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Ask Massively: We do not play games for a living edition

Eliot Lefebvre

One of the most persistent misconceptions about what we do here at Massively is this idea that we play games for a living. Allow me to be perfectly clear in this: What you're seeing right now? This article? The one I wrote? Writing this is what I do for a living. I write about games, and I enjoy games, but if I decided to not write any of my columns for a month and just play Star Wars: The Old Republic, I would be fired. That is not my job.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's time for another installment of Ask Massively, this time featuring questions about gambling and the latest City of Heroes cash shop offering. If you've got a question you'd like to see in a future installment of the column, mail it to or leave it in the comments below. Questions may be edited for brevity and/or clarity.

blazenor asked: Is there a legal reason why MMOs don't have gambling within the game? (Not real gambling, but minigames like slots, poker, etc.)

So long as there's no direct way to convert real money to in-game currency and back again, any in-game gambling isn't really subject to gambling laws. If it could be, it would probably fall under the aegis of state gambling laws, which is a whole twisted minefield. (Consult a lawyer before putting this into your game.) However, there's nothing preventing a developer from legally devising a system of gambling as long as in-game currency is the only thing being wagered and lost.

Why don't we see more of it? I'm not sure, but I think there are two good reasons.

The first is that casinos are set up to make money. This is not really a surprise; everyone goes into a casino knowing that he's probably going to walk away poorer than when he entered. It's part of the deal. However, an MMO developer has no real need to bilk in-game characters out of in-game money except as a money sink. Using a virtual casino to remove that money would also mean potentially inserting a whole lot more money into the system, which sort of defeats the purpose.

The second is equally obvious: Losing all of your money in a casino is sort of not fun. Giving players the chance to wind up completely broke can lead to players not having the money they need to take part in much of the game. Recovery from such a disaster would require either tedious farming or immense luck, which results in angry players who frequently leave for less-broke pastures. Not really a strong incentive, there.
Utakata asked: I noticed City of Heroes has the Roman costume set up in its item mall. This was something you could get for your characters if you did a mission chain. I believe you still can. Or was that removed?
Nope, that mission hasn't gone anywhere. The costume set is akin to the Vanguard set -- you buy it once, every character has it, and you no longer have to do that chain to get the costume pieces on your alts. It's convenience, nothing more.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

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