There's a rollicking discussion going on over at Terra Nova that started with Blizzard's US$3.5M in sparkle pony mount RMT sales this week, and has turned into an examination of the cultural divide between anti-RMT and pro-RMT games. RMT has been mapped to gold farmers and F2P models both, and passions run to steep altitudes on the topic with players, designers and producers, and funders.
It made me wonder if the P2P vs. F2P argument was really the framed correctly, even in the minds of the people arguing it?
In the blog article I wrote on Memesplice (my personal blog, before I started blogging here and before I got my own company blog working) I questioned if paid advantage is an issue of intolerable unfairness in the west. I pointed out that we have a history of games (and sports) in the West that benefit from an injection of mo' money.
On the game side, Magic, the Gathering comes immediately to mind. Many people play Magic for fun, but if you want to play in tournaments, it's likely you'll be shelling out for card packs and individual cards to build the decks you want.
People who are skilled with less money-tuned decks are admired, but ultimately, a skilled tournament player with a solid gold deck will win over a skilled player with an average collection, or even above average. Tournament Magic is not cheap.
Likewise many sports require more money to get that edge (similar to PvP games online). The newest Speedo high-tech swimsuit is likely to mean the difference in Olympic level competition between breaking or not breaking a world record.
The better funded football (either kind) team will recruit better players, have better practice fields and equipment, and will likely have an edge over less well funded/sponsored teams.
The idea that RMT isn't fair is an *oasis* over-all, from real life. In real life, many of us self-identify as nerds/geeks. We are fatter, slower, shorter than our avatar counterparts. Our games are the nerd's idealization of sport -- a computer game where money and brawn are secondary to understanding a problem, engineering a proper set of methods, and working with others to become a hero! What proper geek wouldn't want that?
But RMT invaded this Eden and it's hard to give up on the idea that the combination of intelligence, problem solving, obsession, and cooperative play aren't the final answers to success. That's the early world of these games from MUDs to recently. Hell, even Infocom games, I remember spending evenings at the Third East lounge at MIT hacking around problems cooperatively and sharing information socially, and that was our game.
But, just as professional sports diminish the term "amateur" from "doing it for the love" to "doing it not as well as a pro," RMT will inevitably break up the Eden of the folks who want to just do it for the love. We lovers do it not for the absolute number of the level, or the DPS, but for the absolute joy of solving the puzzle or finding the perfect way to direct our raid to defeat a boss *finally*.
So in a way, I think we split the Achievers in two: Achievers who think bigger is better (RMT) and Achievers who love immersion and accomplishment solely on their own wits.
Maybe we need a new Bartle Test? It's a question that's been asked before.