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Proxy Fighters Take Warcraft to Another Level

"I might give you [grief] about it for being lazy," he said. "But as long as someone puts the time in legally to get to Level 20 -- as long as no rules were broken -- it's fine. . . . You're just paying somebody to do your job."

Firor, who was executive producer for the game Dark Age of Camelot, is currently playing eight of his own Level-30 characters in WoW. He said he has never used a power-leveling service to skip ahead.

Using one of these services can be a risky business for the gamer, though. If a game company suspects you've used one of these services, it may shut down your account. And if that happens, don't count on getting a refund from the company that upgraded your warlock or blood elf for you.

Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft's maker, said it has closed thousands of accounts for suspicious activity that looks to be the work of power-leveling services. The company said using these firms breaks the user agreement that players are supposed to read when they install the game. And, they add, players who use power levelers might end up getting ripped off.

As for me, the power-leveling service worked well enough. My warrior character, Johnmullet, had been suffering a marginal existence in Azeroth when I was playing the game a couple of weeks back. Sneeze in his direction, and you'd probably kill him.

But with a Level 20 upgrade, Johnmullet was mostly able to hold his own on the mean streets of Azeroth. His rags had been replaced with a little armor, a sporty cape of some sort and a gigantic sword.

After I got the character back, I met up with some friends in Azeroth, a family I know in the real world that plays together just about every night. I appreciated their hospitality and got more of a kick out of the game than usual. But two things still nag at me: How is it that so many people are hooked on a game where you spend most of the time running around looking for the next quest? And: If the game seemed better after $24, how much better would it be if I ponied up more cash?

Before Blizzard shuts down my account for violating the license agreement, I've got to get rid of some loot my character has accumulated. If you're a regular in Azeroth, on the "Ursin" server, look me up. And please don't kill me.

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