The flight of the black middle class to premium servers

| Friday, June 4, 2010
Warning: contains generalizations.

Once upon a time racist contracts kept black people out of white neighborhoods. They were unable to buy homes because the sellers would be breaking contract to sell to them. Someone realized this was both racist and anti-free market and now such contracts are illegal.

The black middle class reacted as anyone would: they got away from the uneducated and often criminal lower class. This wrecked the community. The proof that blacks could move up was gone down the road. The neighbor who used to care, who proved a good role model, had left. The children would grow up immersed in failure. Ironically, the removal of the racist contracts may have damned the black lower class.

Gordon has brought up the idea of premium servers. Imagine, for just $15 more a month you can have a paradise of GM-moderated public channels, gold spammers are priced out, maybe you even GM-run events, and the kiddies are priced out. What could go wrong? It sounds great!

Unless you can't spend another $15. You're stuck on the regular servers. Many, though clearly not all, of the positive influences on the server/battlegroup community are gone. You're stuck with the people who either don't want or don't care enough to have GMs watching.

Still, it can't be so bad, right? So some of the good people left. Big deal, you'd probably never meet them. Well no, not them specifically. But you might meet their influence or someone like them or the guild they run. The asshole concentration goes up.

We know Blizzard likes profits. Ponies. What better way to increase profits than to not hire more GMs for premium servers, but just shift them over from the normal servers? Charge twice as much and you don't even need to hire any new GMs, just a few more tech people, or shift those too from the regular servers. Since there aren't likely to be tons of premium servers compared to regular, the percentage change won't be gigantic. People might not quite notice. But the effect is there. The spammers aren't taken care of as quickly, the bots stay up longer, the anal spam is unnoticed.

Eventually people would start to quit. Probably the good people first. That pushes the jerk concentration higher. And more leave.

Blizzard would notice of course and take some action to fix it. But what action? And could it work? Selling more ponies or charging more for premium would fix the profit loss, temporarily. Hiring more GMs to clean things up, to try to at least get back to the old standards, I think would fail. The community would be saturated. Even worse, it wouldn't bring people back. Once a game, a place, is known to have a terrible community, people stay away.

Fair and balanced: You get what you pay for. If something isn't worth $30 a month to us, that's our problem. We can quit. It's a free market, so what's the loss to us? We can put our money elsewhere. Whining isn't the solution. Wallet voting is. No I don't mean bribing politicians; we're not lobbyists. I mean putting our money into the other MMO which is worth our $15 a month. You know, the one you aren't playing, the one you tried the trial for and didn't like enough to pay $15 for it. Yea, that one. See, no problem at all, the free market will save us.

If the black middle class moves out, are we doomed to live in the virtual ghetto? Will we even get condescending hipsters?

Now that we're all done, you're probably wondering "Did he just compare real world racism and resulting poverty with people saying 'anal' in a public channel in a virtual world?" No, I in fact did not. If I did, I could easily say that one is a much, much bigger issue than the other. Instead I tried to show similar processes, negative trends which we could identify and prevent. Think of it as 1+2=2 and by the same process, though much different scale, 100000+100000=200000.


Cathy said...

I have to say there is something I do like about the idea of premium servers. Issues taken care of more quickly, less spam, knowing there are GMs available within a few minutes and not a few days.

There is certainly an upside to it but I know there are many negatives. A lot of gamers are young teenagers who can't afford that kind of fee or even adults that have their budgeted amount for gaming.

In a sense we are always segregated in life depending (being upper class or middle class etc, affording private schools or attending public....we segregate ourselves often in life and don't really notice it)

Still, I can dream of a Warcraft that has a GM to immediately kick an Ninja looter within a minute of being notified:)

Analogue said...

I'd compare it to choosing home schooling or private education for your kids rather than the "free" government version. You pay more (the "free" version is paid for by your taxes anyway but you don't usually notice that) and you get more control over your content.

The biggest problem with premium servers would be, I think, not enough more-time-than-they-need farmer types out there would hurt the economy.

Gevlon said...

I can't believe but I fully agree.

We Fly Spitfires said...

It's kinda funny how as soon as I suggested the idea of premium servers for WoW every MMO gamer suddenly became an egalitarian fighting against the principles of classism ;)

Classism is every where though from your mobile phone contracts to your broadband deals to travel and even cinema seats. Applying it to MMO subscriptions seems rather logical :P

Not that I don't see the downsides to it though and yeah, it will leave everyone else who can't pay in the dust of retardville. Isn't life already like that though? Long live capitalism!

I suppose in a subconscious way I'm making an ironic stand against the oppressions of right wing capitalism :D

Anonymous said...

"Gevlon said...

I can't believe but I fully agree. "

Do you mean you agree that the premium servers and the resultant flight of people willing to pay the $15 will make normal servers even more annoying, or you agree that this is a problem? I'm not even sure Klepso is saying that black flight is a problem, to be honest. I didn't hear any appeals to the black middle class to move back to the ghetto, at least.

There are a huge number of people who prefer the freedom of a less regulated environment, which is what Klepso predicts will result in the normal servers. I'm not sure that WoW's current audience would look upon these results with majority disapproval. Those of you who are assuming otherwise, check your observer bias and think again.

Klepsacovic said...

@Cathy: We do segregate ourselves. Maybe we're better with one place where we do not, or at least not 'physically'.

@Analogue: I suspect gold sellers might find a fruitful market among those who are willing to pay more already. Sure there's higher risk of getting caught, but the audience might be willing to pay more for the gold.

@Gevlon: It's okay, I sometimes agree with you. It's a terrible feeling, but we can get through it together.

@Gordon: If it makes me seem consistent, I also dislike the way phone contracts are set up.

Earlier today I saw a young person smoking and decided he was actually a hipster who would be getting lung cancer 'ironically' as a show against the Man.

@Anonymous: I do think the flight of the black middle class is a problem, and not just for the poor left behind. Poverty and crime are horribly concentrated in black communities, perpetuating stereotypes which hurt the middle class too. To varying degrees there is a 'shared destiny'.

Rules should be enforced or revoked, not merely left unenforced, otherwise they promote a rule-breaking, lawless atmosphere, which is to the detriment of all. I'm not counting the criminals because fuck them.

iapetes said...

Premium servers are such an unbelievably awful idea that I have no idea how it ever even got this much attention in the first place

Anonymous said...

@Klepso-- Do you have plans to move to the ghetto to raise your children, or are you a racist who thinks that black middle class people should live in ghettos but you shouldn't have to? (I am assuming you aren't black based on the way you have talked about this issue)

If you are seriously arguing that it would be in middle class black people's rational self-interest to live in a ghetto, then please...stop. It's just not.

iapetes said...

You have the reading comprehension of a 4th grader anom

Anonymous said...

To be slightly clearer:

"I do think the flight of the black middle class is a problem, and not just for the poor left behind. "

The flight of the black middle class is like driving your car, the resultant negative effects you have described are like global warming. If you said "driving cars is a problem", then I would reasonably infer that you wanted to outlaw driving cars, or advocate for people to stop driving entirely, or something else in that vein. If what you really mean is "global warming is a problem", then we're more in agreement, as even though global warming has some beneficial effects, overall most reasonable people think it should be limited. I don't know any reasonable people who think middle class black people should be forcibly relocated into ghettos. This means black flight is not a problem in the world I live in, it's a reaction to problem which causes other problems.

Anonymous said...

"iapetes said...

You have the reading comprehension of a 4th grader anom"

True, I don't even write my own posts. They are stolen from passersby in my neighborhood from which the middle class blacks have all fled. Don't worry though, I have better taste than to lift any of your phrases :-)

iapetes said...

So you get what he meant and are just being annoying for no reason.

Anonymous said...

"iapetes said...

So you get what he meant and are just being annoying for no reason."

If being annoying means writing in a fashion that exceeds the level of your reading comprehension, which you ironically respond to by impugning my reading comprehension: then no, I'm not being annoying for no reason. And no, I don't "get what he meant." I truthfully don't know if he's just being unclear or is actually promulgating a racist and fascist dictum to illustrate his distaste for premium servers. I'm certainly curious to find out.

iapetes said...

He made it explicitly clear in his original post, which kind of goes back to my original point about your reading comprehension skills.

"I tried to show similar processes, negative trends which we could identify and prevent."

He only used the example of black neighborhoods to illustrate how players moving to premium servers would make the normal servers suck. It's not a stupid analogy that works on every stupid semantic level. Obviously there's nothing racist about not opening up premium servers.

Klepsacovic said...

Societies do not work as easily as mathematics. Not all operations and actions are exactly reversible. So when I identify causes, I am not claiming that simply reversing them is the solution.

This is entirely beside the actual subject of this post anyway. I was not trying to suggest a solution, but just to say "here is what happened, here is how it could happen again."

So no, I am not "promulgating a racist and fascist dictum to illustrate [my] distaste for premium servers." As a brief suggestion: unless you're trying to derail a discussion, don't accuse someone of being racist or fascist or even suggest that maybe that's what they might possibly be if you read things a certain way.

nightgerbil said...

I like the idea of premium servers, but I would only use one if i got value for money. What do i get for paying more? faster gm response time? (yawn) less gold spam? meh. An extra special mount just for me? I would just buy a pony if that mattered. Less bots? yippe ah prices for mats just went through the roof making it harder to level or use any crafting profession and pushing prices through the roof for all sorts of things like ice arrows to flasks of endless rage to glyphs for my alts. Honestly I cant see how it would seriously matter except for the prestige of being on one, in which case we will see a mass migration from my server of the bike riding, sitting on my fishing bobber on their ice mammoth while loling and spamming trade chat with "lfm weeklie noth must die 5.5kgscore" morons that currently blight my playing existence.

Anonymous said...
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Klepsacovic said...

In my original post, in any context of black flight, I did not say problem. I will concede that it was a poor choice to have accepted that word in the discussion. A better option might have been "cause of a problem", that problem being the harm caused to the black lower class and image of blacks in general.

Driving is a problem. That doesn't mean the only solution is to eliminate driving. Electric cars would reduce many of the problems (creating others, but let's not get bogged down in another tangent), so that while driving is a problem, there is no divine force which declares that driving must be a problem.

Point out where I said they should have never desegregated. I said many problems arose from it, not that it shouldn't have happened, and in fact I said "The black middle class reacted as anyone would", which strongly suggests that they didn't do anything unusual or immoral, just did exactly what white people do all the time: avoided living in terrible neighborhoods.

Google tries to improve searches by tailoring them to past searches, location, that sort of thing, so my searches will not yield identical results, meaning that I should not attempt to comment on your suggested search beyond noting that I never used the phrase "racial destiny", so I am not linking myself with that. But if you trust Google to give identical results, look up "shared destiny" instead.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Klepsacovic said...

None of the points you pretended to destroy were ones I was actually making. I'm going to invoke rules 2 and 4 now. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Blizzard doesn't need to offer premium servers in order to offer premium services.

Charge a quarter to get your abuse request to the head of the GM line. A dollar to get invited to GM-hosted events. Another dollar for a bigger ignore list. Fifty cents for better trade chat filters. And so on...

Pretty soon, those interested in premium services are paying twice as much as those who aren't or can't afford it. The trickle-down effect of banning bots and spam quicker makes everybody's life better.

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