"I can admit that I once bought gold in another MMO, though. I used to play Lineage II before I started with WOW. 'L2' has a cruel system of punishments when you die, and a very imbalanced economy. I died once, and dropped my sword. When I came back to the place where I fell, someone else had already picked it up.
"A new sword would cost 2 million adena [game currency], when a mob appropriate for my level dropped about 200 adena... And I couldn't kill them anyway, since I had no sword. As I saw it, I had either the option of buying a level 1 sword or similar, and spending months and months farming to perhaps be able to buy a sword closer to my level, or buy the gold I needed to be able to keep playing.
"I wouldn't do it in WOW though. I have a better understanding of how the gold sellers mess up server economy now, and WOW has a much kinder and more forgiving game system, so you won't find yourself locked in a situation such as had happened to me."
Others have a more nuanced understanding of the problem.
"My perspective on gold sellers really depends on where they get the gold from. Sure, the endless spam is annoying but not really the main problem," says Kerry, another British player in her early 20s.
"As long as the gold comes from grinding and selling resources, from playing the game or working the auction house economy, I'm perfectly happy for them to do so. It's their time, their effort and I can't see a real reason to be unhappy about it. The majority of the gold farmers, as far as I know, are time-rich and money-poor, but many of the paying players are time-poor and money-rich. If a player has a full-time job and simply does not have time to grind for hours to get gold to buy gear or a mount or whatever, they either can never have the item or can buy the gold. It's their money and their gaming experience, and it's their problem if they buy gold and make it too easy.
"If the gold is coming from hacked accounts, from activities that directly hurt players and waste peoples' time, then I'm very strongly against it. Could I accept my Tundra Traveller's Mammoth if I knew the gold to buy it came from three hacked and destroyed accounts? Probably not. I don't want to ruin the game for myself in that way regardless, but I'd feel guilty if I did not know for certain that the gold had come from a reasonably legitimate source.
"In my opinion," Kerry continues, "the best solution to this problem has already been tried and tested by CCP with EVE Online: In-game money can be bought in exchange for gametime card codes. Because of this there is no method to get real world money out of the exchange, as the card to buy the gold still returns money to the owning company. This creates a form of free market, and player competition for a sale/purchase dictates the rates and creates a game-legal means of obtaining gold, thereby removing the need to buy gold on a site and risk a ban. It may not kill the gold selling outright, but I would certainly predict a notable decrease."
"I buy gold," admits Martin, with something of a shrug. "I have in the whole of my playing time spent somewhere in the region of GBP 500 on WOW gold. I probably spend GBP 50 to 100 a month at the moment, but that's dropping over time. There's only a finite amount of things you can buy, so the need for large amounts of gold are top-loaded with new content, and we've just had a massive content patch, so the cost is large."
For Martin, buying game gold allows him to secure slots in raids he wouldn't otherwise get. Gold itself didn't necessarily give him the epic items - but it could mean he was there on raids from more organised guilds and was there to collect, by pre-arrangement, an item when it dropped.