in there and we're going to remove those ... at the very least, the towers."