Is “real-money trading” actually immoral? Or is it just “gold farming” that’s the problem?
(Basic definitions: RMT involves spending real-world currency on items in an online game, or possibly in trade for “game currency”, sort of like buying Monopoly money. Gold farming is doing some action in a game over and over and over just to earn items or game currency with the plan to sell it later.)
In MMORPGs, that distinction used to be largely academic. The vast majority of Western games (with few exceptions) simply didn’t allow either one in their user agreements, so the only way to engage in RMT was to deal with gold farmers. For various reasons having to do with fairness as well as user security, both of them acquired a good bit of social stigma.
But some games are introducing legitimate RMT, albeit in a controlled and regulated fashion. My current preferred game, EVE Online, allows users to buy game-time cards (GTCs) for real-world money, then sell them to other players for in-game money (ISK). So players low on cash but thriving in the game can basically play for free. Players who don’t have as much time to play as they’d like but with disposable RL income can focus on the game activities they enjoy most rather than trying to earn ISK to support those activities. In fact, you can even buy and sell your characters for ISK if you don’t want to spend the time to build up a character that can compete at the high end of the game.
This is becoming a real concern for me. I don’t have nearly as much time to play as I wish I did. Work, family, and congregation all take large sections of my time, as they should. So when I do find a few hours to sit down and relax, running missions or mining to earn ISK isn’t what I want to do. I’d rather go out in player-versus-player combat (PVP). But PVP costs money, because when you lose, you lose your ship and some or all of your equipment.
So here’s my choice: I can spend hours trying to earn ISK (because I’m fairly new to the game) to fund what would then be a relatively small proportion of time doing what I enjoy most. Or I can spend a fraction of that time working a little bit extra at the office to earn dollars that, through a series of exchanges, will end up with the same ISK. All the while, I’m not breaking any user agreements or endangering my (or anyone else’s) security, and I’m contributing to both the company that runs the game and the players who enjoy it but don’t necessarily have the $15/month required to play.
I’m not sure there’s much of a dilemma here after all, actually.