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I Paid For This Chat Channel!

MMORPG.com has a “debate” between Brad McQuaid (you know, Vanguard, Everquest, vision, supercore, yadda) and… a self-righteous gold farmer. I guess Brad was bored that day (and actually seems to have just shrugged and wandered off near the end).

The actual points you’ve all seen before dozens of times. Bad for the game. Money grubbing companies. Taking money off the table. Fighting for the little man. Purity of the game. Etc. I did like the farmer just devolving into threats at the end:

In closing it does not matter if a game is designed with RMT in mind or not, the transactions will continue to take place. It is simply a matter of time before the gaming companies choose a RMT company to work with so that they will get the piece of the market they deserve.

“You sees, Mr. McQuaid, it’s an offer youse can’t refuse.”

One thing I’ve noticed though, with RMT partisans, is a sort of dumbstruck fury that someone is trying to stop them from this great free market they’ve discovered. Damn it, they farmed that gold fair and square, and companies are banning them and taking their gold and threatening them and what the hell? Isn’t making a buck American? Whatever happened to free speech and capitalism? I paid for this game, why *can’t* I sell what I do to someone else?

Of course, I would respond that for much the same reason that I can’t run a crack dealership out of my office. I mean, I *could*. I paid for the crack. It’s my office. I don’t get it. Why can’t I sell crack? I give away a lot of crack anyway with my design docs. This is just …better crack! I’m fulfilling a service. I don’t get it. Isn’t this America? Did al’Qaeda take over and prevent people from selling crack?

Clearly, there are social reasons to block some behavior. And in most games, gold farming is a harmful behavior. The RMT partisans (at least the honest ones) can’t really make this connection, because they don’t see MMOs as a society, but merely an entertainment medium and unexploited resource rolled into one. Since to them it’s not a society, they see no harm in their actions. It’s just, you know, making stuff. Virtual stuff. Then selling it, to wacky people who pay real money for it.

So, at the other end of this spectrum is something else today I found illustrative. Second Life is as far from most MMOs as you can get in, well, most things, and among them is their RMT policy. They’re all for it! Sell all the “Lindens” you want, knock yourself out, make it a convertible currency! That after all simply validates the worth of the “second life” within the first one. (WARNING: NSFW links follow. This being SL and all.) Of course, quite a bit of those Lindens are going to things Linden Labs doesn’t issue press releases on, but, well, that just makes it more like real life, I guess. We have a real economy here – an economy driven by cat-girl harlots, but we have to start somewhere out here in Multiverseland.

Which brings us to a blog entry by Kunikos, a Quarter to Three poster who seems confused by this whole virtual economy thing. He asks, plaintively, what’s to stop Linden Labs from just, you know, messing stuff up? What’s to stop them from just printing money, since people seem to let them… print money?

How long will it be before such “real economy” virtual worlds are regulated by the real world governments? How long before the bubble bursts or an Enron style collapse occurs? Do we know that Linden Labs isn’t already siphoning off $1000’s of dollars from the economy of Second Life already?

Of course, many people immediately pointed out that Blizzard siphons off considerably more than $1000 a day from World of Warcraft. It’s called, you know, profit. But here is someone who admittedly isn’t that familiar with all the associated arguments surrounding RMT, who asks, quite rationally, are we all playing with Dutch tulips?

Combined with the tax mania currently going around the web (OMGZ BLIZZARD IS GOING TO SEND YOU A FORM 1099 IF YOU LOOT THAT EPIC) and the recent news of the Korean government getting in the act… well, pretty soon we may have Mr. McQuaid debating someone who knows the law considerably better then Mr. Gold Farmer. And no matter what side of the RMT argument you come down on… that way lies madness.

Because I’ll just come out and say it – over-regulation can very easily choke the MMO industry in its crib. No company is going to operate an entertainment business with anything close to the liabilities being bandied around. It simply will cost too much. No sane MMO publisher will fund a project that requires more lawyers than world builders. Thus, no MMOs, as we currently know them, will be published.

And that will definitely settle the argument.