Hey I’m finally up on something WoW and contemporary. You know what I’m like – I’m usually so behind the times. I’m riding my first mount when everyone is flying, I’m going in my first dungeon when everyone is raiding, I’m starting to raid DS now everyone has it on farm etc. But this time it’s different. I’m up on something that’s going on now – in the MoP beta anyway. The Black Market AH.
For those of you who don’t know (okay I know you all do but indulge me for a second) this is an auction house in which rare (possibly no longer in the game) special items can be bought for what seems to me to be ludicrous amount of money. The examples on the screenshot I have seen include Sandals of Faith, Redemption Spaulders, a mount called Ashes of Al’ar , a Sen’jin Fetish pet and Dreamwalker wristguards – all selling at the starting bid price of 10,000 gold apart from the mount which starts at 20,000. All these are things I’ve never heard of by the way – how quickly we reached the limits of my knowledge.
The reaction to this has been interesting. Most people call it a gold sink (you know – the thing millionaires do their dishes in – boom boom) for people with too much gold (oh a problem I wish I had). To some the whole thing is a good thing. To others it’s a bad thing, a very bad thing indeed. In fact from some comments you would think this heralded the coming apocalypse.
The arguments against it seem to be the following:-
1. If you buy something for a lot of gold you don’t really deserve it. You only deserve it if you gain it out in the field e.g.running dungeons/raids/killing something special/farming various things that when put together make a super duper thing.
2. The fact someone can buy that special thing now makes your own (which you gained via the original torturous method – may have involved needles under fingernails judging from the anguish that usually accompanies this argument) less meaningful and valuable (basically the bloody thing might as well be vendored).
Now I think I can speak on this topic very objectively since (a)I never have much gold at all (I am over the moon if I hit 5000 gold & immediately go blow it on the AH on various frivolities (b) I never have any special rare gear, pets or mounts as the thought of all the repetitive farming it involves makes me go outside and howl in frustration (the neighbours have complained). I can’t hack it. I make no apologies. So I’m never going to have anything special in WoW – I have come to terms with that fact – me & my mediocrity are comfortable bedmates (although it hogs the bedclothes).
So what is my view on it all? Well regarding (1) I think it’s true as it applies to people who buy gold- but given that they are breaking terms and conditions anyway I don’t think they are actually relevant to the argument. We can’t judge something’s merits based on how it is used by people acting illegally (that would be e.g. to condemn cars because sometimes bad people steal them).But if you yourself have accrued all that gold in game by working hard at something (the gathering professions perhaps or by cleverly playing the AH – something I spectacularly fail at - everything I buy as a bargain I end up selling off cheaper just to get rid of it) then in my opinion you have earned that special item. I mean it’s not as if they’re going to be just dotted all around Azeroth from now on for any mediocre player to pick up (dammit why won’t they do this?). If you’ve earned the money you’re spending then you’ve earned the item.
This is only what we see in the real world after all. Some people work hard at their discipline & produce great works of art, others buy them & show off at parties. Some people make lovely cakes from scratch (weighing stuff & everything), others buy them & pass them off as their own (whistles innocently). So what? It’s the way of the world. Who is to say one way is better than the other. Effort has been deployed in one guise or another (I mean I had to actually go to the supermarket to buy that cheesecake – I queued up and everything).
2. And what about the argument that the item itself is now less special and valuable because others can now buy it (only those with vast amounts of money though). This argument suggests to me that for some people the value of the object is not the object itself or its function in game, but that it serves as a sign to other people of something about themselves that they want to convey. It signifies something to the wider world. It signifies:-
-Look how hard I worked – I got this
-Look how good I am- I got this
-Look how long I’ve been playing - I got this
In other words they signpost one’s effort, skill or game seniority and they say “I am special.”
And I think this is sad. I think it’s typical of us all, but sad nonetheless. Because what it really means is that so many of us (in game & out I would suggest) are still looking outwards for validation – still looking to impress others in order to feel good about ourselves. That special in game thing hasn’t changed – you have still earned it through effort, skill or time. But the value you ascribe to it is reduced because it no longer signposts your specialness. And that was its real value.
But if any of us look outside ourselves for validation we will ultimately be disappointed because in this world external validation is often unreliable and frequently short-lived. You might seek validation via your looks, but what about when you age; you might get it via your job, but what if you lose your job; you might get it via your athleticism, but what if you get injured? Things change. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes a special item gained through horrendous grinding (not the type you see in nightclubs) becomes less special because it’s available on a Black Market for people with too much gold. So what? Surely we should all be looking within for validation – we know who we are – we are special.
And moreover if other people start easily getting the stuff you’ve worked for why not just be unconditionally happy for them? All it means is they’ve not had to go through the same pain you did. Why would you wish pain on anyone? Why would you not just smile and be happy for their good fortune? There’s so much bitterness and negativity in this world - if it’s made someone happy and brought a smile to their face just let them enjoy it – because really it takes nothing away from you – because you after all are perfect.