Dispatches > The Buzz

Don't wait up for me

Internet daytraders as night owls and a new PC video game hurls gasoline onto the Columbine fire

Issue: "Life of a warrior," June 12, 1999

Money never sleeps
Internet daytrading might not be just in the daytime anymore. The Nasdaq Stock Market may soon let investors trade stock during dinner or Monday Night Football. Tech giants like Microsoft, Intel, and MCI WorldCom are companies that could be traded during special evening trading hours intended to make things more convenient for Net surfers who play the market at night. Sometime this fall, daytraders could make-or lose-a fortune before bedtime. The whole deal has yet to win the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission. But some on Wall Street are already worried about how brokers and bookkeepers will handle the new hours, which would likely start at 5:30 p.m. and end at 9 or 10 p.m. The New York Stock Exchange is considering a similar plan. The later trading hours won't work exactly like normal business hours. A stock's final closing price would still be logged when the regular day ends at 4:00 p.m.; these trades during "extra innings" would count toward the next day's price. Investors seem to like the idea; a CNBC poll reported that 53 percent of active investors support the move. Some on Wall Street say that extended trading is being shoved down their throats by Internet trading, which can no longer be considered a fad. Ten years ago, no one would have guessed that a horde of ordinary Americans would hit the market-without a broker!-seeking stock market gold. Daytrading is simply another form of Internet convenience. Online financial gurus like the Motley Fool team (see WORLD, April 18) have made a killing doling out advice-and some con artists (see WORLD, May 1) have created some major headaches. What makes many worry is that being one's own broker requires some wisdom-it takes quite a bit of reading and research to understand how the market works and what you are investing in. While plenty of people trade who know what they are doing, the point-and-click paradigm of instant gratification that looms through cyberspace could draw foolish investors to financial ruin. Take advantage of it if you wish, but proceed with caution. Children at play
America's next big kulturbrawl may be about a new PC video game called Kingpin, in which players become street thugs out to waste one another in da 'hood. The storyline takes characters through an urban nightmare as they prepare their gangs for the final, bloody confrontation at the end of the game. "Begin your rise to the top by assembling your own gang of thugs," explains the promotional copy on the Kingpin website. "If a new member turns out to be a punk, waste him and make way for new blood. Moving up in the world is sure to attract the attention of the Kingpin; eventually you're going to have to take him down." Extreme everything is the appeal: violence, action, realism. The choice of weapons includes crowbars, lead pipes, pump-action shotguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. Pimps, prostitutes, cops, and shopkeepers fill the game, along with the punks who must kill or be killed. Software publisher Interplay boasts of PC Gamer magazine's comments (in a positive review) that "this is one of the most violent and depraved games we've seen." While Kingpin is supposed to be released later this year, the demo is already out on the Net. It's the sort of thing that builds a cult following fast. Its defenders see it as simply the newest and coolest action game. Many look at it with tongue in cheek, begging the question by saying it's no different from a movie. Even with a warning on the box, determined kids will still get their hands on it. Kingpin is the sort of thing that builds a thousand sensationalist headlines about how "first-person shooters" and the Internet are turning our youth into trench-coated psychopaths. Since all this technology is new to many-and kids are often a step ahead of their parents-some will get the wrong idea and think that high-tech tools are simply ways to corrupt one's family. But instead of even pretending to be responsible, Interplay is choosing to cash in on the controversies by being in-your-face. In the post-Columbine era, Kingpin throws gasoline onto the fire.

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