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MMOWTF: Gold Farmers? Oh Noes!.

Weekly MMORPG.com columnist Dan Fortier muses on the subject of Gold Farming and MMORPGs.

Gold Farmers? Oh Noes!

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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It seems to me I've let this column idle in neutral for a bit too long so I think it's time to rev the engine a bit. Usually there is spark in the form or a news piece or some other media that really gets me fired up for an article and this week is no different. A newspaper, the New York Times no less, ran an article chronicling the lives of Chinese gold farmers. It was written in a mostly factual method although it's complete lack of gaming knowledge made it laughable at times. The main theme though was something akin to a somber sob story about some bright eyed youths fighting to make a living in a cutthroat industry. This week I'm going to see if we should feel sorry for gold farmers and take a look at the practice of RMT. Be sure the bomb shelter is fully stocked before reading further.

I'm no fan of heartwarming stories that try to make me feel sorry for someone by exaggerating the actions of his tormentors and enemies so I wanted to shine a different light on a few details about gold farmers. First off the article tries to show how little they are paid by comparing it to U.S. dollars and claimed they make as little as 30 cents an hour. However, when we compare the that to the average Chinese wage for unskilled workers, it's pretty close, plus the paper mentions they also get free place to sleep. (That bedroom reminds me of some of the places I've slept actually). Not to mention the fact they are being paid to play a game, by choice. Nowhere do I read where they were all shanghaied and living under threat of violence so they must be better off than most of the Staff Writers here at MMORPG.com! (Send help please). We don't need to send Sally Struthers to film an ad campaign or dig up a bunch of fossil rock bands to sing in 'Gold Farmer Aid 2007' to help these guys out.

I don't go out of my way to make life hard on these guys as the article implies that some gamers do, but you won't find me losing sleep over their chosen profession either. In a lot of ways they are just cogs in a wheel created by the simple economics of supply and demand. Developers decided at some point to create games that required insane investments of time in order to advance in their product all the while forcing you to pay a monthly fee. While they benefit from the grind they create it seems pretty hypocritical to denounce people that provide a legitimate service for simply giving folks a short-cut around the laborious and monotonous system they created. If anyone is the victim here, it's gamers that just want to have fun and not worry about economics and currency inflation.

While I'm on the topic, I also find it strange how some can see RMT as cheating. It's a simple fact in the world we live in that people pay more for convenience. Would you call the guy who gets his clothes dry cleaned a cheat because he has more real life cash that he can spend so someone else cleans his clothes while you're stuck at a laundromat? Better throw out that Cable modem and plug in the 56k you cheaters since your ping is way better than your opponent's! There are lots of things we choose to pay more for in order to get an advantage in life over someone else every day, and I fail to see how RMT is any different. If anything, RMT seems to create a balance in the MMO world since the people who have all day to play usually have less money than those who actually go out and earn a living. Should a breadwinner be able to spend a few bucks to get some better gear for his toon to compete with Jimmy who has all day to play?...I think so. Of course these are generalizations as well, but the point is life isn't fair so don't expect games to be an even playing field either.

As far as the old tired theory that farming destroys in-game economies, I can only offer every single MMO server that has been around for years as evidence. I have never played on a server, nor heard of one that closed down because of hyper-inflation and many of them had very few restrictions to prevent the trade of gold or items for real money. What is really ironic is that gold farmers are engaging in the same activity as most other players are required to do just to get by yet are considered the bad guys. I've heard many times that farmers camp the best spots to kill mobs as well. If you have a similar problem I suggest playing on a PvP server or a game that lets players meet out justice instead of allowing players with very little skill to monopolize a zone.

I think I've stepped on quite enough toes for one evening so I'll bring this speeding car of rants to a stop and just pay my fine. Now comes the good part where you jump in with a Username and an opinion. I'll mercifully stop typing for another week so catch your breath while you can. Ta Ta!