He was talented enough to become a pirate with a 1.6 billion ISK bounty on his head - meaning he's one of the most notorious characters in an online world that currently numbers over 100,000 subscribers. His first battle ended with him killing 10 people, and the taste was so sweet, he never left that way of life. He is now a representative of the Romanian EVE Online community, working hard to enrich and promote Delta Team and Romanian Renegades, two well-known organizations. "It makes me feel so good to know that Romanians unite for a single purpose," states Gavroche. "As a nation, we have a bad name, but I think that now we stand a chance to show our real value, at least in EVE."

Advantage number three: unity.
Vlad Dracul is Dracula's Romanian name. But Vlad Dracul is also the name of one of World of Warcraft's largest guilds. Established by five Romanians who first became friends playing Asheron's Call 2, Vlad Dracul had over 1,000 members at its peak. Of course, not all of them were Romanian - only 20 percent of the peak membership were born and raised in Dracula's land; but they all thrived under Romanian leadership. I don't think I need to explain how hard it is to manage 1,000 people in an MMOG. It takes a great deal of leadership skill and patience to keep and entertain your members.

But Romanians did it. One of the founders, a 35-year-old gamer who calls himself Smaker, told me the secret of success: good coordination. Currently, Vlad Dracul's leader is a Croat, although the leadership is still Romanian in majority, and they are one of the few guilds able to organize simultaneous raid groups for Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, two organization and manpower demanding end-game instances.

Advantage number four: money.
It is true we were poor and oppressed while under communist rule, but that was 15 years ago; things change. In 2005, Romania's first nationwide internet provider, RDS, offered affordable prices for broadband cable connections. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2006 there will be approximately 5.5 million Romanians connected to the internet. This is possible not only because of competition among providers, but because the average monthly salary in Romania reached approximately $270 in 2005, in comparison to around $200 in 2004. That's $50 more per month to spend on, well, anything.

Only this year, three of the most important players in the gaming industry expressed interest in the Romanian market: NCsoft, Vivendi and Valve, who stated that "this is an emerging market and it matters." The situation is even rosier in other Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, where the average salary showed even bigger growth since they joined the European Union.

But this is only the beginning. We have no government restrictions on what we can play and when. How could we, when coders are a rather wealthy segment of our population and when the internet is widely available to the masses? Besides, everybody has a chance to prosper, since Eastern Europeans offer a new challenge, a new and fresh culture, a lot of enthusiasm, and the willingness to overcome new boundaries and preconceptions.

I am Romanian; I know my country. I know its ups and downs, and I know how it feels to be a gamer here. It feels damn good.

Laura Bularca is a freelance writer from Eastern Europe. She's making her English-speaking debut in The Escapist.

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