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No fairly tale: Virtual divorce rate soars past 75 percent.

Back when I was a civilian agencies reporter for Government Computer News, I used to receive a lot of cool statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a neat agency that was on my beat. They do a lot more than just fight outbreaks of colds and flu. They actually track things such as live births, marriage and death rates, too.

Their latest report pegs the divorce rate at 3.4 per 1,000 of the population. Although that statistic doesn’t account for how many of those 1,000 are married, it seems reasonably low, though it varies a bit by state.

So it was with shock that I got a release from Nexon America, saying the divorce rate was 75 percent. It turns out Nexon was talking about its online game, MapleStory, which has recently started allowing marriages.

You would think that a marriage based in a fantasy world would have a pretty high chance of success. After all, doesn’t every fairy tale end with “And they lived happily ever after,” or with a hero and his princess riding off into the sunset together?

I guess we aren’t supposed to know that Cinderella doesn’t like trading one cleaning gig for another in her new castle, or that Prince Charming is about as faithful as Charlie Harper from the “Two And A Half Men” show. (And yes, I know he was killed off, and I also know that it’s not half as funny as it used to be now that Ashton Kutcher is at the helm.)

I was thinking that perhaps MapleStory didn’t have a robust courtship process, which might attest to the high divorce rates. But in fact, you have to do more to get married online in the game that you do in real life. First you have to undertake a quest with your love, which nets you an engagement ring. Then you have to pay a $25 fee, in real money, and present it to your love. If your proposal is accepted, you can set a date, send out invitations, and have a big virtual wedding ceremony.

Divorce is a big deal, too. For that you have to pay 500,000 mesos (the money of MapleStory) and then you need to wait 10 days before you can start dating someone else.

Given that the wedding ring (what the engagement ring turns into) is a coveted item with good in-game statistics, you would think that everything would be great in the land of fantasy marriage.

Yet, the divorce rate is terrible. Of the 26,982 marriages performed last year, 20,344 — or a little over 75 percent — have since ended in divorce.

Now, I don’t think Nexon is crying over this figure too much, given that they made a cool $674,550 in real money on the virtual wedding ceremonies. But it’s sad that people can’t come together and live in peace and harmony in a fantasy world where everything is designed to be entertaining and fun.

One ray of hope for the divorced and lonely couples of MapleStory: At least they don’t have to pay alimony.

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Wed, Sep 21, 2011

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