I am cross-posting a comment I just made on a 400+ thread at the broken toys blog because I think buried in a bunch of really ugly muck is an extremely interesting question, and I’d rather participate in a conversation that is moderated.
The background of this very extensive conversation can be found here:
My cross-posted comment:
Scott Jennings: You are not an idiot, but you have most certainly done a terrible job of moderating this thread.
Prokofy: This is the key for me, “..ponder what it means for the poor Chinese boys of the world to be game-golding in WOW and being punishment (sic), even with threat of real-life prosecution, and the transfer of wealth this indicates, and the turfing out of games everywhere of poor people who grab at the big online economy to try to advance themselves.”
This is where my previous experience as a “geek gamer grrrl” begins to look like what it was – child’s play. And there are many more playing, and that play can be very beneficial and can and should be, for want of a better word, protected. The social activity occurring in many game worlds is all about learning to socialize, learning to lead, learning to cooperate, learning to think and strategize – and by being bound by the rules of the game, there is a structure enforced upon this play that I believe helps guide it. Having centralized goals, “kill the dragon, get the sword,” enables and drives the building of real community (admittedly a word that I think means different things to you and I, but bear with me here) because without a common purpose there would be none and for many players (not residents, or citizens, or consumers, or workers, or gold-farmers) it is their first experience with having a real influence on a real community. I think of many guilds and many other online communities as a social good, in political terms, they’re beginning to replace some parts of the civic culture that is so crucial to democracy, a civic culture that at least in American society is dying out – think bowling leagues and card party circles and even church circles.
Now to your greater point, yes, it is certainly true that the privilege to play a game is one not shared by all. The hypothetical “Chinese boys” that I imagine in the context of your statement do not have the luxury to play any other game than the Game of Life, eat or be eaten, do what one must or can to fill the belly. Poverty and extreme deprivation are very, very real and at the crux of whatever else I may disagree with you about, I do agree with you on this point – when the “game” enjoyed by “players” in developed nations starts enforcing the “game” rules with real world imprisonment (because it hurts their bottom line), then it is no longer just a “game” at all. It is something else, no matter how badly the “players” wish it were just a safe game to play. It is a business, it is an economic force, it is or can be a society. It can be many things but it cannot be “just” a game. You don’t go to jail for breaking the rules of a football game, you go to jail for breaking the rules of a state. When selling your sword on ebay might land you in jail, and when the sword, or more accurately the labor to get the sword is worth more than the labor to do something else, we’re not talking about _games_ any more.
I don’t know the answer to this question you raised, but it is a terribly important one and I do sincerely laud you for asking it. I’ll be thinking about it perhaps for the rest of my life, both real and virtual.
To Richard Bartle and the other posters of this forum: Diatribes and invectives and hurled insults aside, you should have a conscience that is offended by at least parts of the paradigm you’re engaged in. I mudded, I played MMO(RPGs), I experienced the wonder, the joy, the pure unadulterated _fun_ that is perhaps uniquely to be found in game worlds. I even fell in love with all the exuberance of every dumb game wedding you’ve ever heard about, crashed, or took part in (I was 19, after all, and found my soul mate, what’s a girl to do but marry the guy on Mahn Tor where we met, whether it exists “for real” or not? And I only mention this as proof of my street cred and/or youthful immersion, as it were).
It was fun and I loved it. But I’m also very aware that it was a privilege, and one that I can still enjoy from time to time, but when I’m not playing in it, I’m learning and working in the real world to make it so that others can have that privilege to play. Your sword is not worth more than another person’s ability to feed herself, is it? You can ignore the larger questions, you can have your fun, but if you have a social conscience, you really should be thinking about the larger questions, and seeking answers to them.
It is NOT just a question of whether RMT suits your “playstyle” or not, it’s that RMT in an economy as large as that of WOW’s, that Neil cites as a “fast forward to get over the boring parts”, can also be a fast forward to “making a better living than my geopolitical location otherwise allows me”. The latter is what “gold farming” is for some, or MOST IMPORTANTLY – WHAT IT MAY POTENTIALLY BE as virtual worlds AND game worlds continue to evolve – and you simply cannot trivialize and dismiss that.
For the tl;dr crowd, my final point: If you’re really a gamer, like really? Then you’ve done your share of grinding and in your heart of hearts, some of it felt like _work_. Like real world boring ass work. Like this sucks work. Now ask yourself how you could be better spending that time. In real space or virtual. Time is short, life is short, and grinding is for the birds. There are better things to do with your life.
I am cross-posting this to my own blog and I _will_ be doing a better job of moderating any comments that may come in, so be forewarned. If you’d like to carry on a conversation and exploration of this topic, feel free to join me there.