Get Your WoW For Nothing And Your PLEX For Free

Blizzard dropped a tiny bombshell today: starting in a future patch, you’ll be able to pay for your World of Warcraft subscription with in-game currency.

This has some similarities to CCP’s “PLEX” system for Eve Online. The differences, however, are major and telling. Most notably:

Q: How much gold will I receive when I sell a WoW Token?
A: The gold value of a Token will be determined dynamically based on supply and demand. When you put a Token up for sale, you’ll be quoted the amount of gold you’ll receive upon a successful sale. If you then decide to place the Token up for sale, that amount is locked in, and the gold will be sent to your mailbox after another player purchases your Token.

Q: Why can’t players set their own prices for the WoW Token?
A: The WoW Token feature is designed to facilitate the exchange of gold and game time between players in as secure, convenient, and fair a way as possible, and without making players feel like they’re playing a game with their hard-earned money. Having a set current market price and a straightforward exchange system is the best way to achieve that—you don’t need to worry about whether your Token will sell or not due to being undercut or the market shifting, and everyone receives exactly the amount of gold they were quoted.

Eve’s PLEX resale rate in in-game currency are set by the players themselves in a free market (though obviously CCP sets the real-world rate by, you know, selling them). Blizzard, by contrast, plans to set both price values. I’m not really sure why they’re doing this; are they afraid that the in-game gold market will rapidly inflate? If the value is seen by the players as unrealistic, they simply won’t buy or sell tokens. Whereas CCP is the ultimate free libertarian market (spaceships, anyone can and will kill you for money, iron ore, or jollies), World of Warcraft is unapologetically embracing a state-run economy. A planned economy.

This is going to go well!

So, is Blizzard selling subscription tokens for in-game gold going to lead inexorably to Azeroth sinking under the grim rule of Communist gnomes? Probably not, but admit it, that would be kind of cool. As will watching how this experiment in state planning vs. free market economics in a reasonably closed system plays out.

And all three of you still concerned about the corrosive effect of real money trading on a fantasy role playing game? My sympathies, but on that point, Blizzard, along with every other major game company, is unapologetically embracing capitalism.

Twitorama: Mark Kern Can’t/Won’t Stop, We Can’t Have Nice Hashtags

If you’re still worried about letting Mark Kern speak, you should rest easy; Mark has decided that, after making literally hundreds of tweets demanding he be heard, that this really should not be about him.

Instead of being about Mark and his lovingly crafted social media campaigns, it should be about, gosh, I don’t even know any more. Apparently Ben Kuchera (opinion writer at Polygon/one of the few male hate figures of Gamergate) got tired of him:

B_Enj6LUsAAxKQd

 

I’m…. pretty sure that when someone blocks you on Twitter, that doesn’t stop you from speaking. Case in point: Mark Kern.

Finally, after his brush with the cold and unfeeling censorship that is, actually, about corruption in games journalism, he seems to have settled on something:

(note: there were about 30 tweets in this vein throughout the day)

And in so doing, for the next day, he retweeted, tens of thousands of times (breaking his own Twitter feed in the process), literally ANYTHING anyone tweeted to him with that. All of these were taken from Kern’s now-unreadable-past-8000 timeline, with no perceptible irony whatsoever.

And then there were the people who hit below the belt.

(note: Kern was rumored to have been banned from the forums of his own game)

Well then. Let’s just step back from the circus for a second and actually pick out an issue or two to examine.

I’m not sure if this stream of tens of thousands of retweets was just his latest in a long line of Kern’s content-free yet very loud demands similar to “I’m going to make a controversial statement, and demand you agree: puppies are cute! #AdmitPuppiesAreTheCutest #KittensAreOKToo”.  The irony is that I actually disagree (no, not about puppies, they ARE the cutest!); media should not be unbiased, because people are not unbiased. The target of an unbiased press is a uniquely American notion; in most countries with a healthy free press, the bias of a media source is fairly well known (for example in the UK, the Guardian is left-leaning, the Telegraph is right-leaning, and we don’t talk about the Daily Mail, EVER). In America we’re seeing this with the notion of Fox News (right) MSNBC (left) and CNN (Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer).

We also see a clear reaction against this. As part of our civic culture, we’re taught that the media (including, paradoxically, editorial commentators) should be free of bias. Which is odd when you consider that the alternatives are either that the reporter in question does have a bias, but chooses to conceal it in the name of being ‘unbiased’ (see: most major mainstream US newspapers – New York Times/Washington Post/etc.), or is so clueless about what they report on that they honestly don’t know enough to have an opinion (see: Don Lemon, Wolf Blitzer) People often get angry with the outrages of the spin of stories from their chosen antagonists, and occasionally organize campaigns against the advertisers of commentators they really don’t like.

This also ties into some of the confusion we’re seeing (and Kern is sharing, whether out of ignorance or self-aggrandizement it’s hard to say) about Right of Reply, so a brief word of explanation here. Simply put, (a) there is no right of reply in the US – it was called the Fairness Doctrine, and was overturned in the late 1980s, which prompted the rise of partisan media such as Fox, (b) in general, media as part of their code of ethics give subjects of news articles the opportunity to comment when a particularly controversial news story regarding them is published, and (c) right of reply almost never applies to editorial/opinion pieces; otherwise no opinion piece would ever be published simply because it would turn into an endless point/counterpoint (which was why there was no commentary-driven mass media in the US before the 1990s, due to the existence of the Fairness Doctrine).

You might see some connections here with what Gamergate demands of the gaming media, and it’s not a coincidence. Gamergate’s stated purpose is, depending on who you ask, either to return gaming media to a point where there is no perceptible bias (“can we please just talk about videogames”), or explicitly demanding that the bias return in favor of where the speaker desires (“stop these left-wing Cultural Marxists from talking about my videogames”). And these are both valid points! I disagree with both of them, because I enjoy reading the views of someone who has a clear, educated viewpoint, whether or not I agree with it. But these are valid topics of discussion, especially as gaming media becomes more professional and more people become interested in news and discussions about gaming. We absolutely should be having a conversation on what direction that should go!

The kicker, of course, is that the people whom Gamergate seem to fix on, 99% of the time, don’t actually have anything to do with the gaming media. Last I checked, neither Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, nor Randi Harper had anything to do with gaming media. This is because Gamergate’s stated purpose is far, far beyond what Gamergate actually DOES. See, for example, the #GDC2015 (now #GDC15, thanks to the below and now equally as applicable) hashtag on Twitter, Gamergate’s latest target of action. Note that GDC is not part of the gaming media – it’s a conference for game developers, those poor forlorn creatures that Gamergate is supposedly in favor of (unless they harbor incorrect left-leaning opinions, which Gamergate has apparently not yet discovered includes roughly 99.8% of game developers). If you’re like me and follow a lot of game developers on Twitter, that hashtag is a revelation – in default view, it looks pretty normal, yep, all the people you know talking about GDC things. If you switch from the default “Top” to “All”? Hoo boy. Gamergate is here and they want you to know they really don’t like you that much, game developers.

Why is this happening? Because GDC invited Zoe Quinn to speak (which was noted for being both heavily attended and for being the first GDC panel with visible police protection).

Clearly, this is about ethics in games journalism.

Or, failing that, Mark Kern’s new career: fixing Mark Kern’s Twitter.

Mark Kern.

Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern.

Am I doing this right? #GDC15 #NotYourShield

11PM 3/2 edit: Gamergate has already had a response!

Given how much else Gamergate gets wrong (hint: about the only thing correct in that tweet was my name and gender), I guess we’ll just let that one go.

On Demands

Some followup from my brief foray into the herpderpery Wednesday:

Mark Kern still can’t speak. No, he’s literally speechless, despite people telling him exactly how to speak. I am not making this up.

I’m not sure why Leigh Alexander is keeping Mark from speaking, save that since Gamergate has anointed her one of the High Priestesses of Evil, she is CLEARLY the source of all bad things that happen to good game developers, but by gosh, Mark is not going to stop talking about not being able to talk, and he’s clearly on a roll. And finally, his quest bears fruit!

Maybe Mark thinks Mr. Carless is Leigh’s FINAL FORM, I dunno. Or maybe he just wants to keep invoking Gamergate’s villainess as a spirit animal. Or maybe he’s just confused!

Riiiight, we’ll go with “confused”, then.  As of this writing, Gamasutra is still cruelly preventing Mark from speaking. That’s OK, though, he’s moved on to world peace.

How can you be against PEACE? What kind of MONSTER are you? Clearly, Mark’s message of… what was it again?

So, he’s not here to talk about Gamergate, which, actually, is about ethics in game journalism, but is here to talk about ethics in game journalism. OK. Does he have any specific beefs, other than Dick Wolf’s crime procedural dramas?

OK, having seen this myself, with you so far, anodyne statements that are impossible to disagree with, go on…

Hmm. You don’t say. He might have a point. I have heard that game journalism is pretty suffused with scoundrels just wanting to cram social justice and colored hair down your throat. Let’s take a quick look at the top stories on the most popular gaming sites right now.

kotaku polygon rpsppe swiftly reaxxion

 

Welp, he’s got me, that narrative is definitely under an iron fist of control, hammering home the message that gamers are all reprehensible over and over.

If only gaming websites would give game developers a chance to speak…

molyneux

…OK, maybe not like that.

kern-red5

…OK, probably not like that, either.

kern

 

Right, that should be good. OK, so I think I have it. The path to ethical game journalism is to have game developers write articles about their own products, ideally in a way that makes their current project look good. This is clearly the path to expunge corruption from games journalism and achieve peace.

Oh, and also, without that annoying screaming.

Yes, sports fans, he means my article.

tumblr_inline_n6w3n9tGSO1r2uuc0

 

…where, mind you, the paragraph of ALL CAPS was my imagining Mark Kern talking after talking for about 10 hours – not an exaggeration – of tweets and retweets about WHY WON’T YOU LET MARK KERN SPEAK.

I think he kind of missed the point there. So let me make it QUITE CLEAR, since Kern is probably going to read this, being the self-googling type.

There is no conspiracy in games journalism to say anything. There, in fact, is no real “voice” of games journalism. There are *voices* within games journalism who say things. Some of them you may disagree with. Some of them you may agree with. This is how a free press works. People have opinions, and other people respond to them.

In fact, the real failing of games journalism isn’t a hatred of its audience (what I think Kern was trying to express, if flailing about unable to actually express that); although some writers absolutely do hate their audience at this point, and why wouldn’t they? Have you READ the comments lately? Anywhere? Yet still they write. But not enough do. They don’t see it as a vocation or a challenge, they see it either (seldomly) as a rote drudgery to slump through on the way to another day’s paycheck or (more often) as an enthusiast with no desire to critically engage with what they write about, but only to gleefully reword press releases sent to them by oh-so-solicitous PR agencies.

You see, that’s the actual corruption in games journalism. Not that there is a viewpoint – viewpoints are awesome! Even viewpoints that disagree from mine! Especially viewpoints that disagree from mine! But that for so many, there is no viewpoint. There are only top 10 lists, recaps of the latest video cards, and the same 12 screenshots you saw everywhere else on the Internet that day. This is probably why people don’t even pay attention to games news websites any more and just watch people stream games on Youtube mumbling to themselves while calling other writers drunks. telling them to fuck off, and complaining to their employers if they happen to be game developers.

Oh brave new world, that has such journalism in it.

Meanwhile, my taunting Gamergate by mocking one of its anointed and poking it with a stick had some mild results:

– a few emails to my employers demanding I be severely talked to. The best response to that came from Facebook:

sheppard

 

– some mild taunting from Gamergate diehards on Twitter. The weirdest was this entry. I’m thinking it says a lot more about them than about me.

beardman

(part of it’s true, though, I am totally a goony beardman. holding a cat. Heck, that’s a painting from Everquest on the wall behind me! You can’t see it because my goony beardman head is too big.)

The weirdest, saddest, and most cogent commentary?

Leigh Alexander got harassed for 2 days (and counting, if you count Totalbiscuit’s diatribe as descended from that) for tweeting agreement and discussion of my article.

I got attention bordering on mild harassment for about… 4 hours.

Something’s wrong with this picture, and it’s not the color of anyone’s hair.

An Apology

Look. I know you all are expecting me to wax eloquently about the reaction to my earlier post. And that will happen at some point. (Hint: Mark Kern totally didn’t get it.)

But, look. You have to understand something here. I’m a gamer. I’m not just saying that because it’s my career or anything like that. I seriously really like games. And specific games.

Look, what I’m trying to tell you, it’s not you, it’s me.

THE NEW EUROPA UNIVERSALIS EXPANSION IS OUT!!!!!!!!!!

So tonight you guys can argue about Letmarks Peak all you want… I am playing out what would happen if the Kingdom of Jerusalem fled to the New World (to where I grew up, specifically). And converted to Judaism. And become crazy warrior monks that took over the eastern seaboard of the US. And decided it was their destiny to reconquer Europe.

Because, really, why not? Gaming is about following your dreams.

jerusalem

Don’t judge my dreams.

Quick Comments

1) Hi, Reddit! It’s me, Scott. I’ve been doing this blogging thing a while now, as you can see from my mostly extant if broken archives. I’d fix them but, you see, I’m pretty lazy.

2) I keep fairly busy in my day job. In fact we are doing a major patch today – if the gentle call of sea lion barks becomes too distracting, I’ll turn off comments temporarily. You see,

3) I am under zero obligation to host your comments, abuse, witty repartee, accusations, threats or whatever. I paid for this microphone. You are free to pay for your own! Isn’t the Internet great? Now get out of my yard, I’m old.

I Demand You Listen To Me

what you find here is my own opinion only and not that of my employers. kindly do not blame them for my ravings.

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing blog entries in almost 2 years is that, well, for the past 6 months you would have to be literally insane to want to write about gaming. Because if you did, well.

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REASONABLE DISCUSSION KIND SIR DO YOU HAVE IT

When I’m feeling charitable, I like to think of the sea lions of Gamergate as inherently reasonable people who simply come at discussion from a different perspective. Call it Generation Chan – where everything is shouted at maximum volume, and from that a consensus chaotically emerges, in the most democratic of senses, and if you can’t handle a little chaos then get out because clearly your nethers are too tender for these pants. Jay “A Man in Black” Allen put it best here:

Anon culture is a decentralized echo chamber, but one that can produce interesting things through the work of many hands. Anons hold that whatever consensus emerges is the right one as an article of faith, even if that consensus becomes more and more toxic over time. One example of how hate can concentrate is 4chan’s /pol/ sub-board. Ostensibly for discussing politics and current events, it is now dominated by white supremacists. This toxicity isn’t necessarily contained to one board: usually-ironic, sometimes-not homophobia, racism, and antisemitism are common to almost all anonymous imageboards.

And Gamergate shares that toxic narrative – most obviously in how it is inherently hypocritical at its core. Those who disagree with them politically must be driven from the Internet (such as seen in “Operation Disrespectful Nod“, itself originating from a meme mocking someone who tried to be polite to a target of Gamergate’s hatred), while every comment from someone seen as an ally must be allowed, and any moderation of this is censorship (such as Anita Sarkeesian’s refusal to allow comments on her Youtube videos, which is seen by Gamergaters as fear of engagement and by normal people as a recognition of cause and effect.)

I bring this up because we now see the advent of Gamergate’s latest hero, Mark Kern, who apparently is being held in a black site by the CIA.

Well… wait… I got all these from Kern’s timeline. Maybe he’s not being held captive by the Islamic State after all.

Wow. It’s almost like someone familiar with social media is inciting a ready-made mob! What could prompt this awesome display of hashtag power? What can all this be about? Well…

That’s not entirely correct, (and France is not particularly a place denizens of /pol/ want to look to for their anti-Semitic meme publication needs) but regardless; what this is really about?

Well, you see, it’s about Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Yes, really.

They apparently did a Gamergate-themed episode, which was about as weirdly stupid as you’d expect. Mark Kern was offended by it (so much so, in fact, he made a change.org petition), and laid the blame for this at the foot of the gaming media for, well, doing their jobs.

Really.

The best response to this was from Cara Ellison:

VG24/7 published an article that basically said the same, just using more/less profane words.

You’re wrong, I’m afraid, Mr Kern. Your view makes no sense. As anyone who’s had anything to do with Gamergate will know, apportioning blame here is as constructive as sieving cheese. The issues surrounding Gamergate made it to the mainstream because it’s a ridiculous story about weird, dangerous sexists and the women they target. Not because Kotaku wrote about it.

Well, you’d think that would about do it – except that Kern demands the right of response – his honor has been tarnished by VIDEOGAME JOURNALISTS and he has to say something about it! So, you know, he went to wordpress.com, spent about 5 minutes filling out a form, and then said his piece, which he then promoted on Twitter as his response to what VG24/7 said. Much like, you know, what I’m doing right now.

Oh wait, no, I’m wrong, he went full Gamergate and decried VG24/7 for not giving him the chance to write a response ON THEIR SITE. Because you see, they wrote something about him which he disagreed, and if they don’t publish his response that’s CENSORSHIP, and didn’t you know that he personally is responsible for Diablo 2 AND Starcraft 2 AND World of Warcraft? VANILLA WORLD OF WARCRAFT, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT THAT PANSY-ASSED CASUAL CRAP BLIZZARD DOES NOWADAYS, HE’S MARK MOTHERFUCKING KERN AND YOU WILL RESPECT HIS SOCIAL NETWORK REACH AND HIS IMPECCABLE RESUME AND YOU WILL GIVE HIM THE HONOR OF RESPONDING TO YOUR READERS!

You see, the world doesn’t work that way, something you’d think a fully functioning adult like Mark Kern would understand. The media does not have the obligation to post your rebuttal. And trust me, if they did, I have about 50 articles lined up ready to post on returnofkings.com right now. Freedom of speech is not a business rule, it is a constitutional imperative; he is free to, as he is doing now, use his fairly large megaphone to make everyone understand how offended he is that games journalists write about things. Gaming journalists being what they are, this will raise such a hullaballo that at some point some fairly notable site (probably the Escapist, rapidly becoming the web’s number one source for Based News) will interview Kern about his thoughts. Maybe in person, he’s fairly important, he could fly out to their offices and they can film an in-person interview.

Or maybe he’ll just take the bus over.

(Edit 2/26 8:45A – comments on this post disabled temporarily because it’s a busy day at work and I don’t have time to babysit the KotakuInAction RESPECTFUL COMMENTARY incoming. Will be turned on this evening. Thanks!)

(Edit 2.26 8:00P – comments are back open. Feel free to tell me how horribad a person I am and how I got fired from every job I ever had!)

A Programming Note

The previous content-free post managed not to work within seconds of its posting. The author of said post has chosen to pursue other opportunities.

Look forward to more content-free postings on this blog soon!

Threat Condition VASHJ: No, Seriously, Guys

Every morning, I read the New York Times on my iPad, because I have become the yuppie I grew up hating and because my local paper is kind of awful. This morning, this article was on the front page:

Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls

Constant readers will remember that, as the meme goes, I wrote about this on my blog five years ago. No, really, I wrote about this on my blog five years ago. Mainly running with the concept of what a stupid idea this was. I had no idea.

No. Really. I had no idea.

[Cory Ondrejka, Second Life’s CTO] visited the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”

No. Really. I had no idea.

In one 66-page document from 2007, part of the cache released by Mr. Snowden, the contracting giant SAIC promoted its ability to support “intelligence collection in the game space,” and warned that online games could be used by militant groups to recruit followers and could provide “terrorist organizations with a powerful platform to reach core target audiences.”

No. Really. I had no idea.

…so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions…

See, this is why I haven’t been updating my blog. The news is too stupid for me to parody.