Avoiding the RMT issue
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 February 2013, 10:06 am
The Nosy Gamer has a post with old quotes from MMORPG developers about the evils of RMT. To give an extremely short summary of the four quotes, the developers hate RMT because of:
  • constant spamming of chat channels
  • use of stolen credit cards
  • credit card chargebacks
  • credit card fraud
In other words, as the second quote from Jagex states: "The biggest concern about real-world trading is - sorry for this example as I know it is not politically correct - it is a bit like prostitution. It's not necessarily the prostitution which is a problem, although you might have moral problems with [real-world trading]. But the real problem is the organised crime that's built around prostitution; the human trafficking, the drugs, etc. And that's the same with illegal real-world trading. The problem comes in when they start doing other illegal activities."

Now I totally agree that stealing and fraud are evil. Just like everybody agrees that human trafficking is evil. But as argument for why RMT / prostitution is bad, I find this extremely weak. Not that I would deny that there is a connection between RMT and credit card fraud, or prostitution and human trafficking. But what if you break that connection? What if you have a game like Diablo III with a legal RMT auction house, or a country like the Netherlands where prostitutes have legal protection? If there is no credit card fraud, is RMT *still* a bad thing? If there is no human trafficking or drugs involved, is prostitution still bad? I feel that the slippery slope argument is just lazy and weak.

So why don't these people argue against RMT itself, disconnected from the crime? Because if they did that, they would have to point the fingers at themselves. Between real money auction houses with fees, PLEX, and various Free2Play shop items in different games, a lot of game developers are now very much in the business of selling virtual currency for real money, or taking a cut from such sales between players. Basically what the devs are saying in the linked-to post is "RMT is evil if somebody other than me is doing it". And that doesn't make for a very morally convincing argument.

I very much believe that buying virtual currency has an *inherent* bad effect on a game, which is independent of whether it is a third party or the game company itself that is making the sale. RMT to me is a sign of a game lacking inherent rewards. We do not want to play because playing is fun, we only play because of some virtual reward at the end. And if there are some means like RMT or botting or cheating which allow us to get to that same virtual reward faster, we take it. Because we aren't enjoying playing for that reward. And that, to me, cries "bad game!". RMT means paying somebody else to play the game for you, and how enjoyable can a game be if you feel the need for that?

Even if you don't mind the Skinner box gameplay without inherent rewards, RMT is self-defeating. It breaks the link between the game activity and the reward. Imagine starting a new Diablo III account with $5 worth of gold: You would play for many hours, at least the first play-through if not several ones, equipped 99% of the time with gear you bought from the AH. Diablo III in your mind would not be a game where you kill monsters to find loot, because the probability of finding something better than what you bought with the RMT gold would be so very remote. That very much kills the "I play for rewards" mindset.

I do think there is a good and intelligent discussion that can be held about whether RMT by itself is bad. By just simply labeling every gold seller as a credit card fraudster, we are just avoiding the real RMT issue.
Tobold's Blog

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