WoW Celebrity, Twitter, and the Problem of Victim-Blaming

Paris Hilton wearing a bra and garter belt at a party.

This was linked on Crendor's Twitter last night. It is the first image you get when you GIS "Paris Hilton whore".

If anyone was paying attention to Twitter last night, it was a blood bath.  A fairly well-known WoW machinima creator by the name of Crendor (aka WoWCrendor) decided last night to use Twitter as his personal platform to berate women who dress like “whores.”  What surprised me the most was not that his fans jumped up to support him but the sheer number of people who Tweeted or re-Tweeted things that myself and others were saying about how sexist and victim-blaming he was. Instead of initially apologizing for the whole thing, he got wildly indignant and decided to dig the hole deeper, including tying a woman’s dress to the amount of times she gets creeped, abused or cheated on. Sound suspiciously familiar?

WoWCrendor finally pushed out an apology later, with little to no self-awareness of what he actually did wrong or why that train of thought was so damaging and promptly deleted most of the tweets. I have them all saved here if people wish to see them in the unvarnished light of day. I’m really disappointed by this as he was one of my favorite movie creators by far. I felt like he wasn’t one of the douchebags that randomly populate every aspect of gaming culture.

Now, I’m not writing this article just to point fingers at Crendor. Goodness knows I did enough of that last night on Twitter. I think we all need to sit down as a community and think about what he said, why he said it and confront some really thorny issues.  Because Crendor isn’t just a bad dude who said this. A lot of dudes say this. A lot of gals do too. This right here, this train of thought is what directly contributes to rape, abuse and other forms of harassment being so hard to punish for, because societally, we feel the real instigator of all of these things is not the person who committed the act, but the person who was victimized. They wore the wrong thing, they said the wrong thing, they dared to be in an alley or a bar, I could go on. We’ve grown so used to believing that the woman in this scenario brought it on herself that there’s little to no mention about the person who is culpable – morally, ethically and legally.

What is this called? The actual term that gets used in most feminist circles is “victim blaming.”

Victim blaming occurs when the victim(s) of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them. Blaming the victim has traditionally emerged especially inracist and sexist forms.[1] However, this attitude may exist independently from these radical views and even be at least half-official in some countries.[2]

People familiar with victimology are much less likely to see the victim as responsible.[3] Knowledge about prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increases perceptions of victim blame for rape, but not for robbery.[4]

World of Warcraft is obviously a fictional world and a video game and we don’t all physically interact with eachother. So it might feel like a lot of what was said last night doesn’t really apply to my little blog, but it does. It’s very apparent if you read my blog that the feelings and mores that we have about the real world very often carry themselves into our virtual spaces. Not only do people we deem “celebrities” in our nerdy little niche of the Internet say terrible things about 50 percent of their possible fan-base, but we have to deal with victim-blaming inside the game, even. Victim-blaming is such a pervasive thought that at it’s weakest concentration, it is even a defense for bullying and trolling. Have you ever thought, “well, they were just asking for it” and then done something mean or rude? Yeah. It’s that too.

But let’s bring it back a little. I was stalked and harassed via World of Warcraft by someone in my friend circle. You might even say that we had a slightly friendlier-than-friends relationship. I dance around this because even though I have a restraining order against this person now, since he’s been harassing me via blogs, Twitter, and WoW for well over 3 years, I still know that there’s many people who will read this and say, “Well, didn’t you do XYZ with him? That’s why he’s doing this to you.” See? Why is the person who is sending me rape threats on a daily basis less culpable of harassment than me, the person who gets to put up with this abuse daily? See how illogical it is? Or did it not even occur prior to someone you know saying something like this for you to see that?

This is why I’m exceptionally annoyed with someone like Crendor using a platform that is public and open to his entire fanbase to directly spout victim-blaming and other sexist malarky. Because all it does is serve to reinforce some really scary ideas that, out in the wild, have managed to make it hard to report any sort of abuse or rape or harassment by the victim because of what the backlash will be. It’s even become so normalized that women should expect and understand that they will be hit on because they were dressing sexy. And that they should just deal with that. Why is it that when the crime becomes involved with sex or abuse that suddenly we don’t find the person who did those things responsible? We don’t say that the bank was “just asking” to be robbed by having all that money inside of its vaults.

I want WoW celebrities to rise out of the primordial ooze, much like everyone else in our culture, and stop putting the fault of a crime on the person who had the crime committed against them. I want people to stop using their status and their public forums to spreading the same garbage we hear every day. I want there to be repercussions and consequences for thinking this is an okay idea to espouse professionally. I want people to think about this in all areas of their life, from bullying to abuse, to rape and even stuff like just creeping on someone at a bar. Unhook your brain from its track of “they were asking for it” and think about “what can I do to stop this from happening to more people?” We can even try all we like to make people “less of the victims” as we have been for years, but we really need to focus our efforts on not creating new criminals and bullies.

Clothes are just clothes, Crendor. They are swatches of material we use to express ourselves. They do not, however, force a person to do something to them. They do not ask for things. They are garments we wear for various reasons. A woman should be allowed to wear what she wants and not be at fault when lots of dudes feel compelled to hit on her in a creepy way. Dudes should stop hitting on people in creepy ways and if you think that clothes have anything to do with it, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

(Note, the bridge is wearing pasties and a thong. Hope that helps.)

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You Can Take the Gnome Out of the Raid

Tarecgosa roaring in front of Wyrmrest Temple.

But you can’t always take the raid out of the gnome.

While I’ve been meaning to write a keybinding guide/exploration, or perhaps a post on any number of topics, the holidays and wrapping up the last couple weeks of my job have been slaughtering my motivation to blog. However, one thought has really stuck in my craw enough to make me write a blog post.

Last night, my little social guild grouped up and did their weekly LFR run together. This is a lot of fun for us; we sit on Mumble and crack jokes on bad players, talk about other stuff and sometimes even alcohol is involved. It is a great way for us to see raid content together but the stress of people feeling terrible or unused to raid mechanics is gone. I consider it preparing people gear-wise and knowledge-wise for an eventual 10man. We cleared through both segments of Dragon Soul fairly handily. On Ultraxion, I won the chest tier piece. I was shocked! I have been running LFR for quite a number of weeks now and aside from my guildmate giving me the Insignia of the Corrupted Mind last night, this was the first piece of gear I had won fair and square. I was so excited!

Except then a druid piped up that I was wearing a 391 tier chest from Firelands. I was, wasn’t I? The tier pieces from LFR are 384. I immediately felt stupid. Did I forget that LFR gear isn’t necessarily* better than the 391s I was dripping in? Or the legendary staff I have strapped to my back? I probably looked like an overentitled jerkbag just then. As much as I’d love 2 or 4-set tier bonus for the delicious haste, is it really better mathematically than the 391 Tier 12 I’m currently wearing? What struck me immediately after that thought was this one:

Does it even matter?

I always made this argument when I saw people in various communities who only ran heroics complaining that they didn’t have access to raid gear. If you didn’t do raids, why would you need that level of gear. I find myself in this position now. While everyone has access to raid gear now via LFR (which is awesome), the fact of the matter is that I am no longer raiding but outgear the LFR in most ways, and find myself without even so much as a casual 10-man now. Do I really need to be doing LFR at all?  This is a question I wrestle with now. I’ve been part of the gear grind for so long, that long eternal lock-step of BETTER, BETTER, BETTER, BEST-IN-SLOT that now I have no idea what to do with myself. I’m not pushing content even on normal and theoretically I don’t need the gear out of LFR to do heroics. While running LFR is nice for capping valor points or updating certain slots, I sorta wonder (for the first time since 4.3) dropped what I really am going to do with myself. It’s been nice to have free time but I feel suddenly devoid of things to do on my main. I’ve been leveling a tank alt in my free time as well as my second mage, but this is the first time I feel like I’ve “finished” a character.

So for as much as I have “quit” raiding, some part of me still hasn’t. I think last night was a bit of a wake-up call.

 

Dealing With Intolerance

Trigger warnings: Homophobic/sexist language, anxiety

As much as I hate for one of my errant posts while the festivities of work and holidays keep me out of blogging to be relentlessly negative, I feel like this is something I should post. I feel that often the hardest part of being a woman in a sexist world, especially as a feminist, is putting your values ahead of you. It’s very hard to navigate what is still an openly hostile world and still stick your neck out for what you believe in. I had a situation last night that I dealt with, and while I don’t feel that I was the assertive, unabashed feminist I could have been, I feel like the appropriate people got taken to task and I got out of the situation as fast as my gnomish legs would carry me.

A recap:

Since 4.3 came out, I’ve pretty much quit progression raiding. I recently completed my legendary staff, killed Deathwing via LFR. I’m not left wanting for excitement or content at all right now. I’ve really relished the free time I have, that I’m no longer part of a 25man that actively dislikes the game and can focus on my friends, blogging, and having fun.

That being said, I happened to pick up a casual 10man group made mostly of alts/socials from a top 10man guild on my server. Interested by the prospect of low-stress normals raiding with a decent team of people, I started going along with them. First it was one night, one-shotting most of Siege and then adding a second day for working on Madness bosses. Most of the raid (if not all) is dudes, of the decently nice sort but a couple of them are a little “rough around the edges.” Not surprising, but not terrible. 

However, here and there sometimes they would slip up and say something a little rude or use a slur – mostly things like calling someone “fag” or n-words. Just every so once in a while, and I reported it to the raid leader who said he’d handle it.

Well, we got into the raid tonight and it was just one weird convo on Ventrilo after another; one talking about what cereal looked like vaginas, and how someone in the raid was a whore. I just felt really embarassed and weird. I kept making weird emoticons because despite all of my crowing about how amazingly strong and feminist I am, I’m still cowed by a large group of men online apparently. 

Then right before we pulled Zon’ozz, one of the louder guys said, “If you f*****s don’t all one-shot this boss tonight, I’m going to yell!” and started laughing. I had enough and told him not to call me that, and he shot back like, “See, I don’t understand why a woman would get offended by that.” I whispered the raid leader, told him I was sorry but I couldn’t handle it, apologized for leaving before a boss and peaced out of the raid.  I whispered the other mage later on since he’s always been super nice and said he could talk to me for magely wisdom That’s the only contact I think I’ll have from now on.

My hands were shaking and I got off Ventrilo in a hurry. I have legit anxiety/panic problems with confrontation and this was just piquing it all over the place. I feel not the slightest bit aggrieved that I won’t see normal content or loot, but that’s what LFR is for. I’m just sad that I forgot momentarily that the world outside of my awesome guild is still shitty in the World of Warcraft. I’m also sad that I’m still kinda a scaredy cat when it comes to socially dealing with people who are being offensive.

I feel that sometimes in our rush to uphold the ideals that we want to see in the world, that we forget that we’re all still human beings and things like anxiety, aggression and consequences still exist for those who speak up. While there’s no imminent threat of physical violence for telling some dudebros on Ventrilo to stop calling people fags, it can still be hard to stand up. But I’m glad I did. I still urge everyone who can to do it, and to feel proud about it. You’re definitely not alone. Even though I was scared, I still did it anyways. I feel like I might not always have the power to change the world overnight, but I still have the power to change the world in my immediate grasp. I do this by speaking up when I feel things are going wrong, and building a really amazing guild that’s full of people that respect eachother. It might be small, but I feel it’s a good first step.

Aubrey Plaza in Blizzard’s Newest Ad Spot – Awesome or Merely Stereotypical?

Almost as if Blizzard heard my cries about wanting a female spokesperson for World of Warcraft in the wake of the Chuck Norris debacle, it debuted this “What’s Your Game” ad spot featuring Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation fame. She plays herself (or perhaps a bit of her April Ludgate character from the show) talking about her boyfriend getting her this game for her birthday and subsequently dumping him when she realizes she likes the game more than him.

The video is funny enough, however there has been some criticism amongst some of the gamers I know about how it still relies on the “bitchy girlfriend who isn’t into video games” trope in order to be funny. I would say it is a little bit of that but manages to turn it on its ear by the end. The line about wanting diamonds is the crux of that criticism; advertisements, especially around the holiday season, tout a lot of heterosexual marriage proposals and buying a diamond for your special lady. So Aubrey wanting diamonds, even as a joke, could be seen to play into that. It also seems like the boyfriend is talking about the ever-popular Minecraft at first, considering how mining for diamonds is somewhat of a thing.

In the end though, the insensitive boyfriend is tossed on his butt and Aubrey goes on to enjoy the game as her own person. As a Horde player, presumably, judging by her shirt. While I’m glad that Blizzard decided to go with a woman celebrity, and especially a funny one at that, the idea that she didn’t get the game on her own still sticks in my craw. I want to see her playing an undead mage or something!

Ah well, progress is progress, eh? Least there was no racist voiceover this time.

Blizzard Sponsors Homophobia with Chuck Norris Ad Spot

Last night, Blizzard debuted another one of their celebrity ad spots during a football game. It featured Chuck Norris, of eponymous joke fame, with a fairly annoying and offensive Asian stereotype voice-over, running around beating people up as a melee hunter. Funny, right?

Eh, maybe not as funny as I imagined. Why is that, you ask? Probably because Chuck Norris has publically gone on record espousing many views that are fairly bigoted. Like that schools should feature a more conservative agenda, Day of Silence shouldn’t be held, and other such fun ideas like how he dislikes Roe vs. Wade. The fact that these links from his own blog and various websites go back a couple years shows a progression of ideas that he is free to express, but are not exactly friendly towards a particular segment of the possible World of Warcraft population.

But Cider, you say, what does it matter what he says on his silly site? Blizzard was just using him for Chuck Norris jokes!

Maybe it is because I’m a general peon in the scheme of things, and not an actual PR practitioner but I believe that when you use a celebrity to endorse your product, you endorse their name, clout and image. If that image is them also spouting off stuff on the Internet (which -is- important these days), then you are tacitly endorsing that too. Nothing a celebrity says or does in the public eye exists in the vacuum, especially in these days when celebrities have easy access to social media. This is why celebs lose contracts and endorsements from backing companies when they do something that the company doesn’t agree with, especially if it hurts their image. You don’t want your puppy chow associated with a known animal mistreater, you don’t want your brand of vodka associated with someone who racks up a DWI. So if you want to be a company that is friendly to all your customers, not using someone who wants to leave some of them out is a good idea. The fact that Chuck Norris has a history of saying these things long before Blizzard reached out to him is problematic at best. It’s no Corpsegrinder, but it does leave me with some questions about the thoroughness of Blizzard’s vetting of celebrities or maybe even outright dismissal that it is important.

That all being said, why can’t we use a more nerdy, awesome celebrity to promote World of Warcraft? Like Mila Kunis (a woman, gasp!) or Vin Diesel. They both play or have played WoW at some point in their career and they don’t quite have the same problematic background as Chuck Norris.

When Blogging Imitates Real Life Rape Culture

Trigger warning: discussion in links about rape/violent assault.

This is going be short just because I don’t have a ton of time to spare, but let’s just say I’m incredibly disappointed with a blogger this morning. It’s not really in my nature to name-and-shame but to see the same stuff in the blogging world as I see in real life compels me to say something. I don’t know the “story” very well, just been seeing it via links on Twitter and then this response. 

Long story short, a blogger in the “gold-making” circles (which is a subject I do not really follow in the blogosphere), has been posting lately from a hospital after being attacked viciously by 5 men. Other gold bloggers feel concerned about her plight and organize a White Ribbon show of support (White Ribbon is an international group concerned with stopping violence towards women). She’s obviously in pain and still blogging, and another blogger (Critical Goblin) feels compelled to talk openly about how he thinks she’s making it up, or it is really a scam by other people.

Really?

Really?

Now, I admit I don’t go through some of the links on her blog, I didn’t like the idea of click-through ad/sale links and I’m a fairly savvy Internet person. But some dude on a blog philosophizing that her story is untrue because “this isn’t what I’d do if I had something serious happen to me” falls right in line with what people do to rape/assault victims every day: not believe them. Why is what you think you’d do in the event of you being attacked important here? You suggest that people do not talk about rape because they don’t want to tell the whole world. Why do you think that is, Critical Goblin?

Because people shame them into silence. They don’t believe what horrible, terrible thing happened to them.

Look, you can not want to donate or whatever. I get that. Giving money on the Internet requires a leap of faith these days unless you can verify the donor. But the charities being presented in Gold Queen’s posts are legit and do support really noteworthy things. But leave your gross, rape culture views out of it. Or perhaps realize that this isn’t your life to critique. Rape victims should be allowed to speak out in whatever way they feel comfortable doing, even if you think it isn’t how it should be done. On the Internet where we are allowed to talk about being sad about killing Internet dragons, someone should be allowed to use the slight bit of anonymity the Internet gives them to discuss something that is painful and terrible that happened to them. No one should feel silenced.

Frankly, if this really is a scam, I’d rather go down defending someone or something fake rather than disbelieving a story from a rape victim.

Update:

Critical Goblin has amended his post a bit to reflect the criticism thrown his way. I don’t think he fully understands the gravitas or true argument being presented here but that’s the problem with people who have never had to deal with this in their life. It blinds you to how harmful it really is, and combined with societal expectations for victims to “act” a certain way…well, we can have that conversation another time.

If you feel compelled to do something, you can support The Gold Queen by putting a White Ribbon on your blog, for her and other women touched by violence and assault. You can also donate to White Ribbon.

Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes

A Guardian Cub For Your Real Money and Your Fake Gold

A Guardian Cub pet stands near a dwarf in Stormwind.

Picture courtesy of Blizzard

I really was hoping I’d manage to stay away from controversial topics so early on into re-entry into blogging, but Blizzard had to go and drop the bomb today on their blog – they will be selling a new Guardian companion pet, and yes, that you can buy it for real money and sell it for in-game gold in World of Warcraft:

While our goal is to offer players alternative ways to add a Pet Store pet to their collection, we’re ok with it if some players choose to use the Guardian Cub as a safe and secure way to try to acquire a little extra in-game gold without turning to third-party gold-selling services. However, please keep in mind that there’s never any guarantee that someone will purchase what you put up for sale in the auction house, or how much they’ll pay for it. Also, it’s important to note that we take a firm stance against buying gold from outside sources because in most cases, the gold these companies offer has been stolen from compromised accounts. (You can read more about our stance here.) While some players might be able to acquire some extra gold by putting the Guardian Cub in the auction house, that’s preferable to players contributing to the gold-selling “black market” and account theft.

It is a very small pet that has a lot of ideas and intriguing concepts attached to it and it is making people mad already. I can’t say that I’m too terribly bothered or surprised about it though. Some info about me – I’m a fairly die-hard pet collector but unlike my in-game character, I am not profuse with the riches of Azeroth. My bank alt is probably richer than I am, even if you valued the gold at the same prices that gold-sellers do. I don’t make a ton of cash to spend on pets from the store. Most of the ones I have have been very generously given to me by my friends or my partner. This is one of the reasons why I don’t actually  have a huge collection of trading card pets; they just are way too expensive and are only sold on speciality sites or EBay. One of the few I’ve managed to wrangle was via in-game trade only and that was the Spectral Tiger Cub. I bought it off a Horde player via our realm forums for 30,000 gold (which was a lot back in Wrath) and took a significant risk with my fake game money by doing it that way. He could have easily scammed me (which is one of the things that Blizzard mentioned in their blog post, I really suggest you reading it top to bottom) but thankfully I came away with an adorable pet that ranks as one of my favorites. Nevertheless, it is the scarcity of the mount plus the relatively prohibitive cost on Ebay that keeps me from getting a matching Spectral Tiger ride.

The goal I think with this pet is not to have it behave like the other store pets that have come before it. Like others have said, it doesn’t even have the basic bind-on-account functionality that sends the pet to all your toons on your Battle.net account. The value of the pet is that it is single-use and bind-on-equip, allowing it to be sold or obtained in a couple different ways. They probably dropped the BOA aspect of the pet in order to really watch the amount of trading that might occur without winnowing the market down unnecessarily by allowing someone to buy one and get it on all their characters. That way you can buy one from the store for your pet-collecting main (like I might) or use gold down the line to buy it for all your alts that you want it on. The initial veneer of this pretty much speaks to the fact that Blizzard definitely wants to see people have the ability to afford the pet in a way that suits them best; whether this is real money or fake money is up to the person purchasing.

Most of the transactions will probably crest on this, if you had to ask me. However, that bolded part in the quote above is the real meat of the matter. Blizzard wants to throw their hat into the ring when it comes to gold-selling. Turn a tiny portion of it away from wholly illegal and illegitimate means that quite frequently steal player accounts and use slave labor to acquire the gold in the first place and turn it into a revenue stream for the company. I think people who are saying that this makes Blizzard no better than “gold sellers spamming trade” is rather disingenuous. First, the reason gold selling companies spam you and go to great lengths to advertise in your face is because that’s what you have to do to get someone to notice the black market. They are trying to divert business away from Blizzard and do so by harming your accounts, as well as use free prison labor to do it in a lot of cases. Blizzard does not need to do this. By having it legally as part of their company, not only is your account not at risk by using the service (if you choose), but you know that the money is going somewhere a little less unsavory than an operation that abuses their employees or other prison workers.

The real problem with Blizzard getting into this racket is that most people see the biggest problem of gold-selling is not necessarily what I mentioned (black market stealing) but that someone gains a real in-game benefit by acquiring gold via their own  money in the real world. That someone can work a shift or use their parent’s credit card and buy enough gold to purchase a BOE item. I for one have never really felt threatened by someone who does that. I’ve only ever been concerned with those people who choose to gold-buy because of what kind of disgusting industry it DOES support. But for people who are not me, the biggest concern is that someone will be able to buy BOEs and they won’t, because they do not have enough time to make enough gold to buy a BOE, much less make enough money to buy it any other way. Buying your way into power has long been a prickly point of mine in the real world, but I feel it falls flat in World of Warcraft, where someone else’s game progression with gear largely does not affect my own enjoyment in-game. Maybe it is because I have access to raiding gear, but that probably takes the sting out a bit more (And that is a conversation for another time.)

I inadvertently stumbled on the crux of this issue while discussing it amongst friends on Twitter – this is a way of Blizzard profiting off what has long been a locked-off problematic black market attached to their underbelly. Even if you look at the fact that people have been buying gold off their guildies and friends since basically the time the game started (especially in the form of game cards), you can definitely see why Blizzard would want a piece of that pie.

The real amusing part of all of this to me is that unlike availing yourself of illegal gold-buying services, that players choosing to use this as a way of making money via the auction house in-game are going to be subject to the same problems other pet-sellers and regular AH users run into all the time – the value of your real life money will be dependent on your server’s economy! Risks abound as well as AH barons out to control markets and undercut you. Anyone looking to make a bit of cash by buying it via the store and selling it in-game will have to contend with any other number of people trying to sell it as well. Pets and mounts have a limited niche of people who will spend the gold on those kinds of vanity items, especially in great excess. Given that the rarity of the pet is near 0, it cannot even profit on that, unlike TCG pets or hard-to-find pets and mounts in-game like the Reins of Poseidus or raptor hatchlings. Like the criticism that came with Blizzard announcing the Diablo 3 auction house, the profits to be made on this will be hard-won, if able to be gained at all. The other downside to this is that you cannot sell it for gold and pass it back out of game as real money, unlike D3 as well.

I find this to be not a real cause for concern as it still does not confer a tangible benefit to gameplay other than what you can purchase later whatever gold you make off with from someone buying the pet. If anything, this is probably a way of Blizzard testing how RMT might work one-way in game before they launch Titan. If anything, we just know this is more grist for Blizzard’s money mill.