"My free trial was set to end at midnight. I hadn't earned any gold whatsoever, and my character wasn't advancing quickly enough to turn a profit. I knew what I had to do, and I bravely started clicking," says Rob Conzelman, a self-described "cyber whore" writing for Dragonfire Magazine. Conzelman describes the character he made (female, of course) and how he dressed her, and how he then proceeded to wait by a lamppost, looking sexy and soliciting passersby.
"And, uh, just like that," he writes, "I made five gold pieces in five minutes. I was earning zilch when I played legitimately, but cyber-whoring myself paid off in virtual dividends. Instantly I earned the equivalent of 80 cents and boosted my wage to a near real-life $4 an hour wage!"
"Will Bobba for Furni"
Online communities, by their very nature, push boundaries, and that is exactly why so many people find their second home within one, and why so many others seek to fulfill their needs within their walls. But as the scope of internet offerings expands to include content designed for octogenarians, politicians, school teachers and children, that very tendency of online communities to break social barriers comes into stark relief. Sometimes barriers can be good things, especially when children are involved - or could be.
"Maybe 'furni' is common UK slang, but my first encounter with the word was on Habbo, where virtual furniture is the only possible currency between characters," writes the BBC's H2G2 reviewer, after a visit to Habbo Hotel, the kid-centric online world. "The second most important term to remember on Habbo is 'bobba,' a nonsense word that automatically replaces any objectionable terms. If someone says, 'Bobba you!' they're not trying to be cute or smurfy. They said something so bad that it was automatically censored. ... When you hear a female habbo say, 'I WILL BOBBA FOR FURNI,' then you've met your first virtual furniture strumpet. This behavior is quite against the rules of Habbo, but enterprising users have found workarounds."
As vile as it may seem that children are selling their virtual selves for money (or furni), if pressed on the subject, Habbo's teens will always have the tried and true response "I learned it by watching you" to fall back on.
"100 an hour paid up front for girl in Seoul 20 or younger"
Called a "failure of the ratings" system by some and "worth checking out" by others, Audition, a dance-based MMOG, sports tens of millions of registered users (more than Second Life) and according to Korean gaming site KH Games, presents something of a hidden menace to the Korean population, if not the world.
Audition functions like most MMOGs, only with DDR-style dancing instead of dragon slaying. Users sign up for an account, register a name and join up with others to dance the night away. Sounds harmless enough, except Audition, like many Asian MMOGs, offers a deep reward system supplemented by pay-to-play extra features; features some users are willing to sell themselves in order to get. But again, nothing new here. What is different is the dance moves in Audition are overtly sexual, and players are encouraged to "pair up" and even get married within the game. Audition players frequently follow their in-game affairs out of game, leading to all sorts of trouble, as one might imagine.
But such online-turned-real-world meet ups are also not new to Korea, where, after decades of sexual repression, they appear to be undergoing something of a sexual revolution - internet style. Scheduling bungae-ting (lightning meetings) in chat rooms or through instant massaging and then following up with a real life hookup is commonplace, and many of Korea's free-to-play MMOGs, like Audition, double as dating services. Instead of flowers and candy, Romeos buy in-game items, and their Juliets reciprocate with sex.