Over the past few weeks I learned that videogames and U.S. financial institutions have much in common. Both seem to exist on a continuum whose opposing poles are complete fantasy and fiscal reality. And ironically, although videogames started at one end of this continuum and our financial system the other, they have recently crossed paths in a strange role reversal.
It hit me when, in reviewing one of this week’s pieces, I suddenly understood the point of killing a man for stealing a virtual sword. That is to say, unlike credit derivatives or risky assets, I can understand the worth of a virtual sword. Now I’m not going to proclaim videogames are immune to the sort of speculative bubbles that plague real-world financial systems (I’m looking at you Entropia Universe), but rather, given the current situation, our virtual worlds are far more valuable than I originally thought. In a strange way it gives me great hope to know that if a financial institution can generate billions upon billions of dollars based on fictional value, so too should a videogame be able to fuel economies based on a virtual object’s real value.
Yet there is reluctance by the mainstream media to give serious consideration to the mad dash towards the monetization of virtual goods and services. Stories of gold farming, in-game property sales and virtual theft are all viewed with a kind of sniggering condescension, as if the whole enterprise is the province of con artists and fools. The stories about con artists and their fools were certainly there, just not in the place our news sources were looking.
If there is one thing we should take away from the whole debacle, it’s that The Orc Killer of Glowing Azure Skies – that sword you paid $400 dollars for – is worth every penny. It kills orcs quickly, and it glows as well, which is far more than Lehman Brothers or AIG’s vapid portfolios ever did.
This note is FDIC insured,