Far from being the harbingers of obesity, virginity, death, and destruction that many people (still) insist they are, video games have been shown to be beneficial in many surprising ways. We've documented this before, and we're about to do it again, since science continues to find ways that video games are helping the species become better, stronger, and faster (figuratively, anyway).
5You Can Learn Fascinating Things About the Economy from MMOs
You wouldn't think you could learn a lot about society just by watching a person play a video game (other than that some members of society just cannot play FPS games without continually jumping around like jackasses). But experts are finding that if you want to model economic theories, just find a massively multiplayer online game and follow the imaginary gold. Right now, there are economists who are actually being paid to study how the digital currency flows in the world of fantasy MMOs.
First of all, if you don't play these games, you have no idea how advanced the economies are -- it's not just, "Kill the monster, grab the gold he drops." There are banks and banking scandals -- a 2009 Eve Online bank collapsed when its shady owner made off with all of the bank's money, trading it for real-life cash and then disappearing into the darkness (aka deleting his account and clicking over to porn). There are even stock markets -- in 2007, an unregulated Second Life stock market experienced a rapid rise-and-crash that saw $145,000 in investments quickly reach $900,000, then drop by 71 percent just as fast.
"Crap, my furry porn town is hemorrhaging money to the straight-up beastiality village."
That's the sort of thing that is interesting to people like Eyjolfur Gudmundsson and Yanis Varoufakis, economists who have been hired by game companies CCP Games and Valve, respectively, to manage their games' economic models. They've since discovered that these games serve as the ultimate financial experiment, allowing experts to observe how markets fluctuate, survive, and thrive in circumstances that can't be duplicated in the real world.
After all, you can't just simulate economic theory on a computer and see how it goes -- real economies are made up of human beings, and it's pretty much impossible for a computer model to guess what they're going to do. And you can't just try shit in the real world to see what happens -- not even tiny little booger countries like Andorra would be cool about becoming an economical petri dish that may or not result in total depression. But in a gaming world, you have millions of players dealing with virtual currency and goods -- things that are totally real (to them) and cause them to make decisions accordingly. Players work for in-game "gold" (by killing monsters or crafting items), and, therefore, that gold represents their labor ... just like real money
Given, the cash drawer has to be super freakin' sturdy.
And experts say that researching all of this has uncovered several fascinating tidbits. For instance, MMO banks tend to operate on a full-reserve system, where 100 percent of the customers' money is kept in the bank at all times. This is opposed to the real world fractal-reserve system, where physical cash can be lent out willy-nilly whenever deemed necessary. It's pretty much an honor system economy (honorconomy?) that, according to Gudmundsson, "increases the burden on banks to be diligent and efficient." Shockingly, most virtual bankers stay on the up-and-up, and virtual money is trusted to be in safe hands.
And the libertarians out there will like reading about how, in all of these cases, the games' libertarian/anarchic financial models caused their economies to recover from crashes much more rapidly than in the real world (as did things like, say, the lack of a minimum wage). You can argue among yourselves what that means (after all, it's also legal to just totally murder people inside a video game, and stick your balls in their face), but it's good information either way.
Teflon codpiece sales just went through the roof.