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When Work is a Game 45

Posted by Zonk
from the hi-ho-hi-ho-it's-off-to-wow-we-go dept.
Ever willing to explore the hidey-holes of thought, the Terra Nova blog has a discussion up this week talking about play as production. IE: What makes people willing to engage in 'productive play', like the crafting mini-games of Star Wars Galaxies or A Tale in the Desert? They also touch on the more pragmatic 'productive play', gold farming. From the article: "The outsourcing of labor is another interesting trajectory. We know that people outsource, for instance, 'Adena farmers' in Lineage, low-wage workers who farm for game currency to sell on the 'black market.' This creates interesting class and even race tensions, such as the Lineage 2 scenario described at State of Play 2004 by Constance Steinkhueler. Here, Adena farmers typically took the roles of female elf warriors (primarily for farming efficiency reasons); as a result, this race/class in the game began experiencing racial slurs and attacks by players who associated it with Adena farming."
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When Work is a Game

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  • coming soon (Score:4, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @01:38PM (#14876610)
    And don't miss the next article in the series, entitled When Gaming is Work...
    • by wampus (1932)
      Sounds like the MMORPG level grind to me...
    • Come now. There are plenty of articles on WoW on here every day. I think we've got that covered.
  • It's an old story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Descalzo (898339) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @01:51PM (#14876751) Journal
    http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings_to m.html [pbs.org]

    Quote from that page:
    Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.

  • Gold Farming. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @02:31PM (#14877121) Homepage
    Gold farming. Where people contribute nothing to society. They spend days making gold that consists of ones and zeros when the same thing could be accomplished with a gold += 500000 command. I will never be convinced that gold farming is not completely fucking ridiculous.
    • Re:Gold Farming. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @02:57PM (#14877349) Homepage
      To your point, yes, it can be accomplished by just setting the value to a higher number...however what you need to take into consideration are two things:

      First, there are rules within the gameworld much like there are rules within reality. They operate differently, but just as you can't go printing as much money as you want in real life, you can't give people as much gold as they want in the game. It would simply unbalance the economy.

      The second thing you need to take into consideration is the time spent on this, which is quite real indeed. These farmers are being paid for their time to play this game. Not very much, but they are still being compensated.

      I'm not saying gold farming doesn't suck, or that it does not harm the games that it invades...but these people most certainly DO contribute something to society in terms of spending since this involves the transaction of REAL money. And while it is asinine that this flourishes, it is definitely not ridiculous when you look at the systems in place that allow for farming to continue.

    • Re:Gold Farming. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ailure (853833)
      The GM command thing made me think, wouldn't it undermine the goldfarming market if the game devolopers also offered real money? Then still, most people don't want their favorite MMORPG to turn into a "Who can spend the most?" game.

      Still, i rather see people goldfarming than other "illegal" activities. Apart from causing inflation in ingame (which happens on most MMORPG's apparently) a bit they don't really cause a real matrial harm.
    • by Rhys (96510) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:10PM (#14877480) Homepage
      Your hour is worth $50 (a nice round number I pulled from thin air). Call it what you get consulting. Or working overtime. Or working at all. Whatever makes it worth that, your time is worth that.

      Now, say you don't like... cleaning your house. You can hire a maid service to do it for $75. It takes you 2 hours to clean your house, and you don't enjoy cleaning it for the sake of cleaning it.

      Do you pay the maids or not? If so, then you understand gold farming. If not, rerun the thought experiment with $25 to pay the maids. Or $5.

      Of course, some people would say, "It is my house I'm going to clean it I don't care about maids no matter how cheap that'd be. This is Mine and I want to do it!" Maybe you're one of them. That's the same as those who don't buy gold. Because for them, for whatever reason (even if they claim to not enjoy cleaning house), they get something out of cleaning their house (farming their own gold).

      That doesn't mean everyone does.

      "But it is virtual! It doesn't exist." That's where you're wrong. It does exist. The person paying $$ for gold would be happier (overall) if they didn't have the $$ and did have the gold. The transaction created happiness for them. The person getting $$ for the gold (their time) is happier with the $$. It means they get to eat, which makes most people fairly happy.

      It doesn't matter if it can be done "more efficently" by code. I could pray to the heavens (presuming the existance of some higher power, or that we're in the matrix) to rain manna down too. Doesn't mean we shouldn't have farmers growing crops. It is one of the "rules of that world": the game doesn't have gold+=500000, and you can't really expect it to rain manna from heaven. It doesn't matter that the rule is arbitrary in the game, only that the rule exists.
      • Your hour is worth $50 (a nice round number I pulled from thin air). Call it what you get consulting. Or working overtime. Or working at all. Whatever makes it worth that, your time is worth that. Now, say you don't like... cleaning your house. You can hire a maid service to do it for $75. It takes you 2 hours to clean your house, and you don't enjoy cleaning it for the sake of cleaning it. Do you pay the maids or not? If so, then you understand gold farming. If not, rerun the thought experiment with $25
      • by djw (3187) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:58PM (#14878441)
        It is one of the "rules of that world": the game doesn't have gold+=500000
        Just like Washington Mutual doesn't have a money+=$500000 button on their ATMs. Does anyone really think their bank balance in real life is more "real" than their gold balance in WoW? They're both just rows in a database somewhere.

        There are rules in real life, too: they're called norms [wikipedia.org].

        • Very good point...

          It's not like currency is backed by gold reserves anymore. The dollars in my pocket are really just backed by the good faith of the issuing nation. If said nation wished to they could print tons more...and that would make the ones in my pocket worth even less.

          • by Cadallin (863437)
            This is why Robert Heinlein made the argument, in the novel "For us the Living," that the US government ought to just give fiat money directly to the people in order to drive demand. Remember that this was written during the Great Depression.

            IMO his argument is not as absurd as one might be inclined to think. He argues that there is something wrong with the way money was created (and still is) by banks simply lending money they do not have, and then having it paid back to them. In comtemporary terms

      • Wow, guess you never got to the more advanced econ courses, that made about as much sense as when my parents told me "finish your vegetables, there are children starving in China".

        If gold-farming wasn't a danger to the online economy, why doesn't the publisher just sell gold outright? I dunno, something about ruining the game for everyone else. Cutting in line is cutting in line, no matter how you rationalize it as being a better use of your time.
        • The thinly veiled "you must buy gold" implication is really sad. But as with accusations of "u hax" thrown by every alliance team I trounce, no way to prove what I say. So if it helps you sleep at night, you go right on believing that.

          Anyway, the reason the publisher doesn't is because they believe that doing so would be bad for business. Duh. That's all there is to it. It is also why they don't just sell premade level 60 characters. People would play less.

          In fact, gold farming is in the publisher's interes
    • Gold farming. Where people contribute nothing to society. They spend days making gold that consists of ones and zeros when the same thing could be accomplished with a gold += 500000 command. I will never be convinced that gold farming is not completely fucking ridiculous.

      Hrm... Sounds awfully like the NY Stock Exchange.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @02:45PM (#14877241) Journal
    It seems to me like there are plenty of difference between some of the stuff that's lumped together there, as just one big "work = play" pot.

    For example, lumping crafters in the same pot as gold farmers strikes me as outright stupid in its over-simplification. One is done for personal fun and achievement (yes, surprise, one of the four player categories identified by Bartle is "achiever"), the other is actual RL work done for no other reason than RL money. One is someone's idea of fun (warped as it may seem to you), the other is just someone's RL "job".

    Surprise, some people do stuff for fun that involve investing time and effort. Some people go fishing IRL, others work on their car, others tend their own garden, or take their pet for a walk. Some of those may involve the same activities that other people call work, yet some people do it for fun. E.g., working on tuning your car is the same thing a mechanic calls "work". E.g., taking photos in the park with your cool new digital camera is the same thing a professional photographer calls "work". E.g., taking your pet for a walk, well, some people walk someone else's dog and get paid for it. For them it's "work". For others it's "fun." Maybe I actually enjoy spending some time with my pet. Do you have a problem with that?

    It doesn't even stop there. Even if you move away from stuff easily associated with "work", "effort", "time-investment" or "producing something", most things people do for fun and relaxation _still_ are someone else's "work". Watching football? Well, some people get paid for that, you know. E.g., sports journalists. Watching the news? Well, you know, some people are paid to do that. E.g., secretaries and assistants. Reading a novel or watching a movie? Yep, some people would call that their "work" too. Anyone making a living as a critic or reviewer, for a start. Going swimming or dancing? Yep, you guessed, some people get paid for those too. Is there anything that _isn't_ "work" then? Not much left.

    Making the mental bridging between virtual worlds and real worlds, "you're doing X in a game, X is a RL profession, ergo you're doing work" is even more shaky. I hate to break it to some people, but that kinda extrapolation makes most game genres be "work sims." Do you enjoy playing a round of Counter-Strike maybe? You know, that's what SWAT employees call "work". Do you enjoy a racing sim? Yep, some people call driving "work". Do you enjoy running around with armour and sword in a medieval game, engaging people in melee? For some millenia that's what mercenaries did. Do you enjoy a WW2 RTS/RTT game in the evening? (E.g., Silent Storm.) Yep, some officers did that as work, not for fun, IRL.

    And even comparing it to other activities in the same MMORPG, what's the difference? Player X spent 4 hours grinding swords to level-up their crafting skill. Player Y spent the same 4 hours grinding NPCs to level-up his fighting level or skill. Player Z spent those 4 hours in the battlegrounds, grinding up his PvP rank. What's the fundamental difference there? What makes some of them OK and some of them "work"? From where I stand, all 3 invested the same time and effort.

    From where I stand, actually the _only_ question is: did they have fun? That's all. If they did, sure, keep doing it. If they had fun, who has the right to tell them "no, see, _I_ define that as 'work', so you can't possibly have had fun"?

    What makes people do all that? (Including the RL and the game stuff.) The simple fact that humans are not made to sit and watch the walls for hours, or not without going completely out of their minds with boredom. So we all find something to do with our time. And each is free to set their own goals, and have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to filling their free time. That's why it's called "free time."

    In fact, if anyone really is looking for a line to draw between "fun in your free time" and "work", I'd propose the following definition: if you're free to choose how you spend it, and you do it because you
    • I agree with you. I think some better questions are: Is it morally reprehensible for companies to rig the game so that you are doing something financially productive for them besides paying them to create the game. The ideal situation would be players pay company X to play game X. Company X has the players doing something X that they can sell to people/company Y. Company X pays players that meet specific goals. Everyone wants to love their "job" so isn't it the best situation if one could get pay to pl
      • I think the distinction from my message still stands:

        - If I'm doing it for fun, and I'm free to do it or not, and when to do it, then it's "play"

        - If I'm doing it because someone made me do it, and doubly so if it has some deadlines and schedules I must meet, then it's "work"

        The same distinction appeared in the lawsuit of the UO volunteers vs EA and Origin. If you give someone schedules and goals they must meet, and X hours per week that they _have_ to do that stuff, then it's no longer "play". It's "work."
      • The thing is, while I did mention the morally wrong area of presenting one thing as the other, I don't consider it easy to do. People tend to recognize work as just that.

        If I tell some kid, "hey, kid, you're free to come play with my lawnmower on my lawn", then _if_ they come, the assumption will be implicit that it's _play_. They can do what they want with it, including mow a giant cock outline on my front lawn, when they feel like it, or not come at all. If I start also giving them a schedule ("it's gotta

        • I agree with you completely. I was trying to look at it from a positive light: Playing a game that you enjoy, maybe making some money from it. The company also makes more money from the services they render to others. It would be neat to see if someone could pull that off. If you could there is a lot of dough out there.
  • Game vs work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:04PM (#14877417) Homepage
    This story really brings up an issue that is a lot deeper than just playing an MMORPG and getting paid for it.

    The question is...where do you draw the line between Work and Play.

    To me, the line becomes drawn when I have deadlines, quotas, expectations, and the very real risk of losing income. This all adds a lot of stress, and I cannot simply walk away from it because it is how I make a living. Play on the otherhand is something I can walk away from at any time for any reason...whether I'm bored, frustrated, found something new, have more important things to do, etc. There is potentially some stress with Play, such as with competitive Play, however it is nowhere near on the same level as with Work.

    If anybody on Slashdot disagress with what I've written and can give an example from their own lives of how their work is considered play (based on the terms I've outlined above) please by all means do...as I am continually trying to figure out a way to find out what job I would love to do for the rest of my life and am looking for a way to actually ENJOY coming into work and not be wishing I was doing something else.

    Please for the love of god prove me wrong.

    • Re:Game vs work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wrook (134116) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:06PM (#14877976) Homepage
      I think I can help, but you might not like the advice.

      First, you must get yourself into a state where you are not paying off a debt. I don't just mean money. You might think of it as karmic debt. It is anything you have convinced yourself through social convention (or physical coercion) that you have to have (or do). So a mortgage is a debt. A cell phone plan is a debt. A responsibility that you can't shirk (like raising kids, etc) is a debt.

      Once you have freed yourself of those debts, you can now start living hand to mouth and life is immediate. The only things you *have* to do are the things that sustain life. This reduces your work load considerably.

      Having removed all those attachments, you can now reflect on how much you like life itself. You like to eat, you like to drink, you like to sleep, you like to be warm, etc. You then pursue those tasks gratefully, because they bring you joy. Not doing them brings you misery.

      You realize that you don't *have* to do any of these things. You choose to live. You choose to be comfortable. Once you have discovered this, you realize that pursuing your life is not work. It is play.

      But living is often not enough for most people. They would like to pursue more than that. They would like to make a contribution to society. They would like to spend time with other people. They would like to have a family.

      So if you find yourself interested in pursuing these avenues, you can choose to do so. But it is your choice. You are not bound to do it. So it is not work. It is play.

      I hope that helped...
      • While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your post, I don't see how it really solves things...

        My point was that play is something you do as an extra "fun" activity, whereas work is not due to the stress involved. Its not just a matter of things being complicated, which is what your solution seeks to solve. If you dumb your life down in essence so that you just have to worry about living, eating and drinking, sleeping and being warm...those things are still more or less "required" to get by, while Play is

        • Re:Game vs work (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Boil it down to the following:

          1) Take an activity you really enjoy doing, and don't feel would become "tedious work" if you did it for substantial portions of each day.

          2) Find a way to get paid for this. There is *always* a way to do this, however, it leads to 3:

          3) What material goods/activities/services do you want? What will your standard of living cost?

          If the amount you make from 2 is greated than the amount you need to be happy outside of work (3), you win! Begin your new happy life.

          If it's not (whic
      • The world would be a much better place if more people did this.
    • The difference between working and playing a game - or at least, our perception of the difference - is a lot simpler than most people realize. It's a matter of the pattern of rewards. If you are RANDOMLY rewarded for your efforts, it's a game, and "fun." If you are rewarded on a set, predefined schedule, it's "work."

      Look at it this way: if you had a job to pull a lever and make some light blink, and for it you'd be paid $10/hour, you'd be mindlessly bored in a matter of minutes, maybe an hour. It would
      • The difference between working and playing a game - or at least, our perception of the difference - is a lot simpler than most people realize. It's a matter of the pattern of rewards. If you are RANDOMLY rewarded for your efforts, it's a game, and "fun." If you are rewarded on a set, predefined schedule, it's "work."

        I don't know about that, the first one sounds an awful lot like a dot-com I worked at once, and that was no fun at all!

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