Does Buying Diablo 3 Items Defeat the Point of the Game?
Call me Ishmael.
There’s a low-level Legendary ring in Diablo 3 named Leoric’s Signet, an item that is valuable to both low- and high-level players alike that sells for 20-40 million gold on the Auction House. The community has established optimal “farming” techniques to find this item, but even then, it could take a dozen hours to do so, and some players have allegedly been at it for over 100 hours, to no avail.
I began my hunt for Leoric’s Signet two weeks ago. I was making 5M a week flipping items on the Auction House, and the prospect of 30M gold for “only” a dozen hours of farming was too enticing to pass up. “Why stop at one?” I thought. “I could drop flipping altogether and just farm this ring until its price comes down.”
I’m 17 hours in and slowly descending into madness.
A spreadsheet tracks the progress of my downward spiral. Columns of raw data, statistically calculated drop rates, ratios of Legendary drops to Rare drops, and a growing list of the Legendary items I’ve found that conspicuously lacks an entry for “Leoric’s Signet.” Every duplicate entry I’m forced to make in my Legendary list taunts me; every “clunk” of a Legendary dropping in-game a sadistic Pavlovian bell that, instead of bringing treats, brings a glimmer of hope that is immediately squelched by the realization that this is just another damned Monk helmet.
Leoric’s Signet has become my white whale.
But recently, I’ve begun questioning myself. My goal. Every day, I see the Auction House price of Leoric’s Signet decrease a little more as people who are not me find more and more of them. I think about the number of hours I’ve put into finding the ring, and I look at the price of gold on the Real Money Auction House. For $9, I can buy 30M gold. Minimum wage is $9 an hour in many cities. I’ve invested 17 hours of my time into finding this ring.
How much is my time worth?
Wondering this led to greater questions. Why am I even playing this game? What am I doing? I’m farming for an item so that I can have gold to buy better gear in order to better farm for items, so that I can buy better gear in order to better farm for items, so that I can buy better gear in order to better farm for items, so that I can…
I explained my dilemma to a friend, and his response put everything back into perspective. Without sounding quite so cliché, he said, “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.”
Games like Diablo and Torchlight aren’t, ultimately, about the loot. They’re about finding the loot. They’re about the thrill of the hunt. They’re about those spectacular moments when you find “the God drop,” that piece of loot that will either make you powerful or rich. Because once you have all the best gear, there isn’t much game left to play — especially, in Diablo 3′s case, until PvP releases.
Buying gold or items in Diablo 3 with real money is tantamount to skipping ahead a few levels in an FPS. I understand the argument from people with very limited game time who are willing to shell out some cash in order to experience the end-game, but for everyone else, spending real money defeats the purpose of the game: hunting for items.
Logic tells me to stop hunting for Leoric’s Signet. Statistics tell me that my time is better spent farming end-game gear. I am fully aware of the psychological concepts of loss aversion and the sunk cost fallacy; I know that I’m better off cutting my losses — 17 hours of my life — and moving on than clinging to the false belief that I’ve invested too much into this venture to stop now. And yet, I will not stop. I will not stop because the degree of satisfaction I’ll feel when I finally find that damned ring cannot be quantified, analyzed, or measured by any logical means.
For there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.