Two Different Worlds We Live In
An editorial by Raya
Like many other fans of MMORPGs, I have become passionate about the games I play. The time and devotion I spend in perfecting my skills, relating to my guild/team mates, and generally enjoying my time has brought me to an awareness of my other life. I live in two worlds now the real world where pain and struggle are rife, where mistakes can cost me dearly, where I must strive to keep body, mind and soul afloat, and also where real joy is found and the virtual world where I can see my progress instantly, where I can practice my social skills with immediate results, where I have made a huge number of friends, and where being physically mobile is not a criteria. I love both worlds.
Whenever one of my worlds is attacked, I get upset. I look for solutions. I communicate. One of my worlds has been attacked by Mother Nature herself and it is devastating. I applaud the way my other world has sprung to the rescue and given to the relief funds for both Hurricane Katrina and more recently Hurricane Rita.
But my second world has also been attacked, not by the forces of nature, but by the force of a concept that seems to undermine the very system that my game worlds are based upon. The concept is secondary marketing by third party merchants. To the uninitiated, this term encompasses the illegal in-game farming and collecting, and then selling, items of money and equipment to gamers for real life dollars.
Volumes have been written about this practice. The game developers especially, for the most part, deplore it. Why? Because it destroys the economic stability of the game world so carefully built by the developers because it devalues items that had been hithertofore extremely valuable to players and because it makes a mockery of working hard and accomplishing and feeling good about oneself in the virtual world. The practice now dictates the quality of achievement, not by the skill and dedication of the player, but through the size of ones wallet.
In my happy ignorance, I thought that these third party merchants, who had hit fan site news headlines earlier this year, were perhaps being daunted by the heartfelt outcry from dedicated gamers and game developers. I thought that others might take heed of what greed can do to a gaming community. I am specifically referring to the February targeting of Sigil Online Games, developers of the forthcoming anticipated blockbuster, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, by third party merchants. One of these dogged third party merchants, IGE, managed to entice several Vanguard affiliates from their loyalty and commitment to the Sigil ideal of strength in community, by buying them out for large sums of money. Of course, this is old news, news that has been rehashed and regurgitated to the consistency of moldy pea soup.
It would appear, however, that no news is not necessarily good news. I was searching for Guild Magic, a site that had provided backing for EQ guilds in the earlier years of EverQuest. The search engine took me to a page that declared itself to be TechBuyer.com, great products for tech professionals. Yet another outlet for IGE, I told myself, as I scanned the sellers of great products for tech professionals. Surprise number one was not seeing IGE in number one spot, but third. First spot was taken by something called mmoshop.com which promised to get the EQ Plat for All Servers at Guaranteed low prices. With Instant Delivery, 24/7 shopping and live chat customer service, you'll see why we're the trusted gamer's resource.
My eyes bulged as I read on. There were a dozen sites listed, granted some were listed more than once, but all of them promising the fastest deal, the biggest bargains and the best service to provide cash and items. Nowhere was it stated that these items were illegally obtained, according to the End Users License Agreement (EULA) of the game.
Nearly all MMOs require a player to accept the terms of its EULA before playing. The EULA states clearly that the in-game items are for the players use and enjoyment, that the intellectual property rights remain the property of the game developer. In effect, this means that the game developer lets the player use the items in-game. Period. People who farm items for sale outside the game are contravening the EULA.
Debate has been raging for a couple of years now about the legalities involved. However, the bottom line, as I see it, is that the third-party merchants (the ones selling the cash and items outside of the game) are earning money from the fruit of the game developers labor and are destroying game satisfaction to boot. I have heard from any number of people who have played Lineage 2 that they were forced to quit this fun and compelling MMO because of the farmers who camped desirable items and kept bona fide players from getting the chance to acquire these items. Thats quite a way for the third-party dudes to create a market for their ill-gained goods, eh what? Cant camp the item? Well, here, ya go, well sell it to you for a very reasonable amount of U.S. dollars.
So now, instead of the trend receding, it appears to be increasing. How many of these sites are relatively new? How many of them have jumped on the bandwagon? How many of them are in fact responding to the desire of the majority of players as they claim? And how can people, like me, who value their second world, help to keep our worlds safe from the invasion of greed-driven others who will steal the fun from their game?
A few game developers, such as Sigil and Blizzard, have tried to convey the message discouraging the incursion of secondary market purveyors. Yet legal action against these merchants would, no doubt, be long-drawn-out and expensive. Sigil has tightened its Affiliate policy to try and ensure that its affiliated fan sites adhere to the guidelines of no secondary market advertising or traffic; Blizzard has implemented some measures to try and discourage secondary marketing by third party merchants as well. (Go here for a report on these stances.)
Where will it end? And how can we help?
Ideas are welcome. Perhaps, as a game community, we can come up with some strategies to deal with this problem. The secondary market purveyors claims that gamers have demanded this kind of service and that they are fulfilling a need. Do we have an answer for them? Are their activities creating the need in the first place? What do you think?
Two Different Worlds We Live In
Copyright © 2005 by Raya
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