There is an unfortunate number of methods (read: more than zero) that MMO gaming monetization nears real-life casino gambling, from lootboxes to gacha mechanics to straight-up in-game games of chance, and the pushback against these practices among gamers and world governments alike is ostensibly about protecting people with addiction problems from temptation. Falling into one of the more benign traps is the subject of one Redditor’s cautionary tale as it relates to his Guild Wars 2-playing best friend.
Redditor TomChesterson discusses the difficulties his friend “James” had to face before in fighting addiction, including going to AA meetings to help him turn a corner. Then he found the Sandstorm minigame within GW2, a massive in-game gold sink that lets players gamble with Globs of Ectoplasm and gold by purchasing Sandstorm Crystals, which can produce random amounts of Globs of Ectoplasm and valuable Sandstorm card junk when consumed.
Before playing the game, James held 15k gold and 2500 Ectoplasm, but as he got drawn deeper into the in-game rolls of the dice – particularly after he was spurred on by his addictive nature and some early wins – he quickly started to lose out gold to the point where he was spending real-world money to buy gems and convert it into gold to keep feeding his habit. He reportedly ended up spending $10K in real-world money in order to continue playing Sandstorm, which prompted TomChesterson to tell James to uninstall GW2 – advice he seems to have taken for the time being.
“While he listened to me and hasn’t been on for a couple days, I sincerely do worry he’ll either never be able to enjoy this game legitimately ever again, or he will come back and go back to gambling.
“I am not blaming ArenaNet because James is an adult who has made his own decisions, however I do kind of question the morality of even having a gambling mini-game that can be fed with real cash in their game. […] And unlike in real life at a casino or on video poker machines, there’s no warnings or anything to deter someone.”
The story has brought on a wave of responses, many of which offer sympathy and support for James while others call on ArenaNet to put restraints on Sandstorm in order to protect people who become addicted to the title such as using a different currency entirely that can’t be bought with real-world money or disabling ecto gambling for 24-48 hours after a gem transaction has taken place. In any event, beware gambling of any kind, MMO or not; the house will always win in the end.