The Italian Almanac

cyber gaming

Italian News - October 21

Some may call them geeks. But when they log on they become cyber warriors, fighting for survival against alien civilizations, enemy races and warlords. With nicknames ranging from Paranoid to DigitalMind, 700 online players from 70 countries gathered in Monza, Italy, north of Milan, on Thursday to compete in the 2006 World Cyber Games.

The battlegrounds range from tame, sporty games inspired by football and motor racing to real-time strategy games such as "Dawn of War," where players exterminate rival races in a Tolkien-like setting, or "StarCraft," in which different alien species vie for planetary domination.

The world gaming industry, whose estimated annual $25 billion turnover beats Hollywood box office revenues, is still a male-dominated world with few girls playing at the top level. This time, only one girl, Mitzie Valerie Eusebio from the Philippines, managed to make it to the World Cyber Games finals, her long, dark hair marking her out in a crowd of men.

Training requires several hours of practice a day and players admit on-line games can be addictive. Early this year, a 28-year-old South Korean died of heart failure after playing "StarCraft" for 50 hours at an Internet cafe. Yet, with the contest's large prize payouts in mind, many think it is worth investing a lot of time in the game.

The best players, especially in South Korea, are national heroes, feted like pop stars, and many Asian players receive sponsorships that allow them to play all the time.