Nick Ryan at Eurogamer has posted the first of a four part exposé series on the world of gold trading in MMOs.
Ryan asks the question, “Is gold selling like pornography: something more of us do than admit? A shameful secret, something indulged alone and at night, in front of the screen; or during a lunchbreak, safely away from a partner, when a quick credit card or PayPal transaction will go unnoticed by others in-game?”
Then he points out that “we all hate 'gold sellers'. Apparently. Despise them, even. Ask your friends or colleagues: how many will openly admit to buying services from a gold farmer? Not many. And the ones that do probably harp on just as loudly against them as the next person.”
Mythic boss Mark Jacobs seconds that emotion. He posted the following on his blog:
"I hate gold sellers/spammers. No, that's not strong enough, let me try again. I HATE GOLD SELLERS WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING. Ah, that's better.”
Jacobs' statement and Ryan’s article both have inspired me to make a disturbing confession. Because I am a man of exceptional personal courage and openness, I will reveal to you a dark and painful personal secret: My name is Stephen Johnson and I am a gold-buyer.
This is my tragic story.
When I was a young, impressionable youth -- like two years ago -- I used to play World of Warcraft. I spent many happy, innocent hours in Azeroth, leveling up by completing quests, slaying MOBs, raiding dungeons, killing alliance nubs, and otherwise WoWing it up. But then I hit level 40…and it is there that my troubles began.
While I knew that reaching level 40 meant the opportunity to buy a mount, (that was back when mounts came at 40, not 30) and it required gold to get my horsie, I never saved my money.
So I dinged 40 and the guild channel filled with “gratz!” But upon joining a group and heading toward a dungeon, my be-mounted compatriots were forced to wait while I tagged behind them, less like a highly trained undead assassin, and more like someone’s asthmatic little brother. As I ran behind the horses toward the Griffon-master, I had time to reflect on the choices I had made that brought me to this point.
Like the grasshopper in the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, I had frittered away my MMO youth, having fun, and trying to avoid spending time doing anything boring. So I hit the magical level 40, and I only had 20 gold, far from the 90 needed for a pony and the requisite pony-riding training.
It is here that I made the decision that forever marked me as an enemy of Mark Jacobs, painting my soul with the scarlet “G” of the gold-buyer. I decided it made sense to transmute 10 dollars or so of real world wealth into fake game wealth, like the alchemists of old changing lead into gold. My thinking (God help me) was that by dropping a tiny amount of actual money, I could pass up grinding, an occupation I despised, and thus avoid hours of “work” in- game. I work very hard in my actual life, and I put away as much money into savings as I can, so I naively figured that when I’m playing a game, I needn’t be worried about making prudent financial decisions.
So clouded was I with a twisted desire for a mount, I never considered the earth-shaking moral ramifications of the transgression I was about to commit.
I shudder now to think of my own depravity. Yes, I pulled out a credit card. Yes, I visited eBay. Yes, I connected with the dreaded Chinese gold farming mafia. Yes, I found a gold auction. I gave them the digits, and received my ill-gotten booty. All with none of my guild-mates being any the wiser.
The next day I show up in WoW with my new, illicit mount. I proudly rode all over the place to dungeon and town, perched atop my mighty steed. But it just wasn’t enough for me. I had had my first taste of the dark underworld of gold-buying and I was hooked. I had to have more. I had to re-live the rush I’d gotten from the first gold purchase. After all, the auction house was full of better, shinier equipment than I could afford and other people around me were rich.... So I bought more gold. I bought gold just to give to other people! I bought gold just to buy gold! I couldn’t stop! I was addicted!
Then, in perhaps the most shocking part of my woeful tale, I infected a loved one with my disease. A good friend of mine reached level 40 as well, and he lamented to me his lack of funds in a private message. He wanted advice on good spots to grind gold, and rather than give him the sensible advice of spending 8 hours killing Furblogs, I replied with the words that still haunt me to this day. “Why don’t you just drop 5 bucks on eBay and save yourself the hassle?”
It wasn’t enough for me to sully my own good name, the good name of the World of Warcraft and the good name of gaming itself, I had to involve someone I cared about into my twisted, wicked world. (sob)
As for the end of my story: A couple months later I realized that World of Warcraft is actually pretty lame and I’d rather be doing other things with my time.
So feel free to judge me, game world. Lord knows, I have judged myself harshly for my crime of refusing to waste a lot of time doing boring crap in a game I pay to play. All I ask is that you consider my story as a modern day morality play. A warning to stick to righteousness and light, never break the rules, nor stray from the path that the faceless, multinational, billion dollar corporation that runs your video game world has prescribed for you!