Welcome to my new column where I’ll be taking some of the most flameworthy topics scoured from the gaming annals and exposing them, yet again, to the internet. This time, in article format where I’ll talk about how ridiculous and absurd they are, without being shouted down by idiots I will then proceed to light on fire and humiliate. While that may be one of the fun parts about reading forum and comment blocks, this will mostly be about exploring just exactly why these topics are not, in fact, the huge issues that everyone seems to think they are and provide a much-needed slap upside the proverbial (and metaphorical) head. So, without further ado; this week’s topic: Play vs Pay.
Almost everyone in online gaming has heard of the term “whales”, meaning people who spend a ton of money on microtransactions, special editions and all the rest of the in game swag for purchase.
There’s a lot of inflamed and inflammatory speeches about “whales” or “ebayed characters/ebayers” if you’re old. It’s a regular insult that infers that someone can’t play their character and doesn’t know what they’re doing, despite having the gear and the levels. Those who don’t buy, either because they can’t or choose not to, fling it around enough that sometimes it’s just an excuse or an accusation against another player that has absolutely no merit, yet stings all the same. It’s meant to. It can start fights and brings in all kinds of resentment, and with the level of drama some guilds get up to, hardly a necessary addition.
It’s not surprising considering the problem with wealth inequality and how the gap has grown, pretty much everywhere (for various reasons) that people get ticked. A large number of other countries face this problem, so it’s no wonder it’s spread around the gaming world, with the exception of a few cultures where buying stuff for your character is considered part of the competitive gaming experience. I expect part of the hostility overpaid gear and characters is partly because of this, and it’s seen as a threat to the western cultures which don’t generally view it in the same light. Culture clashes are a thing.
Now, I get the idea that, in competition, if someone can buy their gear, and their character, that means people have this idea that they can literally buy their way to victory. With all the other ways wealth buys you into life, it seems like losing that in games is just removing access to another part of life for those who can’t afford to keep up. That is, however, purely a perception. It’s just what you think is happening. All things considered, this is, in effect, rarely the case.
Before you have a kneejerk reaction, I loathe microstrans. Let’s get that notion out of your mind before it goes and plants more toxic seedlings. I have my reasons.
Why am I supporting people buying their characters then? Buying gear? Because, as the adage, goes, time is money. Your time or their money. When you’re working forty, fifty or sixty hours a week or more, you don’t have the same kind of time someone who is stuck at home does. You can’t grind the same things out. You have less available time, but, in a reasonable society, you do have more disposable income (we’re soo not getting into economics here-I don’t have permission to reprint a small textbook worth of theories and explanations).
Why shouldn’t you be spending it on your hobby? People buy fishing reels, boats and sporting goods. Why not characters? Why not gear so you can play with your friends? Games are a hobby. They’re recreation. Unless you’re in a pro gaming circuit, punishing people for not having the time to grind things by hand shouldn’t be a thing.
So, someone who bought their character comes on a run and you wipe because they don’t know what they’re doing. How is this different from picking up someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing but didn’t buy anything? It’s not. Not in any way shape or form. You’re still wiping. Even trying to fix it so you don’t wipe is the same, bought character or no. You teach them, explain to them, or, if you’re mad, you kick them. Exact same process.
What about PvP? Well, if you’ve ground up the gear to even close to what the whale/ebayer has, then you’re already ahead of the game and will kick their ass unless you’re really bad at PvP. You’ve had hours, days maybe even weeks of practice. You will wipe the floor with them. In full loot PvP, this is a bonus for you. In games without full loot, it’s a free kill. If anything, people buying characters and gear should make you ridiculously happy. In team PvP, see above concerning wiping in raids.
So, no, buying some gear and a top character is a stupid thing to be angry about. It’s a stupid thing to use as an insult. The player having done so affects you either not at all, or benefits you.
Now, if a game has unrealistic in game purchases that only a very rarified few can use to lord over the rest of the population, then yeah, I totally get the being pissed, but it is severely misdirected. The fault isn’t the player who buys. It never was. It’s the fault of the game company that priced things and then scaled them specifically that way. The designers literally put in a money= winning mechanic right in the game to begin with. Maybe those are the people you should be ticked with first (I am heartened that in some cases this is exactly what’s happening).
Who knows, maybe if we actually start getting mad at the people who actually are the real reason behind money being used to purchase “wins” in games, maybe, eventually, one day, they’ll stop. As long as we keep blaming the wrong people, the people who can’t change the mechanics in anyways, however, it will keep happening.
And if the game has payment options but the microtrans are reasonable, then maybe cut people a break, not everyone has all the time in the world, and these people aren’t hurting anyone by just trying to play catchup in a world where they don’t have the same kind of wealth (in time) that you do.
Go ahead and be ticked, but be ticked at the right people for the right reasons. Letting someone else pick your targets for you when they’re the real reason behind the problem never ends well.