Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Barter Kings

Often when I'm playing video games I'll have the TV on in the background. Stand-up comedy, preferably, because I can not pay attention for 10 minutes and I won't have any trouble picking it back up. Beyond that I'll keep an eye out for Mythbusters and then maybe a wacky police show like The Mentalist or Criminal Minds. A&E sometimes runs a Criminal Minds marathon, so it's in my rotation of channels to look at.

At one point on the weekend I'd left the tv on A&E while playing a game (probably League of Legends) and when I eventually looked up it was a show called Barter Kings. I watched a little bit, and got sucked in. They were running a marathon that weekend and I ended up just watching it for something like 8 hours. The show is about two guys who make trades for a living. In an episode they might do something like start out with some used scuba gear and end up with an airplane. Which they then sold for $20k. The internet seems pretty convinced that the show is mostly fake, but it's an interesting premise and the way they use jedi mind tricks on people to get trades down is awesome and makes me feel dirty.

It makes me think about the economies in Diablo II and Diablo III. The Barter Kings guys keep using a variation on convenience to convince people to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in value. They'll tell a fat guy who's fiance left him that he doesn't have any use at all for her $5000 diamond engagement ring, so he might as well trade it to them for a $2000 elliptical machine. He can get in shape and find a new woman, see! And realistically, if he wanted to do it himself, he'd have to sell it to a jeweller for more like $3500 or spend a lot of time tracking down someone who'd pay closer to the $5000 for it. And then he'd have to find a place to buy a top end elliptical machine. He probably comes out up a thousand dollars or two, but it would take a lot of time and effort. And for the people trading a $300 thing for a $600 thing it makes even more sense. They're providing a service by going around and doing these things. They have the knowledge to find items that the random dudes they trade with don't have. So the other people are making time and getting things they want, the Barter Kings are spending time but making money.

In Diablo II, that's how everything worked. Some people knew what stuff was valuable and how to track it down. Other people would get legendary items to drop and not know what to do with them. What is my sorceress going to do with a twinky bow? It would be nice if I could make it turn into a good sorceress weapon magically, but I couldn't. Possibly I could go to Sky or Byung and have them do it for me, because they were like the Barter Kings of Diablo II. But I was more likely to leave it sitting on an alt or vendor it for gambling money than try to find a trade myself.

In Diablo III the auction house made every single item into an easily exchanged commodity. Turn anything into cash, then turn the cash into whatever you want! Seems like it would fix my problem of getting a twinky bow dropping for my wizard. But in order to actually use the auction house properly I'd need to spend a lot of time learning the markets. On the plus side instead of just hoarding it myself or vendoring it for gambling money I'd probably just sell it for a quarter it's actual value and then buy something for twice what it's worth. With Blizzard taking a cut both ways.

It's almost like it doesn't matter if you're trading or using currency. Someone who puts in time and effort is going to profit and that profit is going to come from people who don't.

At any rate, the show is pretty entertaining. One of the two Barter Kings has Tourette's syndrome and I've found it interesting when they take little sidebars to talk about how it makes him do some 'weird' things like repeat the word Suzuki or snap his fingers. They also end up with going through some unique items, like in the episode I saw today...

Conga drums became a popcorn machine, which became an engine lift, which became a purebreed bulldog pup, which became a vintage tractor, which became a speedboat, which became $10000, which became a new air conditioning system for their store and $3000 cash to help keep the store running.

They traded for a puppy! And then they traded the puppy away for a working 60 year old tractor! Crazy!

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