Ken's Voyages Around the Sun

Money for Money
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Some time ago, when I found out about people using EBay to auction off virtual Everquest items for real money, it seemed kind of brilliant, sad, opportunistic, cheesy, cheaty, and clever. Now it's normal, as far as I know, albeit not encouraged by the game's creators. At least it hadn't been, but apparently Sony has decided if it can't beat 'em, join 'em, with its new Station Exchange.

When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I thought the second-generation game would prevail against that, and to some extent it has by tying down many powerful items in the game to their original character finders. However, you can't stop people selling and buying game currency for real money, even if it's against company policy. Nor can you stop people from selling and buying entire characters or user accounts.

While such transactions (in WoW at least) probably don't affect the game overall, and probably don't affect my characters directly, it certainly rubs me the wrong way. It just seems to represent everything that's wrong with our instant gratification society.

Don't want to start out at level one and work all the way up? No problem, mon, just shell out for a level-60 character! We have all shapes and sizes! Our crew of round-the-clock-gaming-employees has worked hard to customize this character just for you! Now you can have a maxed-out character in less than five minutes!

[Real quote: Account: !DON'T MISS! NIGHTSLAYER'S! 60 Male Undead Rogue - AMAZING - 120 Energy - 5/8 Nightslayer's !! AWESOME ACCOUNT! Price: $699.99]

Already got a character you love? No problem, mon, we sell gold too! Only $92.99 for 1,000 gold, or $429.99 for 5,000 gold [those are real price quotes from one randomly selected service]. No time to earn it, just buy it! Everyone knows the fun is having, not getting, right?

Ah well.

Maybe I'm just jealous: a very good friend of mine says that a brother of one of his co-workers runs such a service and makes $10,000 a week.

I dunno whether that's his profit, his gross before paying employees, or what. Not that it matters. That's an obscene amount of money for selling something that does not exist. And that's only one such service of many advertised on the web.

Apparently this guy has loads of employees in the Philippines playing round-the-clock, and is paying them twice what they could make anywhere else there. I doubt that all such services pay so well, however, so supporting these services might be supporting sweatshops. Not that I believe many buyers will care much about the working conditions of gold farmers.

It rankles me to think about people jumping into the game with top-level characters (or tons of gold) after all the time and effort and love and care put into raising mine. But it was the journey that was fun, and the hunt, and the goals, not so much the having.

If you have the money to buy your way in(to) the game, fine. Just don't come playing with me. I prefer to spend online time with people who have experienced the game the way I have: from start to finish, level-by-level, earning their way as they go (with occasional loans and gifts from other friends in the game).

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