In trying to come up with this week's Devil's Advocate, I had to make a difficult decision and wrestle with it both emotionally and mentally in order to better understand the ideas involved in doing something that some people vilify. You see, two days before Christmas, I chose to go to a virtual service provider to purchase access to Star Wars: The Old Republic by buying an access code and a game time code from them. This was caused by regional restrictions put in place by EA that caused our local chain of game stores here in the Philippines to be, as some folks put it in the previous Devil's Advocate piece, red-zoned.
Within those first two paragraphs, I have probably ended up condemning myself to public ire, if not by mentioning my circumvention of regional restrictions, then possibly by mentioning that I purchased it from a third party provider of online goods.
After mulling it over for a few days and rereading the End User Access and License Agreement for the game, I realized that the situation behind purchasing certain goods and services isn't as clear-cut as violating a game EULA. Despite that however, I have this lingering guilt in my mind, and I am turning the whole situation around in my head trying to other facets of it, not only to better understand why I did it, but also to try and see why people go to virtual service providers and purchase stuff from them in the first place.
About The Company and Its Rules
As mentioned two weeks ago in the previous Devil's Advocate piece, EA has taken some steps to allow people to purchase the game outside the launch territories or pass it along from a launch territory to a non-launch territory.
Additionally, in section 2c of the EUALA (Application of this EUALA and Access to Software → Transfer) it even states that you can “make a one-time permanent transfer of all your rights to install and use packaged Software on physical recording media to another individual or legal entity provided that: (a) you transfer or delete all copies of the Software ; and (b) you retain no copies of the Software.”
The implications of this EA's 2c clause would be that anyone can transfer their rights to the game. This says little about paying back the person who gave you the game. In that sense, someone could presumably charge for the transfer of the game code that allows you to access the game across a large distance without paying for shipping if the game client is downloadable, and so long as they throw away the box and disc, you're in the clear.
Despite this, the EUALA for SWTOR and other MMORPG titles has a decided anti-illegal RMT stance. This is meant to protect the integrity of the game, and the integrity of accounts that enjoy the game without resorting to purchasing other “products” from third-party game service providers.
This is, of course, understandable. No one wants their game to have highly inflated currency. This forces game developers to manage additional issues on top of all the things they have to worry about: creating money sinks for inflated currency and, more importantly, addressing and fighting the illicit RMT issue that can plague games like World of Warcraft or Runescape.
About the Player Who Wants to Belong
The issue of why some people resort to RMT is probably more complex than one article can handle. From a mental and emotional standpoint, there are a ton of different factors at play into why any player would want to risk a third-party service to get further ahead in a game, given the stigma behind third party services as being crooked or account-stealing, bot-using hives of scum and villainy. I guess I should begin with explaining why I took the route I did to gain access to SWTOR, and talk about what other people might be thinking.
On my end, there were two reasons for my taking this route. Strictly related to my own situation is that I didn't want to inconvenience any family or friends who were in other countries into purchasing access for me. Beyond that, it was actually a very simple reason: I wanted to belong. The need to belong, or to be a part of something other than one's self, is a powerful motivator. Most people want to have social connections and sometimes, that translates into peer pressure, whether overt or implied.
Most of my friends online are playing SWTOR and are from launch territories, making me an odd person out at times due to my location. They accept me however, because of who I am. That said: the strength of wanting to pursue that bond by being with them in the same game, or in the case of other people, being the same level as them or as rich as them or as powerful as them, can motivate people to take risks they normally wouldn't take. That's what can make a person, even a person like myself who knows the potential for catastrophic problems arising from taking drastic measures, want to go to a third-party service provider and pay good money for just about anything to be equal to one's friends.
Of course, the opposite is also true: if you seek to dominate through strength, especially in a PVP-based setting, and want to take a risky but faster route to that, then the world of RMT can provide that avenue for you as well.
The problem with the stigma of purchasing from a virtual service provider is that instead of trying to understand why people use it, we have a tendency to automatically see them as the enemy. I admit, I used to do that too, but ever since I took that first step into RMT, I realized that I couldn't think of an RMT user with the same sort of enmity. RMT users are people too, and they have aspirations and dreams the same as any other gamer, and while people can hate what RMT users do, we must learn to make a distinction between the actions and the person behind an RMT transaction.