Friday, August 10, 2007

Online economies eerily similar to real-life economies has an interesting piece today about cheating in video games. Their point is that it used to be all fun and innocent, but is now corrupt. I can see what they mean--in college, some friends and I spent hours upon hours playing the now-legendary Street Fighter II game on the Nintendo 64 (64 bit, woah!!!!), and that game became a lot more interesting once we learned how to program various "cheat" codes that allowed us to play the same characters against eachother, etc. (Of course, I still won all the games, and anyone who tells you otherwise has an agenda.) However, Slate contrasts this old-skool style of cheating with cheating in today's multi-player online games like World of Warcraft. Discussing a current scandal engulfing that universe, they write

Compare Contra with World of Warcraft, the 9-million member online game, where a hue and cry has ensued over the practice of gold farming, in which players, many of them Chinese, earn virtual gold through drudging labor (by killing the same monster over and over again, for example). The farmers then sell their gold to lazy players, many of them American, who use it to acquire coveted weapons and armor they don't have the time or dedication to earn the hard way.
Frightening how much that mirrors the real-world, eh? No word on whether the characters run by Americans throw down their weapons and become wealthy capitalists who claim that their five sons are best serving the World of Warcraft by riding around on the back of an orc, working to get their dad elected president.