Antonio Hernandez plays World of Warcraft. It's the most popular online role-playing game in the world, with more than 10 million subscribers paying to create characters who go on quests, kill monsters and earn "virtual gold" in fantastical realms. The world - a direct descendant of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - even has its own carefully calibrated economy. But an outside force threatens the game's integrity, Hernandez says. He has called on his fellow adventurers to join him as he takes a stand. The battle won't be fought with wands or swords.
It will be waged in the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse. The former assistant manager at an Orlando-area video game store is suing a company he says sells "virtual gold" from the World of Warcraft for real money. He wants IGE U.S. banned from selling gold - a practice commonly called "gold farming" or "real money trading"- because it hurts the game's economy and ruins the entertainment experience, according to the lawsuit. Virtual gold, earned within the game, can be used for such things as buying and repairing equipment or learning new skills.