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Brosse Street Journal » Arts and Culture:

Virtual Life of Georgian Teenagers

By Ela Asatiani
Brosse Street Journal
Friday, October 7 2005
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"Can anybody open the door?" came the voice of the young man in the apartment. The door finally opened, and he was standing with an embarrassed smile on the face. "Excuse me, come in please," 27-year-old David Buachidze said. "I'm playing. Somebody can kill me right now, while I'm here. Do you mind if I continue playing?"

"Lineage is like a narcotic," he said of the computer game he was playing. "It has truly made me silly. I've played Lineage for two months. I have barely slept. On the days when I'm working, I get up at 6 o'clock to have time to play until 9. After work I rush home like crazy so I can log on as fast as I can. I'm eating in front of the computer and hurry back from the toilet not to be late, because my hero is alone and can't protect himself from the enemy."

Lineage is an online fantasy role-playing game. It's three-dimension animation creates realistic likenesses of a certain historical period. Players represent a hero they pick themselves. They choose to be either elves or dwarfs or humans.

"The world of Lineage II is a war-torn land spanning two continents, where trust and betrayal clash as three kingdoms vie for power. These kingdoms share a delicate balance of power; however, within each kingdom they are vulnerable to internal strife, as each manor has strong desire for self-rule," according to a game description at www.lineage2.com.

The hero is thrown into this chaos and has the ability to protect himself as well as change history in the game.

Dave Buachidze finds this game more interesting then going outside and meeting with friends.

"Everything here is like the real world," he said. "A person reacts as if he was in reality; with these relationships you can learn more than you can in Tbilisi. In the city I meet people like me, but on the net I meet different people with different mentalities. Someone from Africa has a different strategy then a guy from Russia. I learn more here than in real relationships."

"This is a game designed for grown-up people. Kids can't play it. One has to be mature to play because, just like in the real world, you have to be careful and do more planning not to lose," says Vakho Tskhvitava, 29, who admitted he has played six hours without stopping.

"After a whole night spent with the computer, he can't wake up when I need his help," says Tskhvitava's father. "But he can play as much as he wants as long as he isn't losing money like in a casino."

This is a game that requires long-term play. In order to progress to a higher level, you have to play for hours. According to the information web site for the game, players who have reached level 70 have played the equivalent of about 107 24-hour days.

"Gaming has both bad and good sides. On the one side it is time-wasting, it causes artificial autism, and the person is losing his role of father, son or relative and becoming interested only in something unreal," says Nana Jibgashvili, a psychologist at the Center for Social and Psychological Aid. " On the other side, this is a very calm way to speak with people without real contact."

" All the interest in this game is in improving your abilities," said Tskhvitava. "Day- by-day you become more powerful. You can do things that you weren't allowed to do when you started. After becoming the most powerful hero, you'll lose your interest in the game."

"Some people have a high sense of competition. They prefer to be rivals in a game," says Jibgashvili. "This is a safer place than the real world because physically nothing can harm you. Also, it is a way of having a rest, having some separation from people, and creating your own world without hurting others."

" It was my birthday, and one of the players gave me a gift of 10,000 Adena (imaginary web money). I was so happy! It was the best present that I've ever got in my life," says Buachidze.

Money is very important in the game. You can't improve without money. Your hero needs clothes, footwear, weapons and many different things, just like in life. Money is so important that players pay real money for the web one. Players from Russia, Europe and America can afford to buy so-called Adena cards. After activating these cards, players get a certain amount of web money.

" If Georgia had these cards, I would buy them," Buachidze said. "Sometimes you need web money so much that you would pay real money."

There are nine official computer servers for this game an unknown number of unofficial servers. In prime time, approximately 12,000 people from all around the world play at the same time on each of them. They are busy selling and buying items. You can meet even "specialized resellers", who make a real profit by selling items for real money to beginners.

" They just deceive starters and teenagers," said Buachidze. "There is even a special web site about already known deceivers. I've been deceived so many times that I don't believe anyone. It's good that I got this experience here and not in real life. Now I know that I don't have to trust people easily. "


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