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Many online games have marketplaces where users can exchange virtual goods, services and currencies. And since the beginning of trade, there have been those who attempt to engage in those transactions with prices that are outside what an informed observer would consider to be fair market value. Often, the targets are newer players who simply don't know any better.

Do moderators (appointed by the development team) have a responsibility to inform potential targets of these unfavorable transactions that they're about to get ripped off?

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Curious about the downvote on how this could be improved. This early in the beta especially, I welcome feedback as to whether or not this is a reasonable question for this site. (I would be disappointed if the downvote was meant to signify "no, I don't think they should" - the answer to the question and the feedback on the question itself should be separate issues.) –  corsiKa Aug 6 at 0:03
    
Not the downvoter, but I was tempted to flag this as purely opinion-based. It's really either a question of policy or, in the absence of explicit direction from the dev team, of personal preference. You could debate the ethics on Philosophy.SE but as long as we're talking about a purely virtual context it seems somewhat trivial; game marketplaces are inherently competitive. –  AirThomas Aug 6 at 20:48
    
It's not purely opinion based. It's subjective, which isn't a bad thing. –  corsiKa Aug 7 at 2:25
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I'd rather improve the game UI, for example by displaying average prices and perhaps automatically displaying a warning if the price looks highly unusual. –  CodesInChaos Aug 7 at 14:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Moderators have a responibility of informing users of aspects of their community. This can be done via warnings in trade consoles, or public announcements, or other general broadcasts. They do not have a responsibility of interfering with individual transactions. In fact, doing so may lead to problems later on. When the community grows to large for moderators to intervene in each transaction, what happens then? Do the moderators become responsible for a user's lack of knowledge when the inevitable bad trade does go through? Moderators can make it easier to find information about potential trading partners or the trade value of items.

There are situations where users legitimately have one sided trades - ie. a user is leaving the game and trading everything to another player, or a user wins a community raffle and receives an "expensive" item, or the user is new and someone is feeling generous. All of these are legitimate, and involving a moderator in these removes them from other trades where a real scam could be occurring. It also removes a moderator from other aspects of the community they could be moderating.

Another aspect to consider is whether it is the moderators' or even the developers' responsibility to determine the price of a shiny red pixel in regards to a sparkly blue one. Or is the market value of red vs blue determined by how much someone in the community is willing to pay? If a player wants to sell an item for twice it's "normal" value and someone needs this item right now, they are willing to pay a premium in exchange for receiving the item immediately. Over time, game items become more or less common and the price fluctuates. If it is the moderator's job to determine those prices and how every item compares in value to every other item, that sounds less like moderation to me and more like micromanaging.

Remember, it is a game. In a game, there are generally winners and losers. Whether you like how that sounds or not, that aspect of the game extends to trading aspects of a game too. Someone who is more skilled in negotiation and knows the values of the items is going to get a better price. An experienced player is probably better at it than a new player, just like the first time a new player steps into a server and the experienced player snipes him from across the map. A moderator doesn't step in on those occasions (hopefully), doing so just because the player is new in the trading area should not be a reason to interfere.

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Do moderators (appointed by the development team) have a responsibility to inform potential targets of these unfavorable transactions that they're about to get ripped off?

No. They do not inherently have a responsibility to do so.

That said, this all depends on the game, the way that market works, the target audience - a lot of factors. While market exploits can be rather harmful to the community, it's an action that may well be intended or within the planned bounds of the system - this is up to the developers to decide. The community may, on its own, decide that this behaviour isn't acceptable, but that's not the moderators' responsibility - unless the community wants them to help.

It's up to the team and the community to form ground rules, and then it's potentially up to the moderators to enforce these rules.

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No, this generally wouldn't be a moderator duty. Even if the community wanted moderators to take on this role, there is no way to handle it with any kind of scaling. You couldn't consistently check all transactions going on, even just for new players, so a ton would slip through and it would not be an effective deterrent from trying to make a quick buck (which really, a new player shouldn't have enough resources to take advantage of anyway.)

To have something like this scale, you would need some type of automated monitoring to notify moderators of transactions that are outside standard behavior, but if you have such a system, it is a far more effective use of the system to simply notify the user directly (such as indicating it is substantially above/below the normal sell price) rather than notifying a moderator to talk with the user.

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Going slightly outside of the Moderation point of view, or maybe not, a game that I play regularly has implemented a way to keep prices inside of a certain range, this limits the prices but still allow for slightly higher priced items to be sold.

It's a hard line to draw in the sand.

You should watch for Milking as well, if the new user ignores your advice and buy's the high priced item anyway, that could be a sign of a different problem altogether.

You mention the informed observer, these are the users that should be helping the new players learn the ropes. lot's of informed observers that do help new players on the regular become moderators (in my experience on several games). As a moderator that is one of the duties of the moderator in most games that I have played, to answer questions and point the user to the Wiki and to guard them while letting them figure out what part they want to play in the game.

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