I used to have a neighbor who spent at least $100 per month on his yard. He didn’t spend it on buying tools and new plants and soil. He spent it on workers to come and mow the lawn, weed the gardens and plant new flowering plants through the growing seasons. And throughout the year he and his family enjoyed barbeques and games in their yard.

I, however, love gardening. I loved getting out there in the dirt, watching my little seedlings grow from a tiny pair of leaves just poking through the soil, into beautiful, strong plants. Spending a Saturday morning digging and planting was fun for me. And I enjoyed having a nice yard as a setting for barbeques and games in my yard.

My neighbor and I had different modes for achieving the same end. And we both enjoyed and took pride in our nice yards in a similar fashion. True, he couldn’t necessarily name every plant he had growing in his yard, nor could he explain the different sunlight needs of gardenias versus caladium. But I didn’t have a family with whom I needed to spend time as he did. And he may not have received the same pleasure from working in the garden as I did – I can’t fault him for that.

Did his lack of knowledge of his garden, his lack of participation in making his yard beautiful lessen my own knowledge and participation? Only if I was trying to prove that I was better than my neighbor through my picture-perfect yard. But I wasn’t. I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t merely a means to an end, I liked the journey. For me, the input of labor was most appealing. For my neighbor, it was the input of money.

Where this gets tricky is if the person my neighbor hired and paid $100 per month to care for his lawn was his son. And if part of that deal was learning responsibility for duty and the value of a dollar, as well as yard care. And if the son then went behind his father’s back and hired someone else at $90 per month to care for the yard. Well, some might say, “start saving to send the kid to school for an MBA”; others look at the father, my neighbor, and wonder, “does this break his rules?”

It is a basic economic truth that in order participate in building, growing or improving something, a single entity must invest either labor or money. Yes, these will ultimately be converted into each other along the chain, but each individual in the process must choose. And this holds true for building a fine yard, a family, a game or a character in game. But when the choice is affected by, or changes, an economic chain progenitor’s vision, things get interesting.

This interesting place provides the backdrop for this week’s issue of The Escapist, “Dungeons and Dollars.” Our writers delve into the economic issues surrounding games, from Shannon Drake’s piece on Red Bedlam, developers of Roma Victor and embracers of virtual property sale, to Jason Della Rocca’s article discussing “friction costs” associated with poor production practices in development. Find these articles and more in this week’s issue of The Escapist.


-Julianne Greer

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