You 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.