Online economies reach across the divide

Man, I’ve been badly slack on posting here, apart from the link dumps. What can I say, I’ve been a busy person. But today I saw a little gem of a post about the economics of online games and I have half an hour to spare… 

Games like ‘World of Warcraft‘ have become very big very quickly, so much so that there is a burgeoning industry springing up to accumulate and trade virtual items and money from the game-worlds. Basically, virtual onjects already have a tangible value in real-world terms. There have been incidences of people sueing over the theft or misappropriation of these items, and there are sweat-shops in the far East full of people being paid a pittance to slave at the games for hours on end to rack up a good stock of items for trading by their employers.

So what, I hear you ask? So people are dumb enough to pay real money for the ‘Sword of Smiting Undead plus 4’, or whatever. It’s just a game, right? Well, no. Take for example Second Life, which is a Massively Multiplayer Online Environment that has gaming aspects, but is in no way a computer game in the usual sense of the term. It also has its own currency, Linden Dollars, which are also transferrable into the real world. People have set up businesses in Second Life, and are making enough (in some cases, more than enough) to do without a meatspace job entirely.

What this means is that there are new economic models springing up all over the place, little test-beds for new ways of doing the finance thing. Our economy defines our world in many ways – any major change of our global culture will take a change in our global economy to occur. So here we are seeing the first tentative steps toward developing alternatives to vanilla capitalism, other than on the pages of economics texts. Which baffle the hell out of me, by the way – I don’t pretend to understand it at all.

But also, it means that the unreal is becoming increasingly hard to distinguish from the real – how many hours a day does one have to spend in an online environment before it becomes more your home than meatspace ever was? As technology continues to develop on an exponential curve, it won’t be too long before these environments are as good as or better than reality for a lot of people. If anything is going to create an interest in people becoming software themselves, as posited by Moravec, Kurzweil and others, this could well be it. Not so much a ‘rapture of the nerds’, but an apotheosis of the gamers.

One thought on “Online economies reach across the divide”

  1. I think the most interesting rise of the MMORPG economy is the rise of gold farms. You can’t help but fel bad for 100s of chinese guys packed into a small room fighting the same monster over and over.

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