The Decline and Fall of an Ultra Rich Online Gaming Empire
December 10, 2010 7:32 AM   Subscribe

After starring in First Kid with the immortal Sinbad, Brock Pierce was left wondering what to do with the rest of his life. He decided to set out and make his fortune accumulating and selling items in EverQuest and World of Warcraft.
posted by reenum (54 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
OK, I watched this movie a lot as a kid and I just want to say I was always on "Bad Mustache Secret Service" guy's side the whole time - who wouldn't want to shoot that kid? Also, Sinbad's advice to not tuck your thumbs into your fists when you're about to punch someone is advice that I still go back to. Which is to say that, no, I have not yet RTFA yet, but how often do I get a chance to talk about First Kid on mefi?
posted by Think_Long at 7:37 AM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Agreed. It was a classic in the "child of the President" genre. Not that there's much competition. Hell, it's like being crowned the emperor of Sealand.
posted by reenum at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


He would take a clear-eyed, calculating look at what he and his fellow players had been doing all those months—at the countless hours they'd given over to the pursuit of purely virtual but implacably scarce commodities—and he would recognize it not just for the underexploited form of productivity it was but for the highly profitable commercial enterprise it might sustain.

Ha, wow, this was a story arc in "Welcome to the NHK".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2010


I never watched First Kid and didn't know I was supposed to care about it. Am I too old or too young for this room?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:44 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, is this more or less pathetic than the old "child actor turns drug addict" trope? I can't decide.
posted by dortmunder at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


dortmunder: "So, is this more or less pathetic than the old "child actor turns drug addict" trope? I can't decide"

I know a lot of gamers who despise RMT. For them, it gives players with disposable income a gaming advantage over players without one, by being able to afford the armor, weapons and magic items that most players have to struggle for. And once you have these items, you're already playing on a higher level than others without them. Some have even gone so far as to say RMT creates a class divide within the gaming world.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the issue. I think if you openly admit having bought your gear, you're not really "cheating" per se. I can't say I'd do it myself, though, even if I had the money. I like the (perhaps false) sense of achievement I get from having fought for and been rewarded with something in a game.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2010


I was going to make a crack about the use of the word "immortal" to describe Sinbad, not because of any subjective opinion about his value as an entertainer, but because I was sure he was dead. Looks like I owe him a Coke!
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:54 AM on December 10, 2010


Interestingly, the author also supported himself selling items in ultima online. This guy has been working the cyber human interest story beat for a long time.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2010


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "Some have even gone so far as to say RMT creates a class divide within the gaming world. "

This works both ways. If you prohibit RMT, then the only thing people can spend on the game is time playing the game. Who can spend 40 hours a week playing MMORPGs? The unemployed and the comfortably wealthy! And since there's the matter of the monthly subscription, I'd say most of the unemployed are students and by choice. The only people I know who bitched about RMT fell into that category.
posted by pwnguin at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Marisa

I consider it utterly disingenuous for you to talk about cheating and the comparative benefits of honest acquisition in light of your notorious history.
posted by The Confessor at 7:58 AM on December 10, 2010 [17 favorites]


pwnguin: "This works both ways. If you prohibit RMT, then the only thing people can spend on the game is time playing the game. Who can spend 40 hours a week playing MMORPGs? The unemployed and the comfortably wealthy! And since there's the matter of the monthly subscription, I'd say most of the unemployed are students and by choice. The only people I know who bitched about RMT fell into that category"

Indeed. That's why I'm on the fence about the whole thing, and find myself unable to care too badly whenever someone rages at me about RMT.

Although at the very least, I do think people should admit when they've bought an item instead of "earned" it.

It's like that with people who show replays of tool-assisted runs. If you admit "btw I hacked this and pulled the framerate down to 30 FPS lol", fine. If you just post the replay like "WOO CHECK IT OUT 1CC I AM AWESOME!", well, that's another story.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2010


So, is this more or less pathetic than the old "child actor turns drug addict" trope?

Sounds more like, "child actor turns drug dealer."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2010


I have not yet RTFA yet, but how often do I get a chance to talk about First Kid on mefi?

Strangely enough I feel like there was much discussion of First Kid on MeFi a few years ago when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton referenced a USO tour with Sinbad as foreign policy experience.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2010


I never watched First Kid and didn't know I was supposed to care about it. Am I too old or too young for this room?

The article says it was made in 1996, which means you're just about the right age, so you'd better START caring NOW!
posted by daniel_charms at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2010


Here's the Sinbad/Hillary Clinton thread.

Me, I'd like to talk about Sinbad's work in Good Burger.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the author also supported himself selling items in ultima online. This guy has been working the cyber human interest story beat for a long time.

There's an interesting story here somewhere, but boy does he dance (poorly) around it.

The tangle could wait. It was time to get Yantis out of the picture.

Wut. Needs editor.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:31 AM on December 10, 2010


Its hard to understand how being a child actor has anything to do with how this man made his fortune, but I guess it made for a catchy headline.

In regards to what's really pathetic: that anyone would pay actual real money for these virtual items AND that other players would give a hoot. I play WOW and I fail to see what difference it would make to me how other players got their armor, weapons, spells, etc. I stand in line at Walmart and look at the rack of cards for Farmville, etc. and feel sad for the people whose lives are so empty that they actually spend their cash on digital trinkets for a fictional world. Mr. Pierce made a lot of money off of other people's vices, no worse or better than selling adult magazines, lottery tickets or running a casino. My own conscience would get in the way of that kind of business but it doesn't read like an overactive conscience is one of Mr. Pierce's problems.
posted by Ranindaripley at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Strangely enough I feel like there was much discussion of First Kid on MeFi a few years ago when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton referenced a USO tour with Sinbad as foreign policy experience.

Oh man, I missed all of the good threads. I'm gonna duck out of here since I didn't really end up caring about the article, but I will note that the entire film is available on youtube if you care to catch up with the rest of our generation shakespeherian.
posted by Think_Long at 8:35 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


pwnguin: This works both ways. If you prohibit RMT, then the only thing people can spend on the game is time playing the game. Who can spend 40 hours a week playing MMORPGs? The unemployed and the comfortably wealthy! And since there's the matter of the monthly subscription, I'd say most of the unemployed are students and by choice. The only people I know who bitched about RMT fell into that category.

I don't know. Playing a lot is how you're supposed to get better. That's the game. Buying stuff with real money isn't part of the game, and I tend to think that if you want to play something in which spending money will give you a competitive advantage, you could go play... well... nearly anything else, actually. Let's not drag that annoying feature of everyday life into the artificial realities we construct.

Although a part of me thinks that if you're willing to spend money to bypass part of the game, that should be taken as a sign that the game you are playing might not be a very good one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:44 AM on December 10, 2010


anyone would pay actual real money for these virtual items

I did this fairly regularly in Diablo 2, because I enjoyed the game immensely but was unable to spend the time necessary to farm the items I desired, items that would greatly enhance my enjoyment of the game. There's a material difference in experience between struggling through lower levels with crappy gear, dying over and over to the same low level boss until your virtual gear breaks and you run out of virtual money and you're literally stopped from progressing through the game, and plowing through to the next level with a well equipped character that, while still providing entertaining and challenging experiences, does not feel like smashing my face into a virtual brick wall.

I don't apologize for spending my money and time this way, and I certainly don't think my life is empty by doing so. In fact, in my case, it freed up my time significantly. Think of it this way: to farm certain items essentially requires that you spend, on average, X number of hours in the game until you get it. Sometimes X can be huge, hundreds of hours, just for the chance that a certain item might come up. Moreover, its no guarantee that such hours will bear the fruit of that item, because its a randomly generated item. So you might end up spending hundreds of hours and not getting anything meaningful to show for it.

By purchasing items, I can simultaneously move on to other parts of the game and save me those hours in an underpowered state struggling, so I can enjoy the game in less time and use the other hours to go do "life filling" activities, as you might put it. All this for like a few dollars an item. Seems like a great trade to me.
posted by shen1138 at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]




I remember watching part of First Kid being filmed at The Galleria in Tyson's (aka Tyson's II) - a scene with an escalator, and the kid, and Sinbad ... still haven't seen the movie though ... don't know if the shot made it to the final print.


posted by kcds at 8:57 AM on December 10, 2010


shen1138: Think of it this way: to farm certain items essentially requires that you spend, on average, X number of hours in the game until you get it. Sometimes X can be huge, hundreds of hours, just for the chance that a certain item might come up. Moreover, its no guarantee that such hours will bear the fruit of that item, because its a randomly generated item. So you might end up spending hundreds of hours and not getting anything meaningful to show for it.

If you don't have ages to grind up characters in games like this, why do you play them? There are plenty of games that don't have this god-awful addictive-but-not-fun mechanic.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:58 AM on December 10, 2010


The competitive advantage is barely anything. The "better" items also look cooler, and are status symbols unto themselves, similar to a nice watch. Dropping a few bills on the game isn't to "cheat" to the higher levels so much as to avoid this.

The numbers game itself is a total grind. I quit playing WoW when I realized that better loot didn't actually affect the gameplay at all. It was still repetitive, and doing 9976 damage rather than 9492 damage didn't "feel" different. RMT allows those with cash to skip doing what they "need" to do, in order to do what they "want" to do. It's unfair to those without the cash to drop on the game, but the Skinner Box nature of MMOs is "unfair" to everyone, anyway.
posted by explosion at 9:01 AM on December 10, 2010


Wow (no pun intended). This is a fascinating article—definitely worth taking a little time to read. I've certainly been tempted before—when playing Diablo II, just like shen1138—to buy items. Never have, though, 'cause I don't care that much, don't play that much, and also fear that I could easily fall prey to scams and/or get my character killed that way, since I don't normally visit the Realms. (I've pretty much always played DII on single-player or via TCP/IP games.)

But there's another reason I haven't bought items (or gold): I'm a completionist and a hoarder (so much so that people can get pretty annoyed playing with me—that's why the game Torchlight's function to let your pet go sell things for you is genius), and over the course of the past eight years of on-and-off playing, I've picked up, sold, and/or muled so much stuff (and collected so much gold) that the occasional new character I start has a trove of semi-decent stuff to choose from. Nothing super-high-level, but enough to give them a better start in life...
posted by limeonaire at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2010


I am all for RMT. I've never done it. I never will do it, but it ensured enough people who otherwise wouldn't play a game were able to be moderately competitive back when I played MMORPGs. Plus now that I only really play LOL, when I see a custom skin, I know the player has probably made a decent investment in their runes and probably has learned/is commuted to learning their tune.

But in WoW? Well, so they didn't have to grind for cash for raid supplies... they still showed up to raids and did their job. Those that make a living by playing a game? Well, sorts sad, but at least they are doing something they sort of enjoy. I don't think that there is much of a retirement plan in it, but, hey - it apparently pays their bills.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:24 AM on December 10, 2010


People in general would have a lot less issue with gold farming and RMT if it weren't so heavily tied to massive amounts of ingame spamming. By the time I started playing WoW (I played for 6 months or so) this was largely fixed, but many people I know told many a woeful tale of the constant goldspam.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Real-Money Trading (RMT, for those who don't know the shorthand or haven't yet read the article) is a market for 1) people who have time to grind, and 2) who have money to spend. As pwnguin pointed out, games that rely on grinding already split between those who have ample time to play and those who don't. Those who have more time to play are also likely to be better at the game, giving them a further advantage above the more casual players.

The people who really lose out are those who work a lot at low-income jobs, but enjoy a game and want better gear.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:49 AM on December 10, 2010


I know the guy who made the Sinbad-as-a-young-boxer portrait for First Kid. He later changed to an internet-based career, like the kid in the article, and did very well for himself. He had the portrait up in his office the last time I saw him. It always made me chuckle.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:52 AM on December 10, 2010


If you don't have ages to grind up characters in games like this, why do you play them? There are plenty of games that don't have this god-awful addictive-but-not-fun mechanic.

There's a difference between "not fun" and "not enough time." I love Diablo 2 (and leveling in WoW). I don't find the grind unfun, especially if there's discrete measurable progress. So long as I can see myself leveling up and getting new items, I find the game enjoyable largely because they're pretty mindless. But my current work schedule does not permit me to game more than a couple hours late at night when I get home (usually like 11-2am. Work, sleep, game: choose 2). In other words, time is worth more than money to me, and I will trade money to get more time.

Here's a difference I don't think a lot of people appreciate: different parts of the grind are more fun than others. No one wants to play a level 5 warlock for 100 hours. I put in hours at lower, less fun levels because I have to. Later levels with more skills, talents, and better gear are more fun. If I can short cut my way into the "fun" parts of the grind at the cost of a few dollars, I will. I prefer to maximize the fun mode of the grind as much as possible, and buying items does that for me.

As for other games, I have an infinitesimal attention span. I got fallout 3 and got bored at the character creation screen. I got maybe 3 hours into GTA 4 before never touching it again. Even God of War, a game that is basically violence porn, had too much crap in the way to hold my interest all the way to the end of the game, and its sat unfinished for years now. Diablo 2 lets me kill things within 10 seconds of my character loading, and that's precisely what I'm looking for.
posted by shen1138 at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me, I'd like to talk about Sinbad's work in Good Burger.

Timeless. Mr. Wheat is not oblivious to what is about to befall his car. He sees it coming well in advance, but immediately recognizes his powerlessness against fate. Yet, he still gropes for meaning in the aftermath, screaming, "Why? Why!!" into an unresponsive, uncaring void. But why does the hamburger suddenly appear upside-down as it falls in the look-away-then-back fashion of a dream? Is it a reflection of Mr. Wheat's sense of the sudden upending of reason and justice? Is it meant to remind Mr. Wheat that his car and the purposeful hand of fate that takes it from him are as illusory as the ego that houses the arrogance of his assumption that the universe has singled him out? Only Sinbad knows.
posted by cmoj at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I got fallout 3 and got bored at the character creation screen.

Are you serious? I can understand not wanting to spend hours chopping firewood in Fable just to up your strength stats, but your boredom reaching critical mass at the character creation screen of one of the best RPGs ever made?

I mean, to each their own and all, but why even play these games if your patience wears that thin?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:18 AM on December 10, 2010


I remember watching part of First Kid being filmed at The Galleria in Tyson's (aka Tyson's II) - a scene with an escalator, and the kid, and Sinbad ... still haven't seen the movie though ... don't know if the shot made it to the final print.

I think that's a bit at the end where the First Kid survives an assassination attempt or something. It is also, coincidentally, the only part of that movie I've seen.
posted by Copronymus at 10:28 AM on December 10, 2010


In May, according to a rumor that made the rounds of MMO blogs, a desperate gold-farm operator stormed the IGE Shanghai offices demanding 2 million yuan and using a "toy pistol" to hold employees hostage.

It's not a rumor at all. A French team making a documentary about gold farming and "cyber-exploitation" ("Les forçats du cybermonde", by Vanina Kanban) was filming an interview at the IGE Shanghai office when the guy barged in with a gun. You can see everyone running for cover, and then the cops subdue him. The filmmakers caught everything on tape and later showed it to Brock Pierce... and filmed his reaction. I can't find the clips online unfortunately.
posted by elgilito at 10:35 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I played Final Fantasy XI for several years, and one reason that RMT are so disliked in that game is because many monsters (and therefore drops) only appear rarely. When the RMT get claim on these monsters, it means that real players can't get the items dropped by these monsters. For some of these monsters, the respawn time was 20-24 hours, and seeing RMT get claim after claim caused quite a bit of animosity.

For more than a year, the RMT were able to pretty much monopolize the absolute best pair of pants in the game (and yes, I'm aware of how ridiculous that statement sounds). As such, if you wanted those pants, you had to pay them for a pair (either in game currency or in cash). People who actually wanted to earn the pants on their own literally could not do so, unless they happened to claim the monster before the RMT's claimbots (ToU-violating, third-party programs to claim a monster exactly as it spawned) could.

Basically, the RMT were making the game less fun for everybody, and were interfering with actual gameplay of other people. People who legitimately wanted to play, had to compete with large teams of people who were willing to cheat the game and employ every dirty, underhanded tactic they could think of to maintain their monopolies.

Yes, this only was able to happen because of poor design on Square-Enix's part. To their credit, they did eventually address some of the worse problems that RMT were exploiting, and they did eventually make it impossible for anyone to monopolize the pants. And since then, they've made many changes to the game to try and prevent that kind of situation from arising again. But plenty of people still hate RMT for that reason.
posted by Katrel at 10:42 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I did a post on DEN and the First Kid connection a few years ago. The Radar link on that post is now gone, but here's the archived link.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:49 AM on December 10, 2010


Mitrovarr: "I don't know. Playing a lot is how you're supposed to get better. That's the game."

You're supposed to get better skills by playing the game, not gear. As in "practice makes perfect", not "practice makes a Stradivarius." Whether you buy skills with time or money doesn't matter much to me. The solution, of course, is to not play such games, and I don't.

It's the same reason I never played in MtG tournaments. I used to read deck construction and tournament reports from TheDojo, and played against people over the net with Apprentice. But being tournament good requires an investment I never could afford as a kid. My roommate in college though, was a huge collector. He eventually put together a gaming group and I decided I'd put together a cheap but good deck. It was good, but only second place quality. When quality gear trumps skill, it removes a bit of the fun from the game. Scarcity sucks, and whatever reasons for it in CCGs has even less justification when they're just bits on a server's hard drive.

This does remind me to find and sell the Force of Will I own. Holy crap.
posted by pwnguin at 10:50 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


why even play these games if your patience wears that thin?

I don't.
posted by shen1138 at 10:57 AM on December 10, 2010


I know a lot of gamers who despise RMT. For them, it gives players with disposable income a gaming advantage over players without one, by being able to afford the armor, weapons and magic items that most players have to struggle for. And once you have these items, you're already playing on a higher level than others without them. Some have even gone so far as to say RMT creates a class divide within the gaming world.

Whoa! So it works just like the real world.
posted by jnnla at 11:00 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


shen1138: You're not playing a level 5 warlock for any longer than the most hardcore player, it's just that your playtime is spread out over days rather than in one sitting. What you're describing is a "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality that made you buy items. It's about wanting to be as leet as the kids who play 40+ hours a week.

There's nothing about being a casual gamer that means you have to use cash to "enhance" your playtime. I've long been a casual MMO player (FFXI then WoW). Many people in my guild are already 85, but I know with my schedule, that it'll be at least another month before I can join them. But I don't actually care, I'll get there on my own time scale. My playing experience will be the same as theirs, we'll spend the same amount of time doing the same quests, but instead of doing them in 12 hours spurts over a few days, I'll do them in 1-2 hours spurts over a few weeks.

But honestly, I don't care how people have reconciled their gold buying habits with their personal ethics. The problem is that people who buy gold support companies that actively hack accounts (like in WoW), monopolize drops, or control and inflate in-game economies (like in FFXI) which hurts regular players who want to progress in the game legitimately.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 11:04 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're not playing a level 5 warlock for any longer than the most hardcore player

Sorry I wasn't clear, but that wasn't the point. My example was not that I actually have to play 100 hours at level 5, while others can do it in 10 minutes, but that no one wants to have the game experience you have at level 5 for 100 hours. If your end game content was to endlessly collect rat tails with just 2 spells, no one would play your game, because it's not fun. And my point was that different parts of the grind are more fun than others. I put up with the rat tails at level 5-30 because at level 65 or 75 or 85 there are lots of grindy things I do enjoy (giant rat tails!).

Buying items in Diablo 2 is, I think, fundamentally different than buying gold or leveling in WoW. Diablo 2 is much more about the gear than WoW. In WoW, even if I never raid the high end content, there's a huge range of things you can do while in really crappy gear. Non-heroic instances, questing, RP, PvP, rolling alts, twinks, auction house dominance, etc. In fact, that's exactly what I do now without participating in any end game content, despite the fact that I have access to a guild that had numerous realm firsts in WotLK, and that would probably let me in to grab rot gear if I wanted. But I don't, because I don't really have this need to be "leet."

In D2, there are serious gear checks. You cannot solo Andariel at Hell difficulty without decent gear, and she's just the first boss. Lack of gear literally stops progress and game play. It's not an issue of wanting uber leet gear that other people have. In fact, virtually all of my purchases were Annihilus charms. If you check out that guide, I think you can see why I would spend money on those rather than grinding for them. With the exception of the anni charms, I would always restrict any other purchases to cheap items (like $2 or less), mostly because I don't like spending THAT much money on items likely duped and that could disappear if Blizzard decided to do a wipe. Although these purchases definitely saved me plenty of hours of time, they were meant to make it so that I could get by the gear checks, not to for leetness sake. I never had or bought any of the true end game items. I think I only owned one stone of jordan the entire time I played d2, which was so common among players it was considered currency.
posted by shen1138 at 11:42 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, he was with the "Chad's World" people. Not good.

RMT may not seem as big of a deal as it used to be because a lot of serious gamers have learned not to attribute skill or knowledge of the game to someone simply because they have a well-geared, top-level character. If you play with someone and they either literally don't know how to play or have a very limited, rigid approach to playing (e.g. they're a tauntbot or healbot), then you're probably playing with someone who bought a pre-leveled character and drove up market prices with cheap gold. The problem with RMT still exists, though, because people have their accounts hacked and used either for high-level farming or for hawking RMT goods and services on the in-game channels. I've known a couple of people in City of Heroes who have had this happen to them, and that's a relatively small-membership game.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:43 AM on December 10, 2010


I'd LOVE t see an FPP focused on the nuts and bolts of RMT, with how-to tips, best games to do it in, etc. A very fascinating thing I have no knowledge of.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:57 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the same reason I never played in MtG tournaments. I used to read deck construction and tournament reports from TheDojo, and played against people over the net with Apprentice. But being tournament good requires an investment I never could afford as a kid.

Jeebus, tell me about it. I played an open tournament once, and got my ass stomped into a mudhole by a goddamn thirteen year old playing with a deck entirely constructed from 50-300 dollar apiece cards. He didn't even have LAND in the damn thing, it was all moxes and lotus and whatnot. I was like 'fuck your dad for buying this deck as a proxy for actually loving you, you horrid bastard!' and then consigned myself to only playing sealed-deck tourneys from that point on.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2010


I played an open tournament once, and got my ass stomped into a mudhole by a goddamn thirteen year old playing with a deck entirely constructed from 50-300 dollar apiece cards

Seems like MtG tournaments should appraise the value of everyone's deck and put people into deck classes like boxers get put into weight classes.
posted by Green With You at 12:45 PM on December 10, 2010


Okay, I couldn't resist. I went to YouTube and watched "First Kid." It was nineties-tastic. The jumpers! The bowl cuts! The backwards baseball caps! And what was with that random, stilted Bill Clinton cameo?

Also, I just want to point out that the Secret Service codenames made no sense whatsoever. The president's codename is Eagle, but his son's codename is Prince? First of all, Eagle was Clinton's codename, and the movie clearly demonstrated via awkward cameo that he was no longer the president. (And that he leaves his saxophone lying around, then doesn't bother looking for it for three and a half years.) Second of all, the family codenames always start with the same letter: all the Clintons' codenames started with E. All the Bushs' codenames started with T. All the Obamas' codenames start with R. And so forth.

Am I overanalyzing the Sinbad movie a little bit?
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter : They did eventually make it impossible for anyone to monopolize the pants.
posted by radiosilents at 12:51 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


pwnguin: It's the same reason I never played in MtG tournaments.

It's interesting that you mention MtG. I've never been able to like that game, despite it having good art, an interesting concept, etc. I truly cannot tolerate the idea of being able to buy an advantage in a game. It's one thing in sports, etc., where physics and the difficulty of making stuff explains the price. I can deal with the idea of a $8000 bike being better than a $1000 bike because someone has to manufacture it, and the $8000 bike is in fact much more expensive to manufacture. But when the person making a game puts a mechanism for buying an advantage into it? I hope they bought themselves some players with the money, because I won't touch it.

This has actually caused me some discomfort with Team Fortress 2, which I used to play a lot and I actually belong to a clan for. The store they put into it bothers the hell out of me. It isn't enough just not to buy anything from it, I can't stand it existing at all. I try to convince myself it isn't a problem but it just doesn't stick and it has kind of ruined the game for me, and made me deeply suspicious of a developer I used to like (Valve.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:24 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back in college, my roommates and I got really competitive playing Mario Kart 64. Enjoying the game together eventually devolved into heated arguments about whether this sort of wizardry constituted skillful driving or was just cheating. Eventually we agreed that anything freely doable within the game was fair play, but Game Genie stuff or cheat codes wasn't. Then all of us mastered the ridiculous shortcut hacks and the game became about who could execute them the fastest. A different game completely, but still fun once we embraced it.

I don't play MMOs but I'd apply the same principle. If everything you're doing is allowed by the game engine (and terms of service) I don't have any kind of moral issue with it. I guess if Blizzard or whoever wants to strike it down, players should oblige. But I think it adds an interesting new element to the virtual world, for those who wish to participate. I'm also impressed that folks like Pierce were able to see an untapped potential market like this one and make themselves wealthy by it. It's resourceful, out-of-the-box thinking. Nothing I'd be interested in myself, but I can still respect it. What an unusual life that guy's had, and he's still only thirty.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:50 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everyday I wake up angry, as I go to my plenty successful career in design, now realizing that my filthy parents misguided me when they told me to stop playing video games and do something useful with my time. I could be rolling six figures owning Koreans in Starcraft of the worlds stage damn it!
posted by straight_razor at 2:02 PM on December 10, 2010


Possible but fairly unlikely - unless you're one of the hundred or so most successful designers in the world, in which case you are earning a lot more than the most successful pro StarCraft player. The level of comparative ability beneath which you can't earn a living wage is, I think, set quite a bit lower in most "proper jobs" than pro gaming.
posted by DNye at 9:16 AM on December 11, 2010


Oh, thank god. I thought that said Brock Peters.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:58 PM on December 11, 2010


The people who really lose out are those who work a lot at low-income jobs but enjoy a game and want better gear.

FTFY
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2010


Pickman's Next Top Model: "The people who really lose out are those who work a lot at low-income jobs but enjoy a game and want better gear.
FTFY
"

Heh, maybe if RMT wasn't banned, they could take a job playing games!
posted by pwnguin at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2010


When this concept was addressed in Welcome to the NHK, it was done more to warn against what the practice might do to your social life, but there was still one important point brought up about it: it is very, very difficult for even skilled players at these games to just up and start an RMT business. For one thing, you're going to be competing against many players all vying for the same items you are, so you have to be better than the vast majority of people already in the game. And even past that point, there are the other players who are that skilled, who themselves are aiming to engage in RMT. Gluts the kind that Katrel describes upthread are also going to be something to contend with.

It's clearly lucrative, as the evidence suggests, but I've known a few people who went into this thinking "hello, easy money" and ended up finding themselves clocking in an enormous amount of hours for less payback than they would've gotten at a minimum wage job. On the other hand, at least you're earning that money playing a game you (hopefully) enjoy rather than making pizzas, and starting your own business in pretty much any field is going to have a high percentage of first-timer's failure.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2010


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