World Of Warcraft, WoW Hand Armor

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Exactly Is Ethical In WoW?

A few days ago you might have read the guest post, Confessions of an AH Sniper. It raised many a brow about ethics in World of Warcraft. Some said that it is in all ways scandalous to even attempt "sniping" in the Neutral AH, some even admitted doing so to get cheap goods, others were the victim of a "sniper", and some were even angered by the sheer thought of it.

Whichever category you fit in, ethics are involved in most aspects of the game:

Have you ever run a scan on the Auction House only to see that someone placed their 20 stacks of Pyrite Ore for 1g each instead of 10g each?

Did you buy it?
Did you leave it?
If you did purchase it, did you mail it COD to the seller for 1g knowing it was placed in error? 
Or did you repost instantly for the correct price? 

I sent it COD back to the seller. So I got my "investment" back, but did I get a thankyou from them? Nope. Nothing. Other than my COD paid. Bad move on my part or bad move on his? Who's the ethical one there?

On the same token, when you were doing the JC daily when patch 4.1 was released and there was a glitch that you could do two dailies a day (reset at 12 hours instead of 24 hours).

Did you continue on with doing them? 
Or did you open a ticket and tell the GM about the glitch?

I opened a ticket the next day, making sure that it wasn't my imagination. Sure, like many other "glitches" I have found, I posted about them on my blog. I didn't in this case. Why? I didn't feel it was right. I told the GM, and to my surprise he didn't take back the Jewelcrafter Tokens that I got "for free". So in this case, who is ethical? Me for telling the "cops" about the broken quest? Me for not telling the masses about it? Or do you see the GM being unethical by letting me keep the two extra tokens? 

What about the Whiptail glitch with insane spawn rates in 4.0.6? Did you monopolize the glitch there? I did.

Does that make me unethical? Once again, it depends on where your ethics stand. When you see something like this, what is your first reaction? Do you see dollar signs (or gold pieces)? Or do you instantly think to yourself "I will just buy them off the AH....I am not working the glitch myself, so I did nothing wrong"? Is that ethical, or no?

Back when I started WoW around 7ish years ago, I went to the AH to buy more gear. Problem was, I didn't have gold. I didn't have alot of playtime, so I fell for the oldest trick in the WoW book. I bought gold. Yes, I bought gold. Now it wasn't much, I think like 100g for $40. At the time, I didn't see it as doing anything wrong. I didn't know that you could get banned for it. Being a noob, never having played a MMORPG, I thought it was commonplace for people to do it. I spent 40 bucks, got the new gear I wanted, and was happy.

Was I wrong? Was that unethical?

A few years back, I was in-between careers, playing wow still, enjoying the AH skills that I had acquired in my time playing the game. I had a staggering amount of gold and thought, hey, why not? Sell some of my gold, pay some bills, and go on ahead with my life. No biggie. So I googled WoW gold and found many sites that would buy my gold. After contacting back and forth, we made a deal. $1400 for nearly my "life savings" in WoW. Seemed fair to me....

We set it up through MSN Messenger, we did the trade, the money was in my paypal account. BAM! How cool? Get paid for playing the game? This is fun! That is, until about an hour later when my paypal was froze...Frantic, I called paypal and spoke with them. They stated that the sender of the funds stated they did not receive the goods for purchase. I told them "I have screenshots in game of the trade of gold".....BAM! Wrong thing to say. By saying that, it was a "virtual goods" type of transaction, and due to their terms, they cannot unfreeze the monies as the company that I sold to labeled the transaction as fraudulent (even though they got what they wanted, I got....fucked). FML. I tried to contact the gold company, the MSN contact, everyone involved. Nothing. Out my gold, out my money. Lesson learned....

I know that "gold selling" is unethical, yet I did it anyways. Desperate times, desperate measures. But is it unethical as robbing a bank? Or unethical like picking up a dollar bill crumpled up on the street and not turning it in?

Now we come upon The Mogfather (interview is in process, it should be posted by next week). For those that haven't heard of him, he has been making a killing on the AH through Transmogrification. He literally set the standard by making one million gold in 43 days off of only transmogged items. But that isn't it. He has gave it all away. Yes, he made a million gold, and yes, he gave the million away. Is he the Robin Hood of WoW? "Steal" from the rich, and give to the poor?

Some might say yes. He took his own personal time creating a market and monopolizing on the "richer" players in wow. He gave the gold away. 

Others might say no. Robin Hood gave to the poor. Keelhaul (aka The Mogfather) gave away his goods to folks that showed off their transmog outfits to him, and he stated that was how he decided to give the gold back. Better transmog meant more gold. So was that giving to the poor or giving back his profits to those that could have bought from him in the first place?

Do you see it as a great technique? Post on the forums saying show off your transmog gear, and get free gold? Hat's off my brother. Great technique!

Is Keel's quest to make a million and give it away ethical? I think so.

Why? Because he didn't "scam" people to buy his auctions. They paid the prices. He didn't float under the radar and "snipe" auctions for pennies on the dollar. Although I still can't post items for the prices that he sells them for (I just feel guilty selling a 5g item for 2500g- Last week he even bought an item from me for 700ish gold and flipped it for 4200 on Lightbringer- BASTARD! lol), I still don't feel he is being unethical. But, as always, some folks might. I see it as he won. He beat me! 

Basically, ethics are in the eye of the beholder. What one sees as doing right, another can see as doing wrong. What one person sees as legitimate, another might see as scamming. All in all, be true to yourself, be confident in the decisions you make, learn from your mistakes, and above all: do what makes YOU happy.



Admin said... Reply To This Comment

What? I posted with no images? How boring....

No images + wall of text= less full post readers.


Ohnekase said... Reply To This Comment

Alto, love the post. Great followup to the AH Sniping post.

Ethics is a really hard thing to pin down. A few more examples for the Ethics discussions with everyday stuff that we do.

Is it ethical for us to buy up Ore for the shuffle that we know is probably botted to get, shuffle it, and then turn around and sell Inferno Rubies for a ton of gold?

Is it ethical for a person to charge 150 gold for a glyph that cost him 10-30 gold to make? Further more, is it wrong to have such a strong hold on the market that no one can last in the marketplace, thereby keeping a monopoly on glyphs because of your undercutting.

We hear people bemoan these things in Trade Chat, but Ethics is a complete different thing.

Again, great post Alto.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Wrong is wrong. Would you eat a brownie if you knew there was just one single chocolate chip size piece of fecal matter in the whole batch?

If you expose a problem don't be surprised if you are rewarded for being honest. If its a big enough problem don't be surprised if they come back and knock you down to size.

For all the rest of these questions of ethics, try and remember:"It's only a game".

Admin said... Reply To This Comment


Having worked directly with the USDA for nearly 10 years, you wouldn't want to know their tolerance audit for fecal's visual. That's it.

The access the companies paperwork for policies, then they do a visual inspection (not touching, strictly visual) but there is no actual chemical "test" to pass.

If you really knew some of the things that go on during the slaughter, clip, and spray you would never go near pork again...(I can only guess it's similar to other meat products).

As for the brownies, people use bat guano growing the green leaf, so I can only assume that the little chocolate treats do have something iffy in them, but man! Are they good!


Admin said... Reply To This Comment


So true. Trade is always a flutter, especially with Transmog prices.

I have a rule though, if it's an actual level equal bitch to me about "x" item, I just add them to group and trade it. I lose out $$, but it's not their money I want. =)


Skorpsy said... Reply To This Comment

lol i actually thought that jc glich was a feature not a bug. Awesome follow up though, and ethics is a lot like beauty, it's often very much in the eyes of the beholder.

I feel bad when I see someone who obviously accidentally mispriced their stuff on the regular ah. I will usually send them a message and then a share of the profits I made off of it. However, when I see someone trying to move a 500g+ item on the neutral for 1c I feel all tingly inside. It's almost as good as a drug high, cuz I feel an opportunity to be a douche to someone who I feel deserves it. :)

Skorpsy said... Reply To This Comment

lol damnit Alto, it'll be days before I eat anything again now! :P

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Its not unethical, its capitalism, nothings so bad you cant make a quick buck from it.

Ohnekase said... Reply To This Comment

To the Anonymous poster,

Yes, it is capitalism, but even in Captialism, the question of ethics does come up: In politics, in religion, in academics.

Etheics is a subject that is not restricted really by topic. It can be anywhere. Which is why it is interesting to see what is ethical in WoW?

Here is another fun question: Does the fact that some of these kind of Ethical issues take place in a video game setting (with very different rule sets and different realities) make the issues less problematic? Also, how much does the video game state change out perceptions of whether things are ethical or not?

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Which is more unethical? Buying gold or ignoring IRL commitments in order to farm/make it?

Admin said... Reply To This Comment

Last Anonymous,

Not sure if that comment was for me, but if it was:

Buying gold is unethical. Due to not knowing it was bad at the time, it's a grey area. I didn't know better, to me it was an easy way to get ahead in the game (I figured everyone did it).

Ignoring IRL commitments? Not sure what that is I stated I was in-between careers (or companies, I should have said, I had to relocate due to a lay-off). So no ignoring anything there.


Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

as some one who used to sell gold on a weekly basis i support this post yeah you got screwed in the long run but i was sitting on 800k just thinking to myself wtf do i do with this so i sold it and made 500 bucks, am i ashamed not at all if anything it opened my eyes to the fact that alot of hardcore gold makers like you and me have nothing else to do with the gold but give it away or sell it

Glyphmonster said... Reply To This Comment

When shopping on the AH, I assume that everyone has put on their big boy pants before going to the AH to post. If they have mis-priced an item, and I buy it well below market, then that's good for me and bad for them. *BUT* am I unethical for buying it? Only if I assume that I have some obligation, responsibility, duty, or calling to protect people from their own mistakes. If I make a pricing error, (and as a recent entrant in the market, I have done so) I take my lumps and move on. I have no one to blame but myself. I give everyone else the benefit of the doubt about their own maturity in dealing with their mistakes.

As for other kinds of transgressions: Buying and selling gold is against the rules of the game, but other than Bliz's prohibition on it, I see nothing wrong with it. You have spent time to earn a currency, and you are exchanging it for another currency. The fact that one of the currencies is 'virtual' and one is 'real' does not bother me particularly. It's like selling a gift card or a coupon. I won't do it, not because it's 'wrong' in some abstract way, but because I fear the penalty. Much like speeding on an empty straight road, or running a stop sign when you can tell 100% that no one is coming. Those actions are against the rules, but I would not be in an agony of guilt if I did them.

As for the Mogfather, I would draw a (extremely tenuous) parallel between him and a successful entrepreneur like Bill Gates. He came up with a product that people wanted, they paid what he asked, and he got rich. Capitalism 101. Where people get hung up is that they think that items in WoW have some kind of instrinsic "value" property, and any time a new use for them comes up, causing a spike in demand (and therefore price), something is wrong, or someone is "taking advantage." I have always been a strong proponent of the choice to simply not do something you find distasteful. If you think the price is too high, you simply don't pay it. If you dislike what's on your TV, change the channel. Others seem to think that they must protect "the public" from the "predation" of people who provide something they don't like. Thus the hue and cry over people flipping previously cheap items for high prices in the wake of 4.3 and transmogrification. I wonder what tune those people would sing if they had a few hot items in the bank, would they honestly post for 20 gold when the only other auction was for 2000?

Once you have a huge pile of money, if you want to spend it all on cupcakes for your crush, buy out the whole AH just for kicks, or give it away as prizes in a virtual fashion show, that's up to you. Unless I am using it to finance something immoral or illegal, I'm not sure how I could spend my honestly-earned money in an unethical way.

I suppose my closet libertarian is showing in this post. Maybe I'm a cold, unfeeling monster who would leave everyone to fend for themselves, but I just feel like we spend way too much time agonizing about how we can best protect people from their own unfortunate or idiotic choices. I'm as sorry as I can be if you choose to do something monumentally stupid and it turns out poorly for you, but I don't see the need to limit others' choices because of it.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment


Definition of TENUOUS by Merriam Webster:

having little substance or strength : flimsy, weak (tenuous influences)

Cold said... Reply To This Comment

Was it unethical or wise business practice for me to keep rolling on the Headless Horseman Mounts that would drop off the holiday boss after I already owned the HHM myself?

Of course, if I won a second, I was auctioning it off to the highest party bidder (during the short time we could trade mounts within the group - before the holiday boss bags came out).

Everyone games the system in some form or another.

Rememember in Vanilla when entering a BG cleared your trick or treat 1 hr debuff? Oh yeah, I got hella candies in no time then, lol.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

these are all good points and you seem like a good person for doing all that stuff and i wish the auction seller have mailed you thanking you for doing that but they also could've cancelled the auction if they had noticed or cared. i probably would've attempted to resell it myself and given the original owner the profits if they asked but otherwise keep it for myself. I have no problem with "sniping" the neutral ah regardless.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Alto, most things that are grown are fertilized by manure, i.e. shit, lol.

As far as you defending your actions against the guy who accused you of ignoring irl commitments. To be fair, you did imply that you were concentrating on WoW instead of looking for work, which is wrong.

Admin said... Reply To This Comment


You never cease to amaze me! I never heard of that exploit in Vanilla, I was too busy leveling to realize there were even world "holiday"


I am not a great writer, I don't always get my thoughts in my head down on "paper" correctly. I thought my wording of:

A few years back, I was in-between careers, playing wow still, enjoying the AH skills that I had acquired in my time playing the game.

I didn't know that still playing WoW whether I was working or not was wrong, especially when I already had a job lined up....but /shrug.


Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

i bought a level 25guild for 20k then sold it off the server for 300k. you tell me the ethicalness in that.

Admin said... Reply To This Comment


Thats business. Not too many folks an make 280K profit on one "flip".

Well done sir/madam, well done indeed.


Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Everything you said, I agree with it completely.
You can be making racketeering levels of profit, but it isn't unethical unless you're cheating someone out of something, or at least being detrimental to someone in some way. Profiting isn't unethical, it's just business.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

My attitude towards ethics, morality, and gaming takes a slightly different approach. All 'real world' ethics and morality fly out the window, as each game has a different set of mores ( dictated by the Terms of Service or other such device ), combined with what's deemed socially acceptable inside that virtual world.

Selling Gold in WoW for instance, is a violation of their ToS, and will get you banned if they find out, yet hundreds of thousands of gold are 'sold' daily without violating their terms.

Hypothetically if one had accounts in both EvE ( where there is a legit RMT system ) and WoW for instance,

Acquiring a PLEX or game code in EvE in trade for X number of Gold on a WoW server isn't that difficult, though most EvE players will never admit to also playing WoW.

The transfers can work both ways as well.

Now is that ethical? Hypothetically you're working inside the rules of both virtual worlds. There's no rule in WoW that says I can't just walk up and give someone 100000 gold. Conversely, there's no rule in EvE against someone sending me a plex for free, or even transferring credits outright.

If you really think this isn't happening, you're being very naive. It happens everyday, and won't stop anytime soon.

Some might argue as to the legality of such an arrangement, but that's going to be a long hard prosecution with no clear jurisdiction or precedent.
Can you imagine being prosecuted for giving things away?

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