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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Gamers rally for Katrina support
Image of a game character in Everquest II
Communities of gamers are being urged to donate funds or time
Online gamers are joining the US public to give their support to those affected by the aftermath of the destructive hurricane Katrina.

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is rallying support for those caught up in the disaster via its massive community of players in Everquest II.

Players of the online game can make in-game donations to the Red Cross.

SOE said it will not charge some 13,000 account holders from the affected areas until they log in again.

"We look at all our subscribers as an extended family," Chris Kramer from SOE told the BBC News website.

"It is amazing what large groups of people can do and we certainly have hundreds of thousands playing the game worldwide.

"This is an opportunity for us to not only to lend a hand, but to ask other people in the community who are not affected to help, which is why we activated the new command line."

Positive move

Although residents of the area affected are likely to be concentrating on getting immediate help, such as food, water and shelter, the gesture has been welcomed by community members.

New Orleans is to be fully evacuated, following fears that thousands may have died there as flood waters swept the city.

Most of the low-lying city is submerged; its remaining residents have no electricity and are running out of fresh water and food following the devastating hurricane which tore through the area.

Before and after satellite images of New Orleans

By typing in a /donate command, players will automatically be taken to the American Red Cross's Hurricane 2005 relief page where they can donate.

"Additionally, for our 13,000+ players actually in the affected areas, we will be suspending billing until such time as they are able to play again" said SOE in a statement.

"In addition, any items or structures in any of our games, which decay over time, will be preserved until the user's next login."

The makers of the top-selling Halo 2 game, Bungie, has also urged its huge community of online gamers to contribute to the relief effort in any way they can.

"We applaud Bungie for taking an active stance in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort," said the Joystiq online games publication.

"It's always a positive sign when members of the gaming industry - and gaming community at large - make an effort to be socially conscious, proving to all doubters that we don't always have our hands glued to controllers."

Money matters

Massively multiplayer online games (MMO), such as Everquest, have thousands of players across the world who pay monthly subscriptions to be part of the game's community.

Everquest II is the sequel to the hugely popular Everquest in which people get the chance to control a character in the online fantasy world of Norrath.

Players are no strangers to dealing with money matters within the game.

The game has its own currency and valuable items are used by characters to boost their powers.

There was a healthy ebay-based market which was used to exchange virtual goods, until SOE launched its own sanctioned marketplace in June.


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