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By the late 1970s many universities in the United States were linked by ARPANET (see DARPA), a precursor to the Internet. The structure of ARPANET allowed users to link their computers or terminals to a main mainframe computer and interact in what was close to actual time. In 1980 ARPANET was connected to the University of Essex, Colchester, England, where 2 undergraduate students had actually composed a text-based dream adventure game that they called, or "multiuser dungeon." When the first outside users connected to MUD through ARPANET, online gaming was born.

These basic functions, as well as the dream setting, rollovered into the next generation of online video games, which were the first true MMOGs. The first wave of MMOGs consisted of such games as Ultima Online (debuted in 1997), the South Korean hit Family tree (1998 ), and Sony Corporation's Ever, Quest (1999 ).

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This popularity did not come without a price, nevertheless. A number of Korean gamers died of fatigue after marathon video gaming sessions, and a 2005 South Korean federal government study showed that over half a million Koreans experienced "Web addiction." Video game companies funded lots of personal counseling centres for addicted gamers in an effort to prevent legislation, such as that gone by China in 2005, that would require designers to enforce in-game charges for players who invested more than three consecutive hours online.

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Imaginechina/AP By the time World of Warcraft debuted in November 2004, the worldwide gaming market was all set for a modification. With the noteworthy exceptions of EVE Online, a game of interstellar business intrigue, and the superhero-themed City of Heroes, the marketplace was filled with "swords and sorcery" fare. World of Warcraft's attention to humour and group play and its shallow knowing curve generated countless casual gamers who had never before attempted an MMOG.

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While that event seemed to have actually been the outcome of an awful miscommunication on Blizzard's part, it did open a discussion on the nature of virtual reality worlds. Are they like personal clubs, where the management can restrict both subscription and speech? Or do they fall under the scope of a public accommodation, where discrimination is expressly prohibited by U.S.