I used to play Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) a lot. With the recent release of Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, I thought it was appropriate to comment on how cheap MMORPGs as a whole can be for entertainment, even without being a “hardcore play.”

cataI probably played MMORPGs the most when I was in my teenage years, because I lived in a small town with literally nothing to do.  I remember the long days and nights with Diet Pepsi cans stacked all over my desk while playing games such as Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, World of Warcraft, and many more. The recent release of Star Wars: The Old Republic grabbed my attention because a friend picked up the game and was involved with their beta phase (testing phase before release).

Although I have certain seen the “dark side” that MMORPGs can take on an individual’s live… I also see how it can be a healthy and cheap form of entertainment. The “dark side” (pun intended with the new Star Wars release) is the social isolationism that an individual can develop with these type of games. To players it often becomes virtually their entire friendship network and the only channel for socializing with their peers – and as one can imagine, this habit is very unhealthy. These types of people develop habits such as skipping classes, work, social events, etc. to binge on the virtual world that is a MMORPG.

Many people think that these MMORPG’s are occupied by mainly children – and I’ll be the first to tell you they are not. The average age of a World of Warcraft player as of July 2007 (old data) was 28! Remember that you have a lot of kids pulling that average down. Another interesting fact is World of Warcraft was a highly successful game with females by having approximately 16% female and 84% male, it may seem low but I can assure you that many games have a much less flattering ratio.

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Now let’s talk about why I think MMORPG’s can be a healthy form of entertainment. Believe it or not, a lot of people have crummy jobs, many of which pay low salaries. Imagine with me if you will that you are making $25k and your take home is just enough to pay your basic living expenses and you have approximately $50-$100 left a month for entertainment. An MMORPG costs about $50-$60 up front and then $15 a month to maintain a subscription – if you purchase a MMORPG every year, the monthly cost would be [($60 + 15 *12)/12] = $20 a month.

twentydollarbillIf you truly enjoy these types of games as many do, it would be hard to generate the same level of entertainment a month for $20. Let’s say you play the game 5 hours a week – that’s $1 an hour. I can tell you that most games on consoles such as Xbox 360, PS3, etc. do not typically generate the same $1 an hour level of entertainment (if fact I’ve had games that cost me $50 that I played 4 hours).

Of course this $1 an hour entertainment comes with a caveat, Do not make this into $.05 an hour entertainment (implying that you are spending 400 hours a month playing). There are great and yes even free things to do out there as alternatives. As for Star Wars the Old Republic, I purchased the game and I’m up to level 16 and I play about 4-6 hours a week.

If you choose to play MMORPGS, make sure it comes with a social balance, take it from a man who once did not find such balance.