Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is Buying Gold Cheating?

Over ten million people worldwide play World of Warcraft. The game is plenty of fun, but it suffers from the same problem MMOs have since the dawn of time; too many time sinks. The game requires work-like devotion to leveling, and even when you finish that you have an endless amount of gold grinding, rep grinding, and every other kind of grinding imaginable waiting for you. People play WoW for fun, so it is no wonder many try to reduce the amount of 'work' they are required to do to play it.

When people want something, it is inevitable businesses will evolve to try to supply it. So of course any number of sites exists offering to sell in-game gold for real cash. However, this is against the rules of World of Warcraft, breaking its Terms of Service. So it is against the rules...but is buying gold wrong? The socially acceptable answer is 'yes'. But this question is complex, despite what everyone may tell you.

The first thing we have to consider, and the subject brought up by opponents of gold-buying, is whether or not it is cheating. Well, in World of Warcraft, all the best things are unavailable for any amount of gold; so I can't see how you receive an unfair advantage. You won't have to spend as much time doing the boring work of farming for gold to afford enchants and consumables, of course, but this is skillless work; the only thing it requires is time, and I think it is correct to say whether you work in-game or out the effort is the same. So I cannot agree that it is providing any noteworthy advantage over your fellow players.

The second thing then to consider is what negative effect gold buying has on the game as a whole and your fellow players. I think it is safe to say that no matter what anyone says, gold buyers can't wreck an economy that easy; gold sellers have been around in every MMO, and the makers have learned how to compensate with gold sinks that remove the money from circulation-ironically, these gold-sinks are a major reason people often buy. So this is a non-issue. The question of obnoxious in-game spam is a non-issue; such sites are indisputably ruining the game, and should not be bought from. This does not make all gold sellers bad, it only means that obnoxious salespeople are the same in any industry.

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