Friday, December 9, 2011

Memewar: "Investing in Gold," Thorblood the Shaman

This is one of the most amusing articles in the two issues of Memewar that I read. It's a completely serious look about economics in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft. Specifically, it's about gold farming--when a character dies, they drop items that they've collected. Surviving characters can then gather up these items, "sell" them for gold, and then the real-life people playing those characters can sell that virtual gold for real money. Why would anyone want to do this? The more gold you've got, the more stuff you can buy, which can increase your power and protection. As I understand it.

Another way to acquire gold is to hack another player's account. When that player reports the hack to the company that makes WoW, the company restores the account without removing the stolen gold--because how are they honestly going to track it down? The result is incredible inflation.

It's amazing the extent to which an online game has come to immitate real life. Perhaps, in large part, this is because it can be life for some people. It's all fine and good to scoff at the geeks and nerds who play WoW...but if we aren't actually playing ourselves, well, then there's Facebook and Tumblr and goodness knows what else eating up our life. There may not necessarily be an economy on these other sites, but there are certainly social rules, etc. We're replicating life online, which must be fascinating to those social scientists watching us interact. It just stinks that so many people, as a result, struggle to maintain their lives offline.

As for the article itself, it's long but well-written and engaging. I never felt bored and was amazed how quickly I got through an article on economics, even fantasy economics. I would have liked to have seen the writer explore more of the real-world implications for the existance of an online economy. The closest he got was mentioning gold farming sweatships in China--I kid you not--but he dropped them in favor of pursuing the fantasy economics angle. I understand this may be in large part due to the need to limit his scope. Maybe if Memewar ever did a money-themed issue, Thorblood the Shaman could do a follow-up report.

--Sarah Lawrence

No comments: