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Fargo man invests thousands in high stakes global space war

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FARGO — Spaceships, resources and thousands of actual dollars are on the line in this virtual hobby.

In a traditional video game, like Super Mario Brothers, it's one player against obstacles set up by the game's designers.

What if there were tens of thousands of players setting up their own obstacles in a virtual playground with its own elaborate economy?

For eight years, Devan Thompson has enjoyed these freedoms in EVE Online.

"Almost everything you see is actually built by the players," Devan Thompson said.

His fleet has hundreds of spaceships, big and small, after sinking thousands of hours and dollars into one game.

We're not just talking in-game dollars.

Real world money turns into in-game resources.

"We have a ticker of price fluctuations in various items," he said. "Cause it follows supply and demand, just like a real economy."

No extra lives here.

When a spaceship is blown up, it's gone for good.

"That's part of the thing that makes EVE feel so real," Thompson said. "The feeling of actual building and loss."

He intricately builds these massive virtual space ships to help his team fight wars.

"When we see some of these huge battles, it's so cool to be able to say that I was there and when you have things change the course of history," he said.

He was a part of one of EVE's largest fights, which had more than $100,000 in real losses.

Some are scheduled weeks in advance, but in the unforgiving world of space, battles can start in a flash and last days, forcing Thompson to take time off from his job at NDSU.

"It's no different than taking time off to go snowmobiling, right? It's a hobby," Thompson said.

There's more to it than raking in conquered resources.

EVE has a global community.

"American, Russian, Australian, Chinese, they're all thrown into the same galaxy together," Thompson added.

Journalists document wars and economists write up monthly reports in a galaxy which usually has 30,000 users logged in at once.

For Thompson, it's helped him garner real life friendships.

"There are some people that I played with for years. Even though them being in Britain makes it hard to meet up, if I ever found them I'd definitely buy them a beer," he said. "It's really those friendships and the really strong community that make the game seem so real."

As of our meetup, he's getting ready for the upcoming million dollar battle, which could literally cause more than one million dollars in losses.

That's all real money investments.