The Growing Player Driven Economy of Video Games.

In the digital age where video games are common and easily accessible by anyone with a phone, game console, tablet or computer gives rise to player communities that propagate themselves much like communities/societies in the real world. Video games that allow for mass multiplayer interconnectivity provide players with the reason ands means to begin trading, selling and creating their own player driven economy. Whether gambling on separate websites with aesthetic skins for virtual weapons or selling valuable building materials to construct virtual spaceships player driven economies may appear simple and bear no relation to the real world by uninitiated onlookers but in fact are intricate and mirror their real world counterparts.

Games that have a massive player base such as CSGO will eventually develope a player driven market for in game goods. These in game goods typically have a scale of rarity that makes some extremely common, an others one in a million. For CSGO these in game goods are largely weapon skins that have driven a player market primarily based on gambling. While these instances of online gambling leave lawmakers and those foreign to the gaming or online culture puzzed on what course of action should be taken, if any, they are examples of real world economies held in a different medium. The popularity of such games breeds demand for such items. Shiny, colorful weapon skins can serve as an indicator of gamer hierarchy or more importantly profit. CSGO intntionally backs there products with real money by creating a, “liquid market to convert each gun or knife back into cash, laying a bet in skins is essentially the same as betting with real money.” (J-Brustein & Eben Novy Williams) Other games with developers that purposely place policies and in game rules to prevent to the sell of virtual items for cash can still develope markets outside of the core game. If a game has a player base, there will be a few buyers looking for hard to obtain goodies; the value of these goods are placed by the availability and the personal value the player community holds to them.

An in game screenshot of the market information for a valuable element used for manufacturing.

CSGO was a great example of gamer economy with webs that spring from the game itself onto sister websites where the actual magic happens but there are a few games where the player economy is solely created, maintained and exploited in game. One such example, and one I personally have experience with, is an online game called Eve Online. Eve Online on the cover seams like a simple space game where players can control ships, engage in combat and other shenanigans with their friends. While this is definitely true to an extent Eve Online allows for the extraction of valuable resources (of which there are many) for use in industrial works. There are player faction where hundreds if not thousands come together and form corpirations with industrial, scientific and military branches all without any incentive from the game. They reep what they sow. Players can sell their ore, minerals, parts, ships and services on the Eve Market which shows sell and price history, demand and other suppliers. This spreadsheet style gaming offers what most other games do not. The ability to create a full fledge economy with its own market crashes and upswings. This link provided has a monthly report on the local economy of Eve Online: https://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/monthly-economic-report-january-2017/ . If you’ve glanced over it you’ll notice net income distributed over a number of different regions of space and at different years. Information regarding what specific economy is booming is also available. What is fascinating is that players constructed this economy solely by themselves wihtout any push by the developers. The game merely hhad what it had and players eventually started trading, selling in exchange for ISK (the in game currency) to fuel their own ventures. Eventually some players joined into groups and started influencing the politics and economy of the game itself.

Game art depicting the many in game battles that take place over resources like planets, solar systems and hardware.

Real currency or not, the hours put in by gamers given the right environment give birth to passionate communites with real societal application. These communities can breed their own economies that at times can branch out into the real world. While some fail to see their significance or fail to know a proper course of action it’s clear that something will have to be done as the large influx of money will create exploitation.

Citations:

Brustein, Joshua & Novy-Williams, Eben. 2016, April 20. VIRTUAL WEAPONS ARE TURNING TEEN GAMERS INTO SERIOUS GAMBLERS. Retrived from url: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-virtual-guns-counterstrike-gambling/

Quant, CCP. 2017, January 09. MONTHLY ECONOMIC REPORT — JANUARY 2017. Retrieved from url: https://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/monthly-economic-report-january-2017/

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