Like all players who can't spend hours grinding, I have had a peek at the gold selling pages. The prices are not unreasonable at all, and I understand why people buy. For me to make 1000 gold takes at least a month of ingame collecting. I can buy it for $38,99, which is half an hour in real life work. The conversion rate of time is fabulous.
Why don't I just do it? The interviews I have been listening to this weeks explains why. There is a very strong disapproval among large groups of players against gold buying. Social pressure and fear of losing face is an important barrier to buying gold.
There is of course a logic to this disapproval. The real value in multi-player games is your reputation. Such reputation is spread virally through social intercation, but it has no visual or other more explisitt expression. Your reputation - if it is a good one - will however often be reflected in your access to groups and raids: your path through the complex areas of the game will be easier and you will have more access to gear. For those who are not "in" on the social rumour circle, the fancy gear appears to be what infuses respect, and they assume that getting the same gear means getting the same respect. Since they don't have access to the same pool of raiding partners, they have to gain what expressions of status they can through the auction house. At the auction house a particular item can run up to several hundreds, if not thousands of gold. The price of a certain dagger obtained in Molten Core is currently 1500 gold at the ingame auction house (prices wary between servers and factions). For a player with no or limited access to raid groups this object will either mean months of grinding for gold, or a trip to the gold sellers.
This has created a new type of characters, what they call "Twinks". Twinks are characters which have not played the instances, but own the gear which can be bought at the auction house. A twink will not wear much of the gear that is "bind on pickup" - which means only the character that takes it off the body of the monster can use it - but instead have plenty of good "bind on equip" gear - things which can be bought.
Twinks are awarded the disgust of the noveau rich, the social climbers who want to have the status without the effort. But the strategy of twinking has one socially acceptable outlet: the twinking of level 19 characters solely for play in Warsong Gulch. A level 19 character has no access to the high level instances, and the cost of buying gear at that level is normally not higher than a level 60 main character can support easily. You don't need a raidgroup full of friends to run a level 19 character through an instance with correct gear for the level, all you need is a mate or two who agree to kill everything and let the lowbie loot the bosses. At the same time a twink can earn honour and reputation in the battleground far exeeding what the level 60 main character could make, and can through rank gain access to gear far better than the regular end-game dungeon sets.
These twinks do however have to work for it. They can be outfitted and assisted by a higher level character in order to gain access to otherwise very exclusive gear, but the very high activity level in one battleground is one thing WoW gold can not buy. In this context the derogatory concept "twink" becomes honorary, and while everybody hate meeting twinks in the battlegrounds, having them on our side is not a social stigma, but a nice convenience.
And this is why I blog. I was planning to write a blogpost about a blog reviewing goldbuyer sites and according to the writers affiliated with Blizzard, because I think it's really weird if Blizzard is an associate of a gold farmers' promotion site. Ended up somewhere entirely different though. And I put in the rel="nofollow" tag up there, here's to hoping it works. I am such a snob, I am not buying gold. Yet.
(Link fixed and NRK has, as far as I know, nothing to do with Blizzard, gold-farmers or the gaming industry in general.)