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The economics of dancing

We\’e2\’80\’99re like a little hive mind here, in the happy mmogblogosphere. Somebody new shows up, we all stop by and compliment their taste in furniture, then all of a sudden we all go on a simultaneous tear. The reason behind this, of course, is that none of us has truly original thoughts, something painfully obvious to any MMG player.

So let\’e2\’80\’99s talk economically. I\’e2\’80\’99ll start with one of my first five-baggers. See, I don\’e2\’80\’99t know much about economic theory – just enough fringes picked up from history and political science. You know, the important stuff. \’e2\’80\’9cHitler took over Germany because the Weimar Republic printed lots of money and that was BAD.\’e2\’80\’9d So, if we want to stop Hitler from taking over World of Warcraft, we need to stop printing those damn quatloos. Ergo, to \’e2\’80\’9cfix the economy\’e2\’80\’9d in MMGs, set up a closed money supply! M1 for teh win, baby! I\’e2\’80\’99m sure you could find some ranting to that effect in the LtM archives. I\’e2\’80\’99m too embarassed to look. Because four years in the MMG industry has taught me that that was one of my more profoundly stupid ideas.

See, setting up a closed money supply – tracking the amount of money in circulation in an MMG, and indexing NPC prices for required commodities based on that amount – it would work. It would work really, really well. It would simulate the accumulation of wealth in the hands of 5-10% of the population. Much like, you know, real life. And a socialist revolution, while amusing, probably isn\’e2\’80\’99t going to happen in an MMG any time soon. Among other reasons, it would make life impossible for new players, short of pledging fealty to older players in exchange for a rusty short sword. While again this would be true to life (hellloooo middle ages!) it would not be fun. Unless you were the guy pimping for the sword.

As babylona (who, for all the protestations of not being an academic, thoroughly kicks any other academic\’e2\’80\’99s ass in terms of rational online economic analysis) states, the personal economy in an MMG is entirely seperate from any global MMG economy that exists. This is patently obvious to any MMG player and makes any actual economist\’e2\’80\’99s head explode. It\’e2\’80\’99s like saying that in the midst of a global depression, my stock portfolio is doing perfectly fine, thank you, as are all my friends. The reason for this is that we set up an economic Hero\’e2\’80\’99s Journey as part of the game\’e2\’80\’99s natural development.

No matter how depressed or inflated the state of the in-game economy is, chances are good that you can exist entirely apart from it. You won\’e2\’80\’99t be the fully optimized templated out avatar of uberosity that you could be if you purchased the best of everything on the player-run market, but you can exist. You can purchase the baseline crappy gear from NPCs that developers add specifically to allow low level players to exist apart from ther economy. As you progress, you can go into your own little dungeon (literally, in newer games, spawning your own copy thereof) and gather your own +7 crap. You don\’e2\’80\’99t need the player economy at all.

The more the game insulates players from the player economy, the more the active participants in the player economy (the merchants, crafters and sellers) complain. Their lifestyle is dependent on a steady flow of players. Player crafters in particular are dependent on a steady flow of new players, because new players are the only target market for the 80,000 panjarkastarkaskeddooowhowho chain mail coifs that they created on their path to mercantile glory. Eventually the high-end player market exists in its own space apart from the economy, where players offer rare items and items that would otherwise require tedious camping, because that rarity gives those item their own value apart from anything designated by the designers.

Anyway, just a few notes tossed off in haste, so I can keep up my rep in the mmogblogosphere as one of the kewl kids. Tune in next week when we all talk about the same thing once again!