Lying Media Bastards

July 20, 2005

Alchemy

Maybe you’ve heard of MMORPGs. Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. Role-Playing Games are like Dungeons & Dragons, where you pretend to be a wizard or elf or something and go adventuring. Throughout the course of these games, your fictional character will slowly increase in strength and experience, finding treasure and acquiring more powerful weapons and whatnot to fight even stronger baddies… potentially an endless cycle till you get tired of it. And the Massive Multiplayer Online versions are these fictional worlds where thousands of players from around the world login to these servers (for a monthly fee, of course) and pretend to be wizards or elves or whatever (well, they don’t all have fantasy settings. Maybe you’re a cyborg or a pirate or a ninja).

So of course, a time comes when a player says “y’know, my 14th level half-elf half-wookie necromancer has an extra Sword of Kebabing, and I’ve already got more in-game money than I would ever need… I wonder if someone else playing the game might pay me some Real World money if I offered to give them my in-game sword?” And so it happened that RPG idiots began buying completely fucking nonexistent property with their real existent hard currency. And then some money-hungry gamers began turning this into a business, earning all kinds of fictional in-game money and then selling it outside the game for dollars and cents (made easier by programming automatic commands and exploiting glitches in the game program).

Then someone apparently got the idea to go to China and hire people there to grab this fictional money for 56 cents an hour. Yes, working in the virtual coalmine.

According to the article, the “farming”of MMORPGs for cash is a $500 million a year industry. I really hope that’s bullshit.

So I think we can all tell, this is fucked up on about 15 different levels.

1) RPGs in general. I enjoy playing them when they are single games with distinct beginnings and endings. There’s a story, you play till it’s done, the end. I think that half the appeal of these things is the “building” aspect. When you play chess, both sides begin evenly matched. Now imagine that if playing chess frequently meant that your pieces started off more powerful than they were last time. That rewards your efforts, even if you haven’t learned any more chess skills. That has appeal.

2) MMORPGs in general. I never play these as they seem so addictive, to some people anyway. Without defined endings or stories, you can just keep playing and building your character forever. And some folks do. For around $15 a month.

3) BUYING FAKE SHIT. It just boggles the mind that people are paying money for stuff that doesn’t exist. Oh, pardon me, “virtual” items. The fact that people will spend their money on this… damn, I just can’t fathom it.

4) Fake Shit Sweatshops. People paying other people shit wages to sit there at a computer to play these games 12 hours a day. Well, the article says that the owners of these “farming” companies set up macros so that the game characters automatically go and fight the monsters and win the game money, so the employees aren’t actually “playing” anything, just watching the same repetitive fight scenes over and over just in case the computer needs a ctrl-alt-del or to convince the in-game rent-a-cops that no, you’re not just a macro earning money, you are a human being. Sort of. And while the conditions do seem to be better than sweatshops, the pay is par for that slummy course.

So, in conclusion, the whole world is crazy except for me.

Posted by Jake on July 20, 2005 2:27 pm

6 Comments »

  1. Just a quick comment on (2) above: most MMORPG characters top out around level 50 or 60 or so; after that point, your character doesn’t get any stronger and there are no challenging creatures left to battle, so the chararcter pretty much has to get retired.

    Also, most MMORPGs do have stories throughout your character’s development from newbie to level 60, often with definite beginnings and endings, though overall story arcs that run through the entire development of your character are fairly uncommon.

    The whole farming-for-virtual-property thing is nuts, though. I can’t remember the details, but recently someone bought the property and development rights to an island in one MMORPG world for some huge sum. Virtual real-estate.

    Comment by James — July 21, 2005 @ 5:12 am

  2. There’s really no difference in playing an MMO for a monthly fee, and paying a monthly fee for your cable bill, or your satellite radio, or paying to see a movie.

    Except, of course, the MMO form of entertainment is interactive, and includes socializing with other actual people. Where TV, movies, books, and music are for the most part one-sided forms of entertainment, MMOs allow for the player to interact with the entertainment environment as well as other real people. So, I can’t see why people want to condemn another person simply for their choice of the type of entertainment they prefer to pay for with their own hard-earned fiat currency dollars.

    I don’t see how paying a huge corporation like Time Warner or HBO for non-interactive content that pretty much always sucks and is filled full of advertising is any more ridiculous than someone paying monthly to play an online game.

    Also, someone figuring out a way to make money within a system is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially, if as you yourself say, the working conditions are better than the typical crappy sweatshop job available in those markets. Unless, of course, you are completely against free-market capitalism. Which is a whole other discussion.

    Comment by nobody cares — July 22, 2005 @ 3:17 am

  3. Ha, yeah, except they are ruining my in-game economy, damn it! I hate farmers, they are annoying, train mobs on you and kill important things you need for quests. You see them everywhere, everyone knows who they are and no one can do anything about it.

    And hitting the lvl cap means nothing. The game devs put out content patches with more and more challenging things to conquer. I have several maxed out characters and I play them all the time, helping level guildie noobs or trying to get that new epic pattern to drop. It’s crack, plain and simple. When you stand up after a full weekend of not showering and sitting in the same chair withour hardly moving, your body screams that maybe you should bust out the bike again and go for a ride. But you just go to bed, roll out to work and come home and plop back down in front of it again. Anyway, you have to save up for that epic mount…

    Comment by Anon — July 27, 2005 @ 9:16 am

  4. Oh, and I should mention that this sort of “gold farming” wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t consumers out there to pay for it. Same as Wal-Mart or any other big name chain that notoriously abuses their workers. If we as human beings stood up and refused to purchase the products of these known offenders… Personal responsibility for our actions as individuals is the only solution to these types of problems.

    Comment by Anon — July 27, 2005 @ 9:25 am

  5. I saw the same story. I regard this as a clear sign of the impending apocalypse. Make peace with your god, if you believe in that kind of thing. If not, drink heavily.

    Comment by Dr. T — July 29, 2005 @ 6:09 am

  6. I’m of that school that says let people have their crack, if they want it. I wouldn’t make a plea against smoking cigarettes either. Heck, maybe there’s even some money to be made in treating the addiction.

    Comment by nobody cares — August 1, 2005 @ 11:24 pm

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