a pixelated ball across a black screen in the 80s, to the legions of adults playing on the blood-soaked
battlefields of modern First Person Shooters, it’s been quite a journey. Whilst single player gaming has
remained a popular pastime amongst countless people across the world, nothing had quite such a huge
effect on the gaming world than the internet. Since it became a mainstay in homes across the world, the internet has allowed us to battle (or help) each other in thousands of multiplayer games. Perhaps the most popular genre of online gaming is the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), and the heavyweight title in that arena has to be Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.
Welcome to the world
Built from the ground up to support many thousands of players at any one time, World of Warcraft
provides a completely open-ended world for people to explore. It’s possible to spend limitless hours exploring the many towns, villages, fortresses, and settlements of the region of Azeroth, Players can pick a side then fight either other players or computer-controlled opponents. Thanks to the fully-fledged economy of gold within the game, World of Warcraft has a huge amount of turnover, both in ‘in-game’ currency and in ‘real’ money. And here is where people begin to get concerned: is it acceptable for people to buy and sell virtual items for real money?
Questioning how people spend their money is nothing new – and everyone seems to have an opinion
on it. The bottom line is, of course, that it’s only ever up to the individual what they do with their money. Online multiplayer games have become an issue simply because there is no tangible product that exists when money changes hands. But then, when we buy music from iTunes or other online music services there is no physical product either. So what’s the difference? One very important difference between these two services is that the makers of World of Warcraft do not actively provide a platform with which to buy and sell in-game items with real money. On the contrary, Blizzard actively try to stamp out people buying and selling their virtual earnings. This is a key difference that needs to be recognized: the real economy of World of Warcraft is almost a black market. Alas, hop onto any major auction website and you’ll see items, gold, and even full accounts, up for grabs.
Always get a receipt
Another issue with the buying and selling of virtual items is that it’s very easy too get ripped off. Imagine the scene: you spot a level 80 account on a website for a knock-down price and see an opportunity to get an edge over the competition. You cough up the £100 asking price and wait for the account login details to arrive. And wait. And wait. In this situation, what can you do? If you pay by PayPal you aren't covered, because their protection doesn’t cover virtual goods, and similar policies apply to credit cards. In a nutshell, you’re stuck. This problem doesn’t relate only to World of Warcraft, it happens all over the web, but it’s still a very important consideration before you open your wallet.
Being a part of the World of Warcraft community can be a fulfilling and fun experience, but try not to get caught up in the hazardous world of ‘real’ trading. There are simply too many pitfalls to make it worth the risk. Instead, stick to slaying those wolves yourself, and earn your gold the old-fashioned way – good honest elbow grease!
Susan is a freelance writer for a discount sofa website and a few other publications, which gives her
plenty of time to raid during conventional office hours (at least she pretends that’s the case). She
generally plays on the Eternal-Wow server.