This Week's Reading: A Reaction
I want to talk briefly about the "country" metaphor for MMORPGs, in which games like EverQuest and WoW are seen as countries, and their "economies" viewed as analogous to those of actual countries. The metaphor goes unquestioned, in both the Clive Thompson article and the excerpt from the article entitled "Economic Petri Dish." EverQuest is a country, its "citizens" generate revenue, we need people like Alan Greenspan to regulate these economies, etc.
It's obvious that the people who play these games experience them as countries ("I live in Norrath but I travel outside of it regularly"). But I'm curious as to why outside observers are so anxious to attribute country-hood to them. I don't think these same observers would make similar attributions for other games (even if it could be shown that playing those games "generates wealth"). No one, for example, would talk about the GDP of golf, or claim that Online Poker is the Nth Richest Country in the world.
It's true that the relationship between real-world resources and in-game resources is more transparent in these latter examples (winners of golf tournaments get cold cash, for example, and not GolfBucks). But the system seems pretty much the same to me. Real world resources—like cash and time—get traded for in-game resources, like clubs, chips, and studded leather armor.
So I guess I'm left with two questions. (a) Why do players of EverQuest, WoW, There.com, etc. experience those games as "countries"? What gives an interactive experience place-hood? (b) Do games like EverQuest and WoW functionally differ from other games (from bridge to professional basketball) when it comes to their impact on the real-world economy?