In real life, there are a vast number of people who strive to be the best and a lot of those people like to let everyone else know by dressing to impress. This translates almost seamlessly into online games where people will customize their character to stand out from the crowd and let others know who they are. While back in the olden days of Quake 3 Arena (1999) where the only way to stand out from the crowd was to perform very well within the game and to force people to keep an eye out from you, customization allows people to gain a sense of power before they have even had a moment to leave the spawn room and actually play the game.
Team Fortress 2 (2007) has arguably one of the most intense and expensive ways to present yourself. People easily become obsessed with making themselves become unique and stand out from the crowd. While the vast majority of players are more than content with obtaining basic hats and ties, a fair amount of players go much farther than that to let them stand out and become as unique as possible. Players will essentially gamble hundreds of dollars or outright buy specific hats for hundreds of dollars for rarer hats which are only a have a certain particle effect hovering over pre-existing hats. Some players will even spend more money on hats than what casual drug users will spend on recreational drugs, yet this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Recently golden weapons were introduced into the game, which has become a recent fad for hat addicts to hunt down and own for their very own. However one weapon is so rare that is sold for 5,500 USD (http://www.tf2outpost.com/trade/15971545). The only difference between this weapon and the common variant of it is that it is gold, the model is not unique nor does it give any advantage within game play; it is purely cosmetic. Further more players will not be using this weapon as much given that melee weapons are more often than not a novelty and used as a way to humiliate players as opposed to efficiently eliminate them with actual guns.
However this does speak volumes about the extent that people can go to stand out from a digital crowd. It does not matter how much disposable income this person may have, 5,500 USD is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on what is essentially polygons and pixels with no physical qualities. While this is the most extreme example of an expensive item by around 3,000 USD (which was also purchased by the same person), it does show the primal need to show off to people who you don’t know. But is this even necessary? Everyone is so caught up in themselves and how they appear to others that other people will just be a passing thought or merely just a target. Similar to that of designer sunglasses and shoes, regular people don’t care all that much and just want to get on with it.