By PETER WAYNER
The Sims Online is a clean, well-lighted corner of the Internet where people work to build an elaborately decorated, chat-filled virtual world. But if playing by the rules in this realm isn’t entertaining enough, there are after-hours joints where rogues and grifters gather to swap schemes for gaming the game and growing rich.
The chatter at TSOExtreme.com, for example, is a mix of simple tips for guiding the characters known as Sims and elaborate strategies for earning millions of the online currency known as simoleans. Recently much of the talk has centered on using extra software, known as a bot, to automate the most tiresome clicking so players can rack up hundreds of thousands of simoleans in their sleep.
One of the players engaging in this automated counterfeiting, a 29-year-old financial planner from Texas, said he did so without apology (although he did not want to be identified by name). “I think the bots actually level the playing field for people who have day jobs,” he said. “When I play an online game, I can’t be the best because there are some college kids out there spending 14 hours a day.”
Web sites like TSOExtreme.com are a challenge for the rapidly growing world of interactive games. While breaking the rules or using secret “cheat codes” has always been an accepted, even treasured part of single-player games, new online games match competitors, often strangers, remotely, which changes the dynamic. No one likes to lose unfairly, and those who play by the rules often struggle against schemers who believe that all is fair in love and simulated war.
By PETER WAYNER