They won’t make you into a stockbroker or a market analyst, but videogames do a pretty decent job of teaching people some basic economics.

How well do you understand hyperinflation, or how supply and demand really works? If you’re a gamer, and especially if you’re an MMO player, then there’s a good chance that you have a better grasp of them then you might think. In Issue 295 of The Escapist, Adam Greenbrier looks at some of the things you can learn about money from games, as well as some of the things you can’t.

[U]ndoubtedly the best way to learn about economics through videogames these days is by following the markets in MMOs … people trading in these markets are working to make a profit on the real-life time and energy they’ve put into the game. They have a stake in things.

The heart of one such market is the Auction House in World of Warcraft, where players go to buy and sell any of the game’s thousands of items. There you can find not only items that are immediately usable, like weapons and armor, but also items that don’t have much utility on their own and instead serve as materials for creating other things. Crafting raw materials into usable items requires players to have special skills; likewise, gathering those raw materials requires its own set of special skills. That intersection of gatherers and creators in a place where they can determine their own prices creates a free market and a powerful, hands-on demonstration of the principle of supply and demand.

The concept of supply and demand is undoubtedly economics’ most well-known contribution to society and is a cornerstone of the field of microeconomics. It’s a term that a lot of people will recognize, but not everyone will be able to sketch out what it really means … Talk to anyone who has spent much time around the Auction House, however, and they’ll have an intuitive grasp of the idea.

Of course, games aren’t going to be much help in learning more advanced economic concepts and theories, but if you’re at that point, it’s probably better to invest in a textbook anyway. You can read more in Greenbrier’s article, “The Economics of Meat.”

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