Virtual Materialism

| Friday, January 13, 2012
If I can buy it, it's worthless.

I had too far to walk, so I did my usual thing, thinking too much. Along the way I wandered back to WoW and my abandoned banks and bags. Filled. With what? Gold? Certainly some. Herbs and ores and badge loot? Some as well. Generic things. Commodities.

I started thinking of my own material situation, or of hypothetical situations. What if I had a million dollars? I'm not sure what I'd buy. Certainly I'd buy an end table and some pictures for my sparse walls, not to suggest that the end table is for the walls. I'd buy a very nice computer. Maybe even a TV. Maybe not the TV, seems pointless. And then what?

Maybe I could consume. Not buy, but consume, like real Americans do. I could buy shoes to not wear and cars to sit in traffic. For what?

Symbolism. These things are not all that great, but they symbolize wealth. I guess that's nice for some people. For me, I think a bank balance makes a good symbol of wealth. But then why is my long-lost paladin decked out in Judgement and wielding a Thunderfury and who knows what silly other items?

They are not wealth! They symbolize something different. They symbolize experiences. Thunderfury is time in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, a reminder of times I enjoyed. The armor as well. Somewhere a scepter is waiting as the last step to opening Ahn'Qiraj, a useless item these days, but a reminder of the quest chain, one of the longest ever. A reminder of time and experience.

No badges can buy that. And similarly, what can money buy? I cannot think of what money would buy to remind me of anything. It would have none of me in it. I suppose we could draw on Marx and his thoughts on how workers have become separated from the product of their labor. I work one job and buy something else; entirely disconnected. Or I farm randoms for badges, like an assembly line putting in a rivet all day every day, and I get back something in which I had no part in the creation. None of what I have is unique, but it is mine, by my creation, by my action, so it is bound to me. It gives a new meaning to items being soulbound.

Maybe someday I will build my own house, or at least remodel it. I've done that a lot, but almost never where I live. So there are dozens of houses with me in them. My brother's house as well; wood I stained and a very nice ceiling design that I installed. I was relieved when they decided not to move just yet, because they could not have bought that house.

There's a new way to look at the evolution of WoW, from the cottage industry of little loot tables to the factory of badges. I suppose I'm just a Luddite.


Ahtchu said...

I enjoyed this post. Especially:
They are not wealth! They symbolize something different. They symbolize experiences.

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