August 23, 2005

The Virtual World Catches Up To The Real World

While posting the previous entry, I found this great post about the real world value of online gaming territory/stuff:

"[I]n an academic paper analyzing the circulation of goods in Sony Online's 430,000-player EverQuest…an economist calculated a full set of macro- and microeconomic statistics for the game's fantasy world, Norrath. Taking the prices fetched in the $5 million EverQuest auctions market as a reflection of in-game property values, professor Edward Castronova of Cal State Fullerton multiplied those dollar amounts by the rate at which players pile up imaginary inventory and came up with an average hourly income of $3.42. He calculated Norrath's GNP at $135 million -- or about the same, per capita, as Bulgaria's. In other words, assuming roughly proportional numbers for other major online role-playing games… the workforce toiling away in these imaginary worlds generates more than $300 million in real wealth each year."
Even more alarming, however, is the fact that this virtual economy has begun to employ exploitative methods more commonly found in the "real world." In a recent U.S. court case, a member of the online gaming world of EverQuest sued Sony Online for its newly enacted ban of virtual object trading. During the course of the case it came to light that the plaintiff had been running a series of Mexican sweatshops in which workers were paid to play these online role-playing games and to virtually farm, forage, and otherwise produce virtual objects that were then sold for real U.S. currency on E-bay and other online trading houses. And this is hardly an isolated incident. According to an article by Tim Guest , in mainland China "people are employed to play the games [from] nine to five, scoring virtual booty which IGE [Internet Gaming Entertainment] can sell on at a profit to Western buyers." And a California-based company known as was employing Romanians to play MMORPGs for ten hours a day, earning $5.40 a day, or the equivalent of $0.54 an hour.

This is really cool. (Not, I mean, the virtual-sweatshops, but the fact that A)people pay money for non-real online things and B)people do research about it. I need a new job. Hey, do you think I could publish a paper seeing if online "states" act like real world states? Or look for Realism, Liberalism, or Constructivism? Hmmmm, it might be a really good test of systemic constructivism, actually...)

(PS - I attempted originally just to put this up as a comment on the previous post of mine, but Movable Type rejected it for "questionable content". I don't see any, but I got sick of fighting with the program. Anyone else had any problems with the comments?

Posted by baltar at August 23, 2005 12:59 PM | TrackBack | Posted to


Yep, the questionable content thing is going off a lot today.

Posted by: Armand at August 23, 2005 01:25 PM | PERMALINK

As to IR and games, if you could make the ISQ - when you turn to your article - do the sound from Age of Empires when you construct a wonder, you'd have lots of fans.

Posted by: binky at August 23, 2005 01:29 PM | PERMALINK
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