Finding Your Identity in Online Games | Online Games

As of today, there are dozens of Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMOPRG’s) slated for release or in beta. It is hard to decide on which online game to play. And most of us don’t have the time or money to play more then one game at a time. With all the competition, software companies need to come up with more creative ways of distinguishing themselves from each other and retaining their player base.After all the hype from the initial release of a game subsides, what keeps players engaged in the virtual world? For one thing, the game has to be fun and must continue to be fun. Beyond that, the players need to have a sense of ownership – they need to have a tangible connection and personal investment in their online world.Online games are an extension of our real life. What keeps us happy in the real world will often translate to what keeps us happy in the virtual world of a game. We like to feel special and have the ability to express ourselves in our own unique way. We also enjoy the freedom to choose of what we do with our possessions and time.Customizable CharactersOne of the most important aspects of a game is being able to customize the in-game character. Having a unique avatar or graphical representation helps players stand out. It is a key element that defines the identity of a player.The latest online role-playing games let you tweak a multitude of physical including hair color and style, facial characteristics, height, weight, age, and gender. This lets players create a unique, one-of-a-kind avatar that defines them in the virtual world.As voice chat is becoming more common in online games, players are feeling a need to customize the sound of their voice. These gamers may have spent a long time customizing the look of their avatars, why not have voices to match? Voice-changing products like MorphVOX from Screaming Bee allow these players to have a unique voice that matches their in-game character, whether they choose to be a mighty giant or space adventurer.Opportunities to improve a character’s abilities or skills are an important feature of an online game. Just as in real world, people like to have the option of changing their lot in life through self-improvement. Between gaining skills and “leveling-up”, their online character continues to grow and improve.PossessionsAnother way to customize character in game is providing a variety of clothing and possessions. Just as someone can look and dress a certain way in real life, their character in game should have the option to wear variety of clothes. Unique clothing combinations provide a form of self-expression, define your character’s style and allow people to find you in a crowded tavern or spaceport. And depending one’s mood, it is nice to have a variety of outfits to wear for in game hunts or special events.A game with variety of loot and goodies is a big draw for gamers. Much of the excitement and interest in online games stems from the opportunity to discover new and cool treasure. People will literally spend hours and days of their real life “camping” spots on the virtual world of a game to find the latest and greatest loot or treasure.Having a place to call home is no different in an online world. Players appreciate games that offer player housing. Customizable player housing can be so important that the people will continue to pay monthly fees for a game that they’ve stopped playing in order to keep a house that they worked so hard to acquire. They may often trade property to other players for exorbitant virtual or real dollars.Different Roles for Different FolksJust as in real life, gamers need a purpose. After some time, all the leveling-up and acquiring new possessions can lose its luster. Online games offer professions, player driven economy, and guilds to provide players with roles and, moreover, a way of creating a virtual society.Interdependence on other players keeps people engaged in games because they have a tangible purpose or role in the virtual world. Some choose to be merchants who sell various goods, such as food, clothing, and weapons to other players. In return they barter for money or goods. Others can choose to be part of a guild, working for a common purpose or hunting together in larger groups.Online gamers will often form long-lasting friendships as a result of their time in these vibrant virtual societies. You may see the same players move from virtual world to virtual world as the latest online game is released. And in the real world, these same people will choose to spend time together and support each other in both good and bad times.Going Beyond the Virtual WorldThe success of an online game in developing ownership can be measured by its ability to go beyond the confines of the virtual world into the personal life of a gamer. Online games haven’t isolated people as some people may argue. They instead have enriched the lives of the many players who have invested time and energy into these rich worlds.

Food For Thought – The Meat Production Process Is So Wasteful And Costly | Livestock

According to Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer, we would have enough food for the entire developing world if we ate half as much meat. Reducing meat production by merely 10 percent could release enough grain and other natural foods to feed 60 million people! Albert Einstein had this to say about vegetarianism: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chance for survival on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” He predicted that producing and eating so much meat would literally kill us and our environment. Leo Tolstoy stated, “Vegetarianism is the taproot of humanitarianism.”The world’s output of meat increased fivefold in the second half of the 20th century. Given the current trend, by 2050, the increases in meat production will have reached a point where we could feed 4 billion extra people with the plant food that is now being used to raise cattle. Only 10 percent of the protein and calories we feed to our livestock are recovered in the meat we eat. In the case of the United States, for the 20 million tons of humanly edible and nutritious protein that is fed to livestock yearly (apart from the waste products and drugs), only about 2 million tons of meat protein are obtained; and out of that amount, less than 27 percent can be utilized by the human body. If you are concerned about the world’s survival, consider the following statistics:One acre of grain produces 5 times more protein than an acre of pasture set aside for meat production. An acre of beans or peas produces 10 times more protein and an acre of spinach 28 times more protein. Almost all land can be used for growing some crop or another.One portion of meat contains only 20 grams of protein, whereas a typical 100-gram portion of beans yields 35 grams of protein. The meat, however, costs about 20 times more than the beans do. Being a vegetarian saves not only lives, but also money.The food energy supplied by meat production uses 10 times more fossil fuel than the food energy supplied by plant production. Given the current shortage of fossil fuels on the planet, meat production may soon become unaffordable.The world’s livestock now produces at least 10 percent of all the greenhouse gases. In other words, emissions from livestock have become a significant source of atmospheric methane. As of 1990, domestic animals currently account for about 15 percent of the annual anthropogenic methane emissions, and the number has been steadily increasing ever since.85 percent of the topsoil lost in the USA each year is directly associated with the raising of livestock. In this way, 4 million acres of cropland is destroyed every year. In the same way, precious rain forests have had to give way to satisfy the demand for more meat in the world.To grow one pound of wheat requires only 60 pounds of water, whereas the production of one pound of meat requires a staggering 50,000 pounds of water. To produce one pound of chicken, 1,800 pounds of water are needed. Large chicken slaughtering plants, in fact, expend up to 100 million gallons of water daily, enough to supply a city of 25,000 people!According to research published in Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 85, No. 15, April 9, 2007: 34-35, roxarsone, an arsenic-based additive used in most chicken feed, could pose health risks to humans. Roxasone is used to promote growth, kill parasites and improve the color of chicken meat. Under certain conditions, which can occur within live chickens or on farm land, this compound converts into more toxic forms of inorganic arsenic. This form of arsenic has been linked to bladder, lung, skin, kidney and colon cancers, and low-level exposure can lead to partial paralysis and diabetes. Of course, arsenic is also a deadly poison. Over 70 percent of the 9 billion broiler chickens produced annually in the United States are fed roxarsone.The meat production process is so wasteful and costly that, in order to survive, the meat industry needs hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies every year. You never pay only for the meat you eat; the subsidies come out of your pocket. In 1977, the governments of Western Europe spent almost half a billion dollars purchasing farmers’ overproduction of meat and additional millions to store it. This trend has not been different in the United States and is worsening each year. All this is precious money lost, thereby heavily burdening every national economy. In this sense, meat consumption is directly impoverishing the wealthy nations.Any wars fought in the future will revolve about energy, food and water, all three of which are heavily wasted through meat production. The worldwide increase of meat consumption is driving the world closer and closer to the brink of international conflict.

Cheap All Inclusive Holidays Guide | Holidays and Vacations

One of the all time cheap vacations has been through companies selling time-shares. The holidays are usually only three to four days in length, but make for a pleasant get-away, if you can endure the high-pressure sales pitch that is a part of the activities. You may know people who use this venue almost exclusively for their holidays.Be sure you understand what the word “all-inclusive” means to the person booking your vacation. There are many hidden costs relating to your holiday, and they add to your bottom line. These all must be considered as part of the holiday expenses, especially if you are following a tight budget for the trip.Destination charges can add hundreds of dollars to everyone’s cheap all inclusive holidays. A cruise ship may offer fares that look very attractive if you live in the city where the journey starts and ends, but if you have expensive airfare to get there and back, you can easily end up doubling your costs.An all-inclusive trip may mean that you get the necessities of life, but none of the little extras. Quite often meals are served at precise times, and if you don’t get there during those times, you have to pay for a special meal with a hefty charge. Drinks are complimentary on some cruises and an extra cost on others.Tipping can add a great deal to an all-inclusive vacation. It is important to know if this is expected or the servers are taken care of by their employer. Many people don’t ask the question up front, and then they spend another 7% to 10% more just for gratuities.When you know the exact rules, you can plan your holiday so you don’t come back home with high credit card bills because you ran over your allocation. The one thing that cheap all inclusive holidays are designed for is so people do not exceed their budgets and have to refrain from the next holiday vacation because of the mistake.Resort areas offering package deals may take in less profit because of the special rates, but it usually evens out because there are more takers on the low priced deals. When vacationers know what they will spend ahead of time, they generally enjoy the holiday more, and they will consider vacationing that way again.You may have memories of holidays you took without having a firm grasp on expenses and what you were going to do for food and accommodations. You probably spent much more than you anticipated, and many times, you may have gone to some very unmemorable resorts.The only way to look at these cheap all inclusive holidays is as a win-win situation for you and the attraction you go to visit. Just get all the facts before you make the trip.