Friday, 22 January 2010

On goldselling, xp cards, and in-game economy

This is gonna be a long rant, so it will probably be split into more parts. Take into mind that I'm not very good at math or economy, but a few basics and a couple of logical connections are not foreign to me. I intend to stick to those.

The whole problem started this morning, with this post . Today the Xp card prices went through the roof, and they circulated for obscene prices. Fair enough, I've sold a few myself, but i tried to keep it decent and sold for how much i was offered.

The reason behind this measure is allegedly the fact that they can be obtained using illegal methods. Xp cards have been a popular item in stands for the last couple of months, since they were made tradeable. They have been sold for a price I consider way above their value (3-5 million gold for 30 minutes of 2xp), since you don't get that gold back by 30 minutes of grinding, you don't level in 30 minutes, and the chance to get an item that will be sold for the xp card's price is slim to none. Another effect was that people who had real-life money to buy XP cards became the people who handled most of the virtual wealth in this game. 50 xp cards could ensure the gold to buy expensive items.

The downside was that people who didn't have the real-life money to buy these in the item mall needed in-game gold to afford them. This is not possible for the normal player. There is no way you can get addicted to xp cards and support that addiction solely with honestly-earned in-game gold. If it takes you 10 cards to level, you've thrown away 40 millions. You don't make that gold in 5 hours of grind time.
To obtain that gold, there are other ways: a couple of months ago, 100 million gold on a goldselling site costed around 20$. As we speak, it's somewhere around 1-2$. 100 million = 20 xp cards (we're talking about the old prices), which definitely do NOT cost 2$ in the item mall. This is the cheap way out.

Now for us Westerners, the easy way out seems normal. We buy cheap clothes, cheap gadgets and all sorts of cheap and good stuff we find "useful" that is being made in some Asian, African or East-European countries. We are willing to pay 10$ for something that cost 2$ to produce. Whe don't ask ourselves why such a wide range of cheap products is available for us. We take it for granted. Mostly the stuff that is produced in poor countries and then sold in our markets owes its low price to simple labor exploitation. Western countries have laws protecting workers, and have developed systems to ensure that the work they do harms them as little as possible and that they are fairly payed for it.
Many companies have used the vague labour laws in poor countries to move their production there. This way, they save a lot of money by using cheap labour, underpaying their employees, giving them a job that has a high personal risk, and avoiding responsibilty (due to poor labour legislation) if anything bad might happen to their employees.

Ok, we mostly know that, and we frankly don't give a damn. We still buy our clothes, gadgets, most of the stuff we need around the house from places that sell such products. Buying fair trade is still a luxury, and we would never give up on our personal comfort just because it's the right thing to do.

What does this have to do with 9D and goldselling? Well, pretty easy. Labour exploitation is the source of all that cheap gold being sold on the sites advertised by those annoying Hefei spammers. Labour exploitation in this case means that a young person is sitting in front of a computer 8-12 hours per day, powerleveling chars and grinding to farm gold. It means someone is being payed 80$ a month and produces more than 10 times that money for the "company" he works for. It means a person your age is sitting every day in front of a computer, doing the same freaking thing you do for fun as a job. It means he's sitting in an uncomfortable position for hours in a row, being payed if he gets an X amount of gold/hour (not getting payed or getting fired if he doesn't), ruining his eyesight, having the spinal chord of a 50year-old at the age of 30 and getting a crap pay for it. All this so that we, the spoiled brats of civilisation, can buy a stupid def trinket, a +11 weapon, a 600 def set or a BBoE.

It's interesting how players only fault Acclaim for those goldspammers. It's interesting how they yell "ban their azzes!', yet they visit their sites and buy gold or items from them.

Maybe if we stop and think for a second (GOD FORBID we do that!) we'll realise that a lot of the blame for the current situation lies at our end. If we wouldn't want to choose the short and easy way out, the goldspamming industry would be at a much lower level than it is today.
Maybe if some people wouldn't buy that cheap gold, the prices wouldn't be as obscene as they are today. Maybe if we wouldn't be that hasty to level fast the people selling xp cards wouldn't control the in-game economy.

I probably lost the point somewhere around this rant, but the bottom line is: don't support the goldselling industry. You are not only damaging the game economy, risking your own accounts (probably your bank accounts as well), you're also supporting the development of a new type of labour exploitation.


  1. You are spot on about the labor exploitation in the gaming industry, but believe it or not the people working in it far prefer gaming to the alternatives.

    Have you ever seen what a lifetime of planting and picking rice does to your posture?

    The young women in SE Asia face even starker choices.

  2. I can pretty much imagine it.

    But i think the spoiled brats of capitalism could afford to pay 15$ for 100M if the chinese goldfarmer would work in humaine conditions for a wage that would allow him a decent living...