Dungeons & Dollars Redux

Dungeons & Dollars Redux

"I've always been intrigued by games of chance, but I was never under any illusions about winning money in a casino. With the probability skewed so heavily toward the house, I knew I was essentially paying for the privilege to play games of chance.

"But WorldWinner.com would have you believe it's different. Unlike casino games, where you have to be lucky to win (for the most part), WorldWinner stresses that 'the outcome of each competition is determined by the player's skill.' I don't have the chops to make a six-figure salary at a poker table, but after years of the other form of gaming, I was sure I could beat just about anyone in the right game."

Kyle Orland takes a walk on the wild side as a "High Speed High Roller."

Dungeons & Dollars Redux

"After years of dominance by Japanese manufacturers, the arrival of Microsoft as a serious force in the games market has seen fanboy-ism take on a worrying new face - that of flag-waving, fist-pumping nationalism, an us-and-them mentality that is surely the exact opposite of what the international language of videogames should be inspiring.

"For American gamers who had happily bought Japanese consoles, the failure of the Xbox brand in Japan was a slap in the face. Is there really a racist element to the Xbox's lack of success? Or is it all down to software, and if it is, what is wrong with what the Xbox offers? Just what do the Japanese buy, and why?"

Gearoid Reidy chases the ghost of nationalism in Microsoft's quest for the "The Little, Red Yen."

Dungeons & Dollars Redux

"Onlookers, too, may sneer at these little games as 'not serious money.' But there are different ways to define 'serious' - for example, how much money a given developer personally earns as take-home pay. A rank-and-file animator or designer at Blizzard earns basically the same salary whether World of Warcraft has 2,000 subscribers, or 200,000, or 20 million. Revenue from a successful boutique MMOG would be a rounding error for Blizzard, but it all goes straight to the game's small development team. With a player base in the low five figures, a single boutique developer can, over the medium to long term, earn personal income that dwarfs the Blizzard employee's - and yours."

Allen Varney peeks under the hood at "little" games making a big splash.

Dungeons & Dollars Redux

"Jacobs was the only one there wearing a fuzzy suit. It was purple, made of velvet with a matching furry hat. He and his assistant, a statuesque black woman wearing a leopard-print leotard with shoulder pads, were standing in front of an HDTV showing off a virtual dance club complete with speakers pumping out house music. ... The people dancing to the music were doing so to the very same music we were yelling over in person. He fiddled a bit with a laptop behind a podium and zoomed out the camera, showing an avatar of himself, with the same hat and suit.
"'That's me,' he said. 'That's Neverdie.'"

Joe Blancato goes behind the scenes at Club Neverdie.

Dungeons & Dollars Redux

"He describes the arguments against the RMT industry as 'often very crude. ... They're along the lines of, "Hey, I worked my way up to level 60, and then daddy's little rich kid comes along and bought his way up to level 60, and that takes away the meaning of my achievement." ... How does it take away the meaning of your achievement? ... Everyone knows that MMOGs are tests of your ability to sit on your ass in a chair for a week, or whatever it takes to get to level 60. If someone has the will to do that, or the time to do that, more power to them. If somebody has the commitment to the game to plunk down $800 or $1,000, that's a kind of crazed obsession, too. I'm perfectly willing to honor either way of measuring [that].'"

Shannon Drake speaks to Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job And Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot.