Gaming - Economics

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The economics of virtual worlds

"As the average age of online gamers increases, many are finding themselves with less time to work their way up to higher levels, but more money in their pocket that allows them to buy a higher virtual status. On the Internet, real-world dollars can buy a virutal bazaar of items for sale that only exist as data files stored in a server run by a game company. Washington Post staff writer Mike Musgrove was online to discuss this new virtual economy. Musgrove explored the topic in an article on Saturday and narrated a photo gallery .The economics professor I talked to said its a $200 million per year., the biggest player here, says it is much higher and claim that their revenues will exceed the revenues of the games that give rise to these secondary markets." (

Negotiating corporate ownership in virtual worlds

"This paper explores the ways the commercialization of multiuser environments is posing particular challenges to user autonomy and authorship. With every broadening definitions of intellectual property rights the status of cultureal and symbolic artifacts as products of collaborative efforts becomes increasingly problematized. In the case of virtual environments - such as massive multiplayer online role-play games - where users develop identities, bodies (avartars) and communities the stakes are quite high. This anaylysis draws on serveral case studies to raise questions about the status of culure and authorship in these games." (from IleSansFil)

quote (same link - p228): Rather than taking gaming activity as my starting point, I analyze MMORPGs first as dynamic communities in which many users are living and embodying. Game play itself becomes one of the many activities users engage in and play is in turn made up of a complicated mix of embodied social and instrumental actions. Once these games are seen as an embodied social world that incorporates elements of play but extends beyond the narrow definition of game-space, a range of new issues then emerge around the status of both the culture of that world adn the autonomy of its inhabitants. While it is common (and easy) to dismiss spaces like E(very)Q(uest) as simply as a game, this kind of reduction overlooks the thornier problems that arise when culture, communities and commerce intersect."

Key Books to Read

Two New Books on the topic:

- Edward Castronova, a professor at Indiana University, has written a book on the economics of virtual worlds, called Synthetic Worlds. He has been called the "Adam Smith of EverQuest."

- Julian Dibbell has a more first-person account, a book in the works coming out in the spring, called Play Money. He took a year and supported himself by playing Ultima Online.

More Information

Sal Humphreys

List provided by Julian Kücklich:

Humphreys, S. (2004). Commodifying Culture - It's Not Just about the Virtual Sword. In M. Sicart & J. H. Smith (Eds.), Other Players Conference Proceedings. Copenhagen.

Humphreys, S. (2005a). Massively Multiplayer Online Games: Productive Players and Their Disruptions to Conventional Media Practices. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

Humphreys, S. (2005b). Productive Players: Online Computer Games’ Challenge to Conventional Media Forms. Journal of Communication, 2(1), 36-50.

Humphreys, S. (2005c). Productive users, intellectual property and governance: the challenges of computer games. Media and Arts Law Review, 10(4), 299-310.

Humphreys, S. (2006). “You’re in our world now” ™ Ownership and access in the proprietary community of an MMOG. In S. Van Der Graaf & Y. Washida (Eds.), Information Communication Technologies and Emerging Business Strategies (pp. 76-96). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.

Humphreys, S., Fitzgerald, B., Banks, J., & Suzor, N. (2005). Fan based production for computer games: User led innovation, the ‘drift of value’and the negotiation of intellectual property rights. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, 114, 16-29.