Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
12 April 2006
Gold farming and the war on smoking
In today's editorial at Next-Gen, Gary Whitta applies to gold farming the lessons I take away from America's battles against drugs. Here's what Whitta says:

Let's start outing the players who use farmers' services. If you know of someone who paid money to shortcut their way to max. level, expose them in the online community. Once it becomes known that people who engage in these sleazy practices will be considered virtual lepers, maybe the stigma created will be enough to disincentivize the use of these "services" and really start making those who provide them feel the pinch.

This is one part of how cigarette smoking was changed in the United States. A combination of:
  • regulation
  • social pressure
  • education of potential users

From my own experience, this worked. I had three smoking grandparents (out of four total), each of which quit eventually. I had one parent who smoked, and that ended when I was born. To my knowledge no aunts or uncles smoked. I have no siblings who smoke. Out of the many cousins, I can think of only one who might smoke. At least in my family, the system worked, and it only took a generation or two.

Can a similar system work against gold farmers? We already have regulation, for example the regulation of World of Warcraft by Blizzard. Whitta is encouraging, although perhaps not in exactly these words, one of the other two prongs of the attack on smoking: social pressure to make pariahs of those who buy from farmers. I'm in favor of outing those who flout the rules; let's just not let it evolve into online lynch mobs.

The other prong, education of users, seems trickier to me. What's the social cost of gold farmers? A bunch of spoiled brats playing online? That's pretty close to what we have already, gold farmers or not. Back in the day the game was Quake II and we called them LPBs. Today, I'm not a WoW player but some of my fellow bloggers are, so perhaps they can speak to this: why are gold farmers bad for the online society?

--Matt Matthews at 11:48
Comment [ 10 ]

Comments on this post:

I'm in favor of outing those who flout the rules; let's just not let it evolve into online lynch mobs.

I'm in favor of all kinds of promotion of civil online behavior; when have you _not_ seen such efforts devolve into "online lynch mobs"? You crack that nut, and WoW farming will be the least of the problems you'll solve.

The other issue is ostracizing "those you know". Unless WoW has crazy tracking-chips-in-your-head (maybe it does, I dunno), it seems to me this is just going to guarantee no one tells you that they bought their swag, and not-quite-uber folks will swish the taste of sour grapes in their mouths, wondering if the 1337's came by it honestly.

Creating an environment that frowns on smoking is relatively easy, compared to creating an environment that frowns on you using your ill-gotten +Lots Zaptastic Baddie-Cleaver. Especially in a game world that, at its core, is about getting Zaptastic Baddie-Cleavers to Cleave Baddies with.

By Blogger Bob, at 12 April, 2006 15:42  

Personally, I don't know what the problem is with farmed chars. It's not like all the lvl 60s are great chars who "deserve" the power. Plenty of 12 year-olds with high level characters running around without the slightest idea how to play their role in a group or chat with something approaching understandable English, and I don't just mean an overdependance on 733+. If you have tons of time, you can get a pretty high level and some gold. So what if I trade time for cash? It's just one limited resource for another.

Wait. Hang on. Turns out I do know the problem. Blizzard wants that money for themselves. Ultima Online finally figured it out, and started selling "advanced" (or some such) starter characters at a premium. I just read (watch out, I'm pimping the mag /again/) this week's TIME and they talk about the new incredibly high priced seats in Broadway theatres -- arguing that essentially theatres are [getting in on the cash that's going into] scalping tickets. If there's a sellout of all but the "premium" seats, well, the audience simply has to pay more to get in. Instead of the trouble of scalping the night of, you can shell out tons right now, overpaying with convenience the scalps can't provide. The Washington Redskins do the same thing. If you want good, clear line-of-sight season tickets, you can either wait in line literally for decades to get tix or you can join the "Joe Gibbs Club" or something similar, paying several times the typical going price of those nice seats on the front row. Fair that rich jumped over hundreds of thousands on the wait list? Well, in theory, sure. But in theory, theory and practice are the same thing...

The point I'm trying to make is this: Instead of outlawing farming, why not simply ensure you're getting that money and put the dough towards making the game better for everyone playing? Either way, IRL rich are getting in-game richer without putting in the time they're "supposed to". It's not messing up the game's equilibrium now; not sure why it would if Blizzard started selling gold for dollars/euros/etc either.

By Blogger rufbo, at 13 April, 2006 01:12  

Fair that rich jumped over hundreds of thousands on the wait list? Well, in theory, sure. But in theory, theory and practice are the same thing...

Argh. Meant to say Unfair that rich...

By Blogger rufbo, at 13 April, 2006 01:14  

Because it's cheating.

When you buy items/levels in the game, you're not playing the game. In such games, achievement (levels and items) is the only measure of prowess. So yes, time = power. If you don't like that equation, people shouldn't play the game. Instead, what they do is buy their way up, which takes spots (in "uberguilds") and resources in the end-game away from people that worked their way up legitimately.

In the real world, of course, you can't stop this type of behaviour. Nor should you. However, in a game like WoW, there is no "real world" and the rules that govern it should not apply. The games are meant as an escape from reality, and the players should only be able to achieve based on their activities within the world.

There are plenty of games coming out that encourage, even demand, that real world resources are a part of the gameplay. The cheaters can go play those instead.

By Blogger Alex, at 13 April, 2006 11:59  

If memory serves me correctly, you have at least one aunt and uncle who smoke.

By Blogger cgm, at 13 April, 2006 21:43  

cgm: Busted! You got me there, brother. At least one uncle and one aunt.

By Blogger jvm, at 13 April, 2006 21:52  

My experience is that of a different MMORPG, but the "Gold farmers" in that game are usually active 24/7 (played by multiple people) and dominate certain areas in the world, typically using hacks to achieve their goals (in this game, the hacks are used to claim a certain monster before legitimate players or competiting farmers).

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 April, 2006 11:59  

When you buy items/levels in the game, you're not playing the game. In such games, achievement (levels and items) is the only measure of prowess. So yes, time = power. If you don't like that equation, people shouldn't play the game.

This strikes to the core of why farming takes place at all.

Isn't it weird that "playing the game"="spending time (paid for by the hour) logged in"="prowess"? Is it hardly surprising that there are people that just want to pay somebody to do the "boring" part of time-spending for them?

I could pay someone else to play chess for me, but there isn't a soul that would think that increased my chess "prowess". And it would be easy to prove, because I surely wouldn't be able to play chess any better myself.

For most traditional games, spending time playing enhances your ability because you learn from it, but it is equally the case that you might start out with considerable talent for a game, so much so that you're better at it than others who've played for longer.

Complementary to that, wealth can buy you the best skis and even the best ski instruction, but that doesn't automatically convert cash into being a better skier.

Of course, this is oversimplifying somewhat -- there are surely skills in WoW, just like EQ and other RPGs, such as good tracking of your resources, knowing how to deal out damage without taking as much, effective teamwork...

It says something about the game if you'd be better off (in game terms) with a tricked-out lvl 60 in your party, regardless of how they got there, rather than a _good player_.

MMORPG's are a brilliant idea, but I'm not sure the entire notion's been completely thought through. RPG's, as you say, measure success in terms of levels and stuff gained, so there is clearly a sort of time spent-success correspondence. But outside of the MMO context, that time spent represents a series of increasingly more difficult challenges. (Outside of the videogame context, that time spent represents the creation of an ongoing narrative collaboration.) Success only becomes benchmarked against other people's time investment when the characters are all milling around online.

I guess my point is that in terms of the game alone, either you have fun wandering around and chopping up bigger and bigger animals with bigger and bigger toys, or you don't. If you do, what do you care whether other people buy their levels and goodies or not? Only if you feel the need to be in the top of the heap do you care how other players get there. You could say that's really to do with the social side, rather than the gaming side, of online games. Or you could say that you're changing the goals of RPGs by pushing players to keep up with the Joneses, creating competition even where there isn't direct conflict.

But it seems to me that regardless of whether it's fair for players to buy out of the time investment that they would otherwise have to pay for, the very question suggests the game is pretty similar to the "whoever spends the most money wins" game. And I hate that game.

I always lose.

By Blogger Bob, at 15 April, 2006 22:31  

Why is gold farming/gold buying bad?

(1) It inflates the virtual economy to put many top-end items out of the financial reach of players who have played "fairly".

(2) It encourages servers to be populated by characters who are just there to farm. Thus the signal to noise ratio of other worthwhile players is lowered; in non-instanced MMOGs it also means more people to camp against for spawns.

(3) Some of the evidence on gold farming is open to the interpretation that exploitative work practices are engaged in by the relevant companies.

(4) Farmed characters allow players to reach levels of play without acquiring the skills normally taught on the way; the pool of players talented enough to group with at endgame is unnecessarily diluted.

(5) As with engaging in any black market, because gold farming is illicit and non-regulated you never know what you're buying; while many companies are "honest", you always run the risk of being cheated or stolen from when dealing with them.

But surely you've heard all those arguments before?

By Blogger GregT, at 04 May, 2006 20:15  

Personally I think gold farming is a wonderful way to make cheap wow gold a reality for people who do not have the time nessecary to farm it themselves. All people should be given a chance to enjoy the game, not just people with too much time on their hands.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 31 May, 2006 16:43  

Contact Us

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]



Warm bile sold separately:

Browse Curmudgeon Gamer Memorial Library


Internet game search:

Classic: 02/2002 to 10/2005

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?