There's been a lot of talk about Cory Doctorow's "For The Win," which purports itself to be a case study on the social and economic (real and imagined) dynamics of your typical MMO. While you're bound to agree and disagree with the content, I was amazed at what happened when the topic of Gold Farmers was brought up in the context of this book.
Doctorow's general stance seems to be one of hands off regulation, seeing gold farming and selling as a benefit to the MMO itself as well as the players. Players sick of leveling buy gold to speed the process along and thus retain interest in the MMO, which in turn continues to provide steady subscription revenue and title longentivity. A case was made for the spouse who wants to play with their signifigant other, and is presented with the choice of leveling from zero or taking the gold buying boost in order to catch up quickly. It helps the poor of suburbia China, needing only an internet connection and... Okay, that one didn't fly with me either, even if there maybe a shred of truth to it. Point being that the topic was, in fact, brought up recently in a Kotaku piece, and I couldn't help but to be a bit surprised at the attitude adopted by the community posting there...
...Doctorow's position was absolutely reviled.
The arguments were passionate against gold farming- which I guess shouldn't have come as a surprise -but one thing I noticed about a good majority of them failed their logical continuity rolls; So much so I was dying to post just how flawed their disertations were. The problem was that the fail observed in that threat was so much that it couldn't be contained in a mere forum reply, so it came here.
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Sure, there's the hideously annoying spam aspect of it, but most of the responses to this article miss the mark entirely for the sole reason that gold is not the ultimate commodity being bought; It's time.
In fact, I'd go so far to dispute the theorem that gold buying destabilizes the Warcraft's world economy simply because there is no restrictions on its aquisition. Gold can be obtained in unlimited quantities by any level 10 with a pickaxe and skinning knife. I should know.. It's a method I used ad nausum to establish characters on new servers and often had 50g in hand by the end of the day by playing the AH. Or hey, how about rolling a DK, running through the initial quest just to cash out 25-35g just to fund your new server toon, deleteing the DK after the funds are offloaded? ...Or running through outlands in all blues just to farm items?
Getting back to the point, since there are no real limits or controls to the acquisition of gold, the commodity itself becomes worthless. A worthless, uncontrolled currency is doomed to instability regardless of external influences and any complaints in that direction should be leveled solely at the developer... Nor is warcraft alone in this. Fingers can be pointed to the widest range of MMOs in existance today.
That brings us to time as being the primary commodity in play. Unlike gold, my time is of a finite quanity and therefor has intrinsic value. If gold is worthless and the system doesn't restrict the ease of its mass accumulation, what logical argument can one possibly bring to bear against the method by which it is acquired?
Are they honestly suggesting that I should spend my valuable currency- time -in order to obtain a more worthless one that is already inherantly unstable and exists only for the sole purpose of artifically stagnanting my advancement? If the latter is to be used as an excuse, one needs only point out the ability of low levels to aquire massive sums of money through legitimate means, thereby destroying currency as any sort of advancement control.
In short it comes down to this:
If you're position is that gold buying destabilizes the market, you're wrong. The system is already broken by a valueless currency as noted above. If your argument is that gold buying allows unfairly rapid advancement, you're wrong. It was already pathetically easy to acquire and said check and balance is rendered worthless because of it.
This leaves only two avenues for people to level gripes against Gold Farming:
The ever so nebulous "It's not fair!" at which point you have to realize that having that high level guildy run you through deadmines isn't fair either. Is it likewise unfair that my level 85 can farm blues, sell it off and send the profits to my n00b toon down at level 1 to speed along its leveling in an artificial manner? What's the difference? Not too damn much.
Or there's the "It's against the rules," the second and more relevant of the two. This one is really up to your moral take on the entire debacle, especially in the face of speed leveling, guildies and twinking; all of which appear to be fine by Blizzard's standards.
Finally, there's the spam aspect, which is probably the most defensible argument someone can make. Go Allods.
I guess what it all comes down to is one thing-- The only thing gold farming breaks is one's sensibilities, both as players and for the company not having complete and utter control over all they survey... Or maybe just being reminded that their monetary system is so broken that services like the ones they try to stop actually prosper.
I have to agree with Cory on this one.