Monday, August 14, 2006

Making money in video games - ethical?

Is it ethical to make money in online video games? That is by spending video game time earning gold pieces or other game valuables and currency through patient monster slaughtering and skill/trade acquisition (skinning slain beasts for pelts). The gold can later be converted to physical world currencies at game trading sites like MarkeeDragon or eBay or by trading with other players.

Anachronistic economic imperative persists
Despite general resource abundance and continually increasing efficiency of matter usage, there is a diminished but still present economic imperative in the physical world; it is necessary to earn or have some degree of money to provide for survival needs. Given the economic imperative, the rational being will find the most expedient means of meeting this requirement and would certainly consider video game income generation as an option. If one can make the same or more money in less time in a video game, why not do it! And many are, from MMORPG gamers to Second Life metaverse merchants.

Is video game playing a potential career?
Some might dismiss video gaming for income as a dull routine of repetitive tasks, hmm...which sounds exactly like...most physical world jobs. Gaming has many benefits including allowing one to set one's own hours, providing a clear means of status and progression up the hierarchy and the ability to choose the degree of partnership with others. Again, why not cover expense demands via gaming and pursue other projects and interests with the rest of the time saved by not having a regular job.

By parallel, stock market traders have been denounced as parasitical for not making real and tangible products but living derivatively from the efforts of others. In reality, investors provide liquidity and take risk, without which financial markets would not exist. Video game income earners are the same; they could also be accused of being parasitical but in reality are providing the liquidity which makes virtual markets work and in addition are facilitating the transition and advancement of humans and intelligence to the machine substrate.

A large class of humans is growing that is comfortable with a variety of physical world and virtual world activities for a wide variety of purposes ranging from social to creative to income generating. Video gaming skills and knowledge often translate back to physical world activities too, who doesn't list their WoW Lvl 60 Mage 200 person raid-leading skills on their resume?

There is the usual tired argument that what if everyone wanted to make money in video games, who would make the "real" physical world stuff? Well, not everyone has become financial traders, so presumably not everyone would seek to earn their only income in video games, also with the likely increases in robotics and molecular manufacturing revolutions in materials, the world of stuff will continue to occupy fewer and fewer people.

Future of Transactions: Virtual Affinity Groups
There are already many virtual markets, including financial, prediction, eBay, P2P lending, MMORPG and metaverse worlds to name a few, and the type and nature of virtual markets will continue to grow. The Internet is awash with social liquidity that will likely be directed into Virtual Affinity Groups that self-assemble for the purpose of economic, political, etc. transactions.


tokyocrunch said...

Indeed, if buyers and sellers are acting voluntarily, and with no direct violation of other players' (or non-players') rights, then it passes for ethical behavior in my (admittedly libertarian) book.

But, as the goods being traded are binary in nature, it seems counterfeit ("replicated"), virus-laden, and hacked loot would be of particular concern to parties fronting real-world shekels.

Consider also this recent example.