Saturday, August 9, 2008

Let's Talk RMT and Gold Farming

Attention: IAHGames, IP e-Games, et al.

[This is a serious entry and one that needs to be read.]

One of my favorite sites to read every day is Boing Boing. It's sort of like a place where a lot of tech-related news gets gathered. One of the people behind BB is a sci-fi author named Cory Doctorow, and he's the guy who brought in today's very interesting news story.

World of Developmentcraft: academic paper on gold farming as a development activity in poor countries - about the paper "Current Analysis and Future Research Agenda on 'Gold Farming': Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games" by Andrew Leonard

Let's break the post's title down first:

"World of Developmentcraft" - article-appropriate and relevant pun on World of Warcraft, which claims to be the MMO with the most number of subscribers and CCUs

"academic paper" - means someone dug in to do actual research on something. When it's actual research, there are usually hard numbers and facts to back up the researcher's opinions and conclusions

"gold farming" - the subject of the academic paper, and something we hate/love/reluctantly use if we're one, the other, or the other other kind

"development activity" - something that someone earns money from. In some senses, the idea can be expanded to also mean something that the someone who's earning from it can use to make a difference, whether the development is in a positive or in a negative direction

"poor countries" - places where it's hard to make minimum wage, much less enough to actually survive, develop, and thrive on

Now let's break down the actual academic paper's title:

"Current Analysis" - Leonard makes a review of the current research literature that has to do with the subject at hand

"Future Research Agenda" - suggestions for where future research can go regarding the topic

"'Gold Farming'" - the topic at hand

"Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games" - a quick definition of gold farming, with some emphasis on the "development" aspect

We've all seen how gold farming [and RMT, and bots, and other illegal third-party stuff] can really gimp a game. We've seen how games get rapidly imbalanced when those things are around. And we've seen how players lose their zest and joy in playing a game when it's far too easy to grab high-level items, negating the value of actually earning things and moving upward in levels, power, and wealth.

But what if the people on the other side - the gold farmers in particular - actually think of what they are doing as something they can develop with? The idea in the academic paper linked above is, what if those farmers - who are often kids and youth who have no other means of earning a decent living because all the other jobs are taken and/or indecent - actually can use the money they earn to level up in real life?

I'm not saying it's time to take a sympathetic stance towards the gold farmers just yet. Until further research is done on this subject, I will keep my own suspicious view towards this - but I am also going to think about how the concepts and processes behind gold farming could instead be used to both help the farmers AND the games that are affected by gold farming.

[Bonus: Doctorow wrote a short story called "Anda's Game", which simultaneously talks about a number of hot-button issues in online gaming:

- girl gamers
- the physical problems that could be brought on by too much sitting down and squinting at a monitor
- gold farmers

The story's a great read. Here's the link to it: Anda's Game @]


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