Debate: The Ethics of Power Leveling Services
Kevin Tierney and Carolyn Koh debate
Kevin Tierney: The problem I see with power leveling companies is two fold in my opinion. First, the game no longer becomes about living in a virtual world and advancing as you grow in skill, but rather who can pay the biggest amount of out of game money to have someone advance for them. The entire issue of using out of game money for in game advancement has always bugged me, and the power leveling companies are just a manifestation of this.
The other concern I have comes from a guild management perspective. When one recruits players, they normally want people who are dedicated to that game in one sense or another. I believe when you have those who pay others to level for them, what you have is someone who is simply looking to cut every corner in the game he can. There is also the fact that he will not be very skilled with his character, as he hasn't really played it. A classic example would be what we called the "Jebay" from Star Wars Galaxies. People would buy Jedis off of eBay (already fully templated.) The only problem was they figured once they were a full Jedi they had an "I win button" but were frequently vastly ignorant about how to play, and ended up causing more headaches than benefits. The same principle I believe applies here.
Carolyn Koh: Power leveling companies are the manifestation of that great capitalistic spirit... Anything to make a buck, I cannot fault them. If a player is willing to pay for the service and finds a reputable company to do it for them, good for them, I say. A good player is a good player and as most players know, the game play of a class can change several times during the journey from 1 to 50. Why should a player wanting to jump into the end game where his buddies are, be penalized and be required to grind his way up?
I'd say that with power leveling, you actually have more control over the development of your character than buying a fully developed one from EBay. So you lose the experience of the journey. The pains and pangs of dying in dungeon A and pitfall B, miss the fun of quest C, but you can specify that you will be playing the character twice a week during this power leveling fest, and specify where you want skill points placed, what items banked, what items sold... etc. If your idea of fun is to have a well geared character and able to join your buddies who have been playing an MMORPG for three months while you on a job assignment without the ability to game... I cannot condemn paying a chunk of real world cash to have a character leveled and to purchase the items you want.
To answer your other concern, I've never known any guilds not to require a trial period to see how well a recruit plays and interacts with the guild to know if it's a good fit. Most top guilds even require an application and an accounting of the character's skills, gear and raid experience. An unskilled player will be ousted very quickly.
Kevin Tierney: As with everything in the "capitalist" spirit, it has its limits. Capitalism rewards hard work as well as ingenuity. The former people seeking power leveling companies’ lack I believe. You talk about what seems to be the horror and anguish of people not being able to level, dying in this or that dungeon, and as a result, the power leveling companies need to take care of the problem. Why even have levels then, if it's really that much work? Why not just start everyone off at level 60, eliminate the need for power leveling all together? Risk and reward, that's why. There's a risk, even if it’s a tedious risk, which goes into leveling, and then the reward for that work is better gear, items, etc. Those who pay power levelers to get them somewhere use what they obviously don't deserve.
As far as guild trial periods, I agree, and the guild I proudly serve as a councilor for has at times quite a strict policy for some of the games in regards to trial periods to weed out those types of people. Yet such play styles I think have no business in MMO's, those that prefer to cut every corner possible to get success rather than work for it like everyone else.
Carolyn Koh: Would you say then… that such play styles are more suited to single player games? I doubt it. No one would use a power leveling company to play the game for them as part of the game is the journey to the top. Now that applies just as much to MMORPGs, but the difference lies in that in MMOGs, there other factors to consider… those of timing – the ability to play with your friends and the end-game – the game that exists at the end of the level spectrum.
Developers recognize that the social aspects of their games are important to MMOG players. You don’t play an MMOG to play alone. The frustrations of being a late adopter to an MMOG are well known enough that it has been addressed in some games. City of Heroes has a “Side-Kick” function, EverQuestII has a “Mentoring” function to allow friends with characters of disparate levels to play together and assist the low-level character. In games that do not or did not have those functions, players still found ways to “rush” friends. Now, courtesy of the Capitalistic machine, there are companies to do that for you. EULA aside…. that’s bad?
Kevin Tierney: I find your timing argument rather weak. Even with some single player games obviously there can be some time constraints. Many won’t have time to get through even the main quest of Oblivion for example. Therefore they don’t buy it. An MMO is a demanding style of game, and the players should be willing to meet that demand, or simply not bother playing.
In regards to such “mentoring” features, I do believe that it’s a genius concept to implement in EQ2, and had a lot of fun the 3 months I played EQ2 using that mentoring concept. There may be ways to “rush” but such is a bit different from using out of game money, paying someone to do the work for you. For the most part, you might have power leveled, but you did it yourself. Huge difference.
Would you want to play with someone or hire someone for example who cuts every corner of quality imaginable, just because he believes it may improve the bottom line? Such is rarely successful in a long term operation. One can streamline things, find new ways to level, or enjoy the game at their own pace. You don’t need to be level 60 to have fun in an MMORPG. For those who talk about time constraints, I have a 45 hour work week and only play during the graveyard shift EST, when nobody is supposed to be on, but I have found work-around to still have a strong play style. Just takes some of that capitalistic ingenuity you have praised.
Carolyn Koh: You seem to keep going back to the cutting corners and poor quality argument but it does not signify. An idiot player with no raiding skills is an idiot player with no raiding skills – no matter if they ground their way up themselves, paid a power leveling company or bought the character off EBay.
In reference to putting up with the heat or getting out of the kitchen, let’s not forget that there are MMOGs out there that allow you to purchase an “Advanced Character Template” and that’s not just the Free to Play games.
I agree that one does not need to be playing in prime time or to have an inordinate amount of time to devote to an MMOG to enjoy it, however, my argument is not to belittle those good players who choose to learn the game from ground-up, but support those good players who have chosen, for one reason or other, to buy some assistance in leveling.
I will reiterate that I believe judicious power-leveling is better than straight purchase. There used to be, in EQ, power leveling services that power leveled you in-game – while you played the character. Power leveling companies sell different types of services. Single levels, 5 levels, time… it’s up to the player to choose.
Power leveling companies don’t make idiot players. Idiot players make themselves.
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