Monday, February 8, 2010

Cents and Centsability

Please do not make fun of me for knowing about Jane Austin. She wrote my wife's favorite book, Pride and Prejudice (& Sense and Sensibility), which has been made into film by many screenwriters over the years. Another author, Leo Tolstoy, wrote stories about Russian aristocracy similar to Jane Austin's novels which often revolve around persons within the elite of British wealth. Both authors offer insight into these worlds, the common thread in their explorations into the human condition is money.

Stay with me, I like to present a backdrop to every story I tell or topic I discuss.

Where was I? Oh yes, money. Another author I wish to highlight is Victor Hugo, well known in the US and around the world as the writer of Les Miserables. Yes, the musical was based off an incredibly famous novel. Hugo was a champion of the poor and miserable of France. He explored the human condition from the other end of the spectrum opposite Tolstoy and Austin. Hugo's works are filled with poor and oppressed individuals and the lives they were often forced to live, from planning a revolution to having to steal bread to live. So as Tolstoy wrote of princes in battle against Napoleon, Hugo wrote of a man who was so lowly that even the dog houses were too good of a place for him to sleep.

Money is one of the most powerful forces on earth, in the real world at least. While in games, even though it has its power and influences, it does not rival its real world impact on people. As I have played WoW there have been times of great wealth (for me) and times of sheer poverty. I remember trying to start up a new character, my first toon, with zero money. No copper, no silver, no gold. Those were difficult times, but I learned quickly to sell products that other people used a lot. Eventually I would earn enough to fuel all of my gaming activities.

Now there are nearly as many different attitudes about in-game currency as there are people. Some value the challenge of making thousands of gold a day, while others only get money from what they loot or the trash they sell. And some don't know that they can even sell trash, poor souls. Some people buy expensive mounts while others buy stuff off the AH just to flip it and get even more money.

Is there a right and wrong attitude for the money we make and spend? If I am not interested in hitting the gold cap, does that mean that I have no vision or am an idiot? I think the only thing it means is that I don't value that activity, not that I'm incapable or too stupid to accomplish it. Conversly, if my main activity on WoW is to make money at all costs, does that mean that I'm necessarily greedy and a goldmonger? Not at all. It could simply mean that you want to attempt the challenge of being the richest player in WoW.

However, there are players who are not very quick or understand the dynamics of economies. Some because they have either never had the opportunity to learn or have neglected it. Others simply due to age.

I have two kids (ages 7 & 9) that I allow to play sometimes, both are terrible at making money and I'm always having to finance their activities. Their inability to make money is not because they are slackers or idiots (by the way, I love my kids, so if you call them stupid there is a very good chance I will hunt you down and hurt you), they don't make money because they just don't care. They want to slay dragons and even raise baby murlocs in a good home. Swinging a sword is fun for them, not spending hours upon hours at the auction house. My kids don't understand economies, and that's ok. They have different values, and for them that is enough.

If we learn anything from great world authors is that there are redeeming qualities in both the uber-wealthy and the starving-poor. Yet there are also some who exibit the qualities of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. Those are the dangerous ones, they will literally lie, cheat and steal in order to get more gold. They will paint a picture to the world while silently weaving webs of mistrust and betrayal. They promise you one thing only to hack your account and take everything your character has. For whatever reason they value theft and dishonesty. I think these individuals are a special case and don't fit well into the topic at hand.

Whatever people do for/with money in-game is their choice, most of the time. It's based on what they value and what types of activities they consider "fun" (which is subjective and varying). I think it's great that just as there is a choice between PvP and PvE we can make a choice between caring about the WoW economy and virtual gold and not caring. However, there is one thing that is similar to virtual economies and real life, in both cases money is needed at some point to progress or survive. So no matter what your attitude, sooner or later you're gonna need it. Tolstoy, Austin and Hugo understood this perfectly.

1 comment:

G-Rebel said...

I like money, but I don't go crazy. If I need it, I use professions, farming, questing to get what I need.

My sister loves Jane Austin, she'll never stop talking about Mr Darcy. Ugh.