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Game Theories: Are these virtual worlds the best place to study the real one?
May 17, 2004 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Game Theories: Are these virtual worlds the best place to study the real one? The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia. (by Clive Thompson)
posted by hoder (11 comments total)

 
Wow, that's a marathon read, but it's very good. How can we Mefites cash in?
posted by crazy finger at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2004


wealth *= 10; // get the president on the phone.
posted by jon_kill at 8:19 AM on May 17, 2004


"their avatars appear as tiny, inch-tall characters striding across a Tolkienesque land."

Did someone get their Ultima Online mixed up with their Everquest again? I hate to get all nitpicky about video games, but this shows that maybe their research wasn't so involved. Either way, I respect Castronova's work, I spent a few months working on my own half-baked MMOG economic theories and got burnt out, but I still manage to check in with Terra Nova periodically.
posted by patgas at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2004


It seems to me that Clive is the one getting things mixed up. As any EverQuest player can tell you, we, I mean they, can't own houses.

The article scratches the surface. Try Googling any game and an economic term (I prefer "EverQuest mudflation", personally) and you'll come up with something worth reading. With new, quality players in the MMOG market this year, it's going to be VERY interesting to see the models to which old and new players gravitate and to what degree economic systems are a factor.

Anyway, The Norrathian Scrolls is an interesting place to visit if you also are interested in sociological aspects of a virtual world.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2004


Are they the best place to study real-world dynamics? I don't know. On the one hand, one of my frustrations with economics and game theory in general is that I see little dialogue between and game theory on the one hand and cognitive and social psychology on the other hand. This leads to lots of analysis about the loosing economics of gift giving that ignores how humans are rationalizing animals rather than rational animals. (The possible exception to this might be special cases like the economics of gambling, in which both our inability to evaluate risks coupled with herd behavior keep gambling operations running.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:32 AM on May 17, 2004


Whoops, forgot the other hand.

The other hand is that these MMORPGs can be great testbeds for experimenting in that crossover area between economics and psychology.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:33 AM on May 17, 2004


Ah, I probably could have been clearer in my previous statement. I wasn't implying that Castronova has things mixed up, I've been following his work for a long time so I know he knows the word on the streets. I was pointing the finger squarely at Mr. Thompson.
posted by patgas at 10:37 AM on May 17, 2004


Yes, it's hard to take this article seriously when it makes such numerous and gross errors about its subject (Everquest) right off the bat. In fact, when I encountered the article the other day, I quit reading it at this point.
posted by rushmc at 12:01 PM on May 17, 2004


It's still a fascinating phenomenon, when a virtual world has an actual economic presence in the real world that rivals many actual real nations. I find that to be completely mind-blowing.

Think about it: there is a guy, making a SIX-FIGURE INCOME, from buying and selling completely virtual constructs that have ZERO real existence - yet are valuable to people in the same way their physical possessions and products are. SIX FIGURES. I don't make six figures!

(I suppose one could say that stockbrokers and commodities traders do sort of the same thing, but there are real products attached to that... well, maybe except for a lot of the old dot-coms...)

Don't be so nit-picky about the author confusing EQ and UO and whatever else... think about the deeper implications. It's wild stuff, man. Never would have believed this sort of thing could happen.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:58 PM on May 17, 2004


...I find that to be completely mind-blowing.

Think about it: there is a guy, making a SIX-FIGURE INCOME, from buying and selling completely virtual constructs that have ZERO real existence - yet are valuable to people in the same way their physical possessions and products are...


What about insurance? Talk about mind-blowing.
posted by jaronson at 4:29 PM on May 17, 2004


I guess that's the thing, zoogleplex...it doesn't strike me as at all odd. More people make a living from bits than from atoms these days (in the U.S., anyway); it seems a smallish step toward virtual compensation.
posted by rushmc at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2004


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