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July 6, 2005

Nutted by futurity
Posted by Patrick at 08:59 PM *

It’s official. As of today, science fiction is officially incapable of being remotely as weird as the present. Don’t even get me started on the future.

Sell is a recent graduate from Nanjing University. At 24, he’s a manager for Vpgamesell, a large SWG Chinese farming center that wholesales to popular resellers. He started off by selling gil in Final Fantasy XI, but his farming days are over. He’s moved up to manager status, helping with marketing and delivery. His many farmers work 10-hour rotations and are paid $121 a month. Sell gets $180 a month and works closer to 14 hours a day because he lives at the office, which is a fairly common practice at farming centers�if you lose your job, you also lose your home. Sell negotiates with resellers online to determine the amount of credits they promise to purchase from Vpgamesell. While chatting with me, he’s messaging five different people and making contracts for 5 million credits for each server per day.

Gothic novels. That’s the ticket. Or…maybe…Magic-realist cozies! Religious chick-lit! Woman-and-child-in-danger technothrillers! [Here the legible portion of the manuscript ends. Forensic analysis of the last scrawled lines is pending.]

Comments on Nutted by futurity:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 09:43 PM:

Also, there's this.

Those of you about to tell me how this has been going on for years, where have I been: Don't bother.

#2 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 09:48 PM:

I'm waiting for someone to start unionizing them in the game world.

#3 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 09:54 PM:

There are a few good papers kicking around the net on the nature of MMPORG economies and the implications of steady state vs. managed cash and goods replacements, etc. (Sorry - no URLs handy).

One of the little games I compulsively play in my head is "SF might have predicted A, but no one imagined B" - in this case, Multiplayer games, yes, but their intersections with real world economies, and their uses as economic experimental animals, not so much.

Online auctions over an electronic network - maybe. Use of online auction networks as the locus of impromptu performance art and political statements - not really. Ditto for the joke reviews on Amazon, I guess.

Mobile phones - sure. A thriving market in selling ringtones, maybe not.

We live in a world of Hello Kitty credit cards (http://www.dahsing.com.hk/dsb/rbd/html/cc_kitty_e.htm) and Hello Kitty vibrators (http://www.hellocat78.1hwy.com/).

This future thing really is odd.

As it happens, I finally got around to reading _Virtual Light_ and finished it a couple of hours ago. It reads nicely, but as if it were set in some alternate world which is like the '90s only slightly more so. Nothing goes off faster than cyberpunk!

#4 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 10:37 PM:

Funny, I just reread All Tomorrow's Parties. Same reaction. "Can we reset to 1993, please? I want my fuckin' eyephones!"

#5 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 10:43 PM:

David Moles wrote:

> Funny, I just reread All Tomorrow's Parties. Same reaction. "Can we reset to 1993, please? I want my fuckin' eyephones!"

And if I recall my contract properly, I was promised an aircar!

#6 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 11:13 PM:

Cory's ahead of you there Avram:
Anda's Game

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 11:22 PM:

Good gravy. Gamers of the world, unite!

I am a dinosaur. Point me to the tar pits.

#8 ::: Alec Austin ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 11:32 PM:

I'm still kind of shocked that the MMO companies themselves haven't gotten in on the action by producing character "packages" which customers who want to start strong out of the gate can buy.

I mean, Sony Online Entertainment has taken a widely-decried step in this direction by establishing their auction site, but it seems like chasing a piece of the aftermarket pie is weak sauce compared to the power to undercut the competition and fix prices for virtual goods. (Imagine the profit margins!)

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 11:55 PM:

Anda's Game is in fact a great argument against my precipitous claim that SF is played out. Bless Cory.

#10 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:15 AM:

thank ghu there aren't aircars; the way people drive, it would at least lead to an abatement of traffic... if not horrible carnage. (or maybe both.... Just about every day I witness some magnificent highway idiocy, like people coming from the inside lane out (across two lanes of traffic to get to an exit IN FRONT OF ME and I'm in the slow lane....)

I'm positive bad manners would get the best of them, the FAA cannot manage millions of 'flyers' at the same time. And the police are way overburdened as it is.

And I'm not sure that at least Americans would put up with a cyber-controller that forcibly managed space/distance factors. Or if such a control were made mandatory you'd have a wide range of illegal 'refitters' that could make it look like one was under the cyber control to the officials, but sidestepped it in reality.

#11 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:54 AM:

Paula Helm Murray wrote:

> thank ghu there aren't aircars; the way people drive, it would at least lead to an abatement of traffic... if not horrible carnage.

That's one bit of SF extrapolation I do like - Larry Niven in his pre-Pournelle incarnation wrote about a bar with flying antigravity booths in one of his Known Space stories. All the booths are permanently grounded because patrons would get drunk and play dodgem cars and pour drinks on each other.

Sure do miss the golden days of Larry Niven short stories - he was one of my "golden age" (early to mid teens) discoveries.

#12 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:56 AM:

You are aware what the Korean National Sport is, right?

#13 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:05 AM:

Some of you might find this amusing but my little brother financed his Mormon mission, or at least part of it, by selling items on an MMPORPG.

This might explain why some of the high level characters we run up against in WoW still can't play worth crap--they don't know all their own character's strategies or how to set up their control panels in a way that makes their play comfy.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:06 AM:

What Paula Said.

Every five years or so, some eager feature writer finds a press release about the latest iteration of the Moller air car, and produces a puff piece that begins something like:

"So, you're stuck in traffic. You are going to be late for your kid's birthday party. Imagine that with one pull of a lever you could rise above it all and streak home in your own flying car! It could happen sooner than you think."

I've seen enough of these cycles that I'm starting to get real cranky.

#15 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:08 AM:

Stefan Jones wrote:

> I've seen enough of these cycles that I'm starting to get real cranky.

When I was a kid I used to believe articles that said the zeppelin was making a comeback. Eventually I caught on, and it hurt.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:19 AM:

A variant on the "where have you been?" story Patrick wanted to avoid:

In the early '80s I played a massive multiplayer paper-mail game called "Star Master." You designed a race and planet, built ships, and colonized or conquored the galaxy.

In retrospect it was horribly run and designed, but I and several hundred others played it for years. My grades and social life suffered terribly. I was saved from complete trolldom by the fact that the game moved at postal service speeds.

After three years at community college, I worked my grades up to the point where I could go to a state school. I had tired of "Star Master's" inconsistencies and sloppy GMing and decided to quit.

I was delighted, however, to find someone who would pay to take over my position. I got several hundred for it, as I recall. But in a bitter twist, I learned that the new owner was only interested in it for plunder. His main race conquored all of his purchased race's planets and looted them into the stone age.

This, and other Play By Mail disappointments, really soured me in advance on the whole virtual world thing.

#17 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:40 AM:
I'm still kind of shocked that the MMO companies themselves haven't gotten in on the action by producing character "packages" which customers who want to start strong out of the gate can buy.

I mean, Sony Online Entertainment has taken a widely-decried step in this direction by establishing their auction site, but it seems like chasing a piece of the aftermarket pie is weak sauce compared to the power to undercut the competition and fix prices for virtual goods. (Imagine the profit margins!)


I imagine someone will try it eventually, but I suspect that the psychology of the thing will be problematic. Logically, it makes no difference if you pay another player $1000 for a 9th-level steam mage, or if you pay the same $1000 to the MMORPG company for the same character. You're out the same amount of money in each case, have the same character, and spent no time developing it yourself. However, in one case you know someone else spent hundreds of hours developing the character, and in the other someone clicked a few times to create a template, and I think this will make a big difference in how willing players are to spend money this way.


Obviously the company could sell packages well below their cost to develop in-game, which would presumably make players more likely to buy them, but I think that would be likely to do bad things to the economy of the game. If I can buy that steam mage for 20% of what it would cost me to play enough to develop the character myself, the only reason not to buy it is if developing the character myself is really fun - and if the low-level development were that much fun, the market wouldn't have developed to the point it has. I think. (I should probably mention I haven't played any MMORPGs myself.)


A few years ago I reviewed a venture capital proposal (for my father) from some guys who wanted to run a MMORPG which would be entirely financed by taking cuts of the sales of in-game objects between players. As there was zero research (or even reasoned argument) provided to support the notion that people would pay large amounts for in-game objects if the game cost nothing to play, it wasn't financed. (This was not the only problem with the proposal.)

#18 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:48 AM:
This, and other Play By Mail disappointments, really soured me in advance on the whole virtual world thing.

They weren't (and aren't) all like that. The only PBM game I ever played more than one turn of by mail (as opposed to in person) was Starweb, which is entirely computer-moderated (no inconsistencies) and each game of which only lasts 15-20 turns. Of course, it's a very different sort of game from Star Master and doesn't provide the same immersive experience (although I spent a lot of time and money on it back when I had to talk to the other players on the phone, of all things).

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:52 AM:

Good news: I've been active on multiplayer games for ten years.

Bad news: there's no real-life money involved.

Good news: you can get really hot net-sex.

Bad news: with demons.

#20 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:56 AM:

Does anyone else get the feeling that Norman Spinrad might be writing this part of the story?

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:59 AM:

Spotted through Intel Dump, this Canadian report suggests that some parts of the USA may be too ill-educated to even do MMORPG farming.

#22 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:20 AM:

What's even more entertaining is the story I heard about the twelve-year-old girl who got a copy of the Sims, turned virtual tricks for real-world cash, then got so many clients that she started farming them out to her friends for a percentage and set herself up as the madame of the Sims world's first bordello.

As I understand, it was shut down, but not before she'd amassed enough to pay for her real world college fund.

#23 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:28 AM:

"When I was a kid I used to believe articles that said the zeppelin was making a comeback. Eventually I caught on, and it hurt."

Actually, it is making a comeback. Sort of.

#24 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:58 AM:

But Patrick, where have you - oh, wait, I wasn't supposed to ask that. You've probably been doing important grown-up things, anyway. Things that get you invited to fancy doings in foreign climes.

The bots and dupes have been a problem for a while now, as they overload the game servers, but this is the first I've heard of organized efforts to set up player factories. Not that it's not a logical development, but still, I remain as astonished now as I was years ago that the market for characters and loot could possibly be so large, widespread and profitable as to justify the effort. Are there that many people who feel so entitled to a good time that they're willing to pay someone else to spend the time? That's like paying a coworker to take your coffee breaks for you, while you meantime mainline NoDoz.

Though some of the players I ran into online, I totally believe the Sims bordello story.

#25 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:33 AM:

Naw, I lost a couple of years worth of leisure time to EverQuest while working as a self-employed lawyer, so I fully understand the economics of buying farmed stuff (though I never did it.)

EQ at least offered a complex system of effort and reward. To get many of the spectacular high-level rewards, you needed to invest insane numbers of hours into preliminary efforts. Many of these efforts were achingly repetitive, to the point where all joy was lost -- but there was no other way to get the items or complete the necessary quests.

Except buying the effort. It would have made perfect economic sense to buy farmed items from unemployed teenagers. At going rates, many of them would have been making a few dollars an hour at most; I could have purchased weeks of in-game farming time for the money I could bill in a single extra Saturday spent in the office on client matters.

I didn't do it because of my nutty gaming philosophies. But I was always painfully aware of the economic good sense of the tactic I was eschewing.

One could argue that this is a symptom of bad game design.

#26 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:44 AM:

The Sims bordello story is, so far as I am aware, quite true. I'm not sure about the "12 years old" part, but the girl in question was certainly underage.

It didn't surprise me at all. I've been involved with MMORPGs and other online games (on both sides of the player/GM line) for almost 15 years now. Which is, scarily, half my life. The early MMORPGs I am familiar with looked rather wholesome on the surface, with heroes and heroines heroically smiting evil monsters for glory and gold. Under the surface they were sleazy, lurid, fetishy sex fests. Both online and offline.

I've never seen this side of the equation portrayed correctly in fiction. Oh, the egyption god worshipping culty folks were kind of odd too. No, I'm not kidding.

#27 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:46 AM:

Oh yes, and the "buying virtual stuff for money" that goes on today is nothin'. The largest transaction I heard rumor of was for something on the order of $25,000 for a single character. I can't personally attest to the truth of that, but it makes sense if you know the backstory.

#28 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:21 AM:

I don't, myself, believe the Sims story. Here's why: in Sims Online, the little animated people things had a very limited repertoire of movements they could make, and none of them looked much like sex. She could have put sexual sayings in her little Sim's speech balloon, but it's pretty hard to believe that anybody would pay real money to watcvh sexy sentences pop up in a cartoon balloon. Furthermore, the pay system would have had to be very awkward indeed.

It's not that I don't believe a kid would ever do such a thing, mind: it's that Sims doesn't have a way to do it. (I'm assuming Sims online because regular Sims, while it is capable of rendering sex through new animations , is not people-to-people interactive in the game -- the interaction between people happens outside the game, in the distribution of those new animations and objects, in the discussion that takes place in the community, etc.

People do sell freckles for download for the Sims, though. And lots of other cool stuff. And even more than that, people give those things away.

#30 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:31 AM:

MMO blog TerraNova picked up on this one, lots of interesting professional discussion from game designers and researchers.

RMT - Real Money Trade - is a perennial topic of heated discussion there, partly because it's a deliberate attempt to circumvent "what the designer intended" in the game. If you're interested in looking into it in more detail, this link should give a good overview of the industry's feelings,including discussions of how much truth there really is in the stories of Asian gold-farming sweatshops.

#31 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:26 AM:

Y'know, this sounds fairly close to the planned plot of my next-but-one SF novel. (About a bank robbery. Inside an MMORPG. Which causes Consequences, because the bank is getting ready to go public -- on the London stock exchange -- and the underwriters want to know how come its' trading arm inside the MMORPG got wiped out by Orcs.)

#32 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:59 AM:
I was delighted, however, to find someone who would pay to take over my position. I got several hundred for it, as I recall. But in a bitter twist, I learned that the new owner was only interested in it for plunder. His main race conquored all of his purchased race's planets and looted them into the stone age.

This, and other Play By Mail disappointments, really soured me in advance on the whole virtual world thing.

And thus the Cheney administration bustout is explained.

#33 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:08 AM:

My roommate must have been playing FFXI at least ten hours per day for the last 18 months which, apart from saving me from any bulging desire to ever play any MMORPG again, have taught me a lot about the politics and economy of the genre.

The farmers of the server, mainly chinese as far as I know, generates insane amount of cash flow and, by means, insane inflation no casual player can ever hope to compete with, except if he buys game money or items from farmers. Players can always try to loot the best items for themselves, but farmers will try to prevent any over faction from obtaining them, using any dirty tricks available (since player killing isn't allowed in FFXI, one of their usual trick is for one famer to lure as many monsters as he can toward the players, generally killing them, while allowing his team to claim the loot;bots and programs can be nasty by themselves, of course).
Retaliation is generally considred useless: whatever time you may cost a farmer, he'll lose far less than whatever time you invested in the prosses of prejudicing him. Which does not always prevent vain retalliation raids from angry players.

Trying to remedy to this problem, SquareEnix as created item that can only be looted, never sold.
Here enters the problem of factioning by countries. Some Top-Elite japanese players have the dellusion that every rarest loot belong to them, whether they need or not(problem is: they've become used to it by being the only looters for long, having been alone on the server for a whole year). Competition between coallitions of North Americans, generally allied with other smaller game community, say European, South American, some smaller Asian countries, and those Japanese players can go sour and escalate to full time war, each faction trying to loot as much as possible while preventing the other from doing so, sometimes even going as far as trying to prevent anyone from actually gaining anything.
All this, I fear, must add quite a lot to the already addictive nature of the game.

It also creates strange situations.
I remember that awful conversation with one known Chinese farmer asking North American players if he could party with them "just for fun" (i.e without asking his spoils from the game), all the insults he received as answer
Of course I can always understand them refusing, after all it might just have been a clever move to cover his track. But the scorn displayed couldn't but remind me of the condescending way some of the rich students of grandes-écoles here in France deals with poorer students of other schoold trying to socialize.


"Nothing goes off faster than cyberpunk!"
I couldn't agree more. I recently tried to have my litlle sister add Neuromancer to her stack of books to read. She found it boring. Re-reading it myself, I can understand why a kid who grew up on The Matrix and Shadowrun would find nothing thilling in the book. At least she'll know a bit of history of the cyberpunk genre I guess.

#34 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:21 AM:

This discussion reminds me of an article I read a few months back. The part that blew me away was a quote about economist Edward Castronova, who had studied the economy of EverQuest.

Then he performed one final analysis: The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia.

#35 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:34 AM:

I recently exposed my father, in quick succession, to Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition.

I should have expected this, but he found the former unsatisfying and the latter excellent.

Viva la Netpunk written by notable Cyberpunk authors!

#36 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:37 AM:

I think that trading in illusions is a great deal of commerce; consider the stock market. Just a new form, here.

#37 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:46 AM:

One of my friends has put a lot of hours into the dull parts of Everquest, and I find it bewildering. Maybe it's just that (some) people are like that, but here's an alternate theory--it's possible to become addicted to boredom.

Can't find the url, but I've seen a suggestion that conventional schooling encourages boredom addicion.

#38 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:53 AM:

I ascended a genocide-free extinctionist in NetHack once, which did no good at all to my hands, but was indeed a curiously soothing kind of boredom.

However, I haven't done it again; and the boring stuff was the middle and some of the end, not the beginning.

#39 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:20 AM:

If a player's real life is chaotic or stressful, playing the 'boring' parts of an online game may be just the ticket.

What I hadn't considered till now is that in a MMPORG, all players pretty much have to play within the same overall game world as everyone else. They can't create private iterations to keep out the social illiterates. This makes MMPORGs a much more attractive prospect for farmers; they really can take over.

#40 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:57 AM:

About the addictive nature of boredom:

I've always wondered about it, being myself addicted to some of the most tedious and repetitive tasks in video games.
I see it as a form of kata, actually. A way to focus the mind and body (well hands here) on something meaningless. As for actual kata, it's far too close from self-brainwashing to always feel comfortable.

The problem with MMORPGs is that the process is actually the same, exactly, only it has become so diluted as to be totally numbing.

#41 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:13 PM:

Um...

http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2005-02-16&res=l

This has been an ongoing problem for game developers... as noted it leads to spiraling inflation within the game. And yes, it croggles me that people can make a living by "earning" fake money and selling it.

(Oh, and just for fun and totally unrelated save for the strip:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php?date=2004-12-16

Enjoy.)

#42 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:19 PM:

OK, I confess ignorance. Though my husband's an active board gamer (mainly military strategy stuff plus deliberately silly sci-fi space adventures), he didn't know what MMO means, so I don't either. I do know that RPG doesn't refer to "rocket-propelled grenade," but gaming is still a foreign world to me -- and it sounds like it's getting stranger by the day.

P.S. Husband figures that the infamous 12-year-old girl is really a scruffy 40-something with too much time on his hands. Much like all those personae in online dating. (My corrected typo "onlie" seems quite appropriate.)

#43 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:29 PM:

MMO = massive multiplayer online

#44 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:29 PM:

From my observations, the gold/gil/credit farming saga is merely an escalating arms race for clever mice figuring out each iterative mousetrap.

Each of the more modern or well thought out MMOs are attempting to deal with the issue, but at the core of the problem is that people will always be willing to pay a premium to have something delivered to them on a golden platter. Especially with little or no ability to track duped items or common currency back to the exploiters/farmers.

Second Life is attempting (more or less) to go the direct route, Sony is trying the aftermarket pricing. With any of the systems other than direct payment to the creators, people will generally find a way to outsmart the creators.

Until items are utterly unique so they can be tracked for exploitation (oh the database load), this will probably remain the case.

I'm hoping for the eventual date when your virtual possessions have no impact on gameplay. Even then you'll probably end up with skill or class farmers who trade avatars after developing them over time. I'd at least argue that in a system like that the person would have to have actually worked at something, instead of running macros. YMMV.

Gah. Yeah, it's pretty much a lost race for any system where you cannot uniquely track back to a specific individual. With the 'gamecards' out these days, there really is no way to avoid the problem.

Then again the ability to 'filter out' those individuals who are farming from your collective world would also probably work. If you don't notice they have the best gold, skill, class combo, they really aren't impacting your play. That's why instantiation has become favored for so many game types. You can effectively remove to 'tool/farmer/twit' portion of the equation.

However, instantiation really drives the heavy socializers nuts, because they lose the ability to connect with all the other people.

Hmm, yeah, without unique item identifiers for world components and unique user tracking you're always going to have the farmer/exploiter issue. Of course that kills the whole anonymous Internet for people. Not to mention the database and processing and latency that those unique objects would create (imagine each Vorpal Sword +1 having to be a unique object).

Perhaps in 5-10 years as the processing and communication speeds catch up with the issue. Pardon the ramble, Game geek frustrated by the current focus of 'phat lewt' and Skinner-box game architectures in the space at the moment.

Oh, for Niven or Melissa Scott's game architectures. :>


#45 ::: Tayefeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:36 PM:

MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game

Personally, I'm fond of text-based, small user-base online roleplaying games. But I also spend an inordinate amount of time playing bridge with actual cards and reading dead-tree versions of books, so what do I know, right?

#46 ::: theresa ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:18 PM:

I highly recommend Terra Nova if you're interested in a more academic look at the game industry. There's a lot of discussion on player rights, economies, development, etc. Edward Castronova is just one of the many fine contributors.

And to go back to a topic, the new(ish) game Guild Wars has two play modes - RPG and PVP (player vs. player). With RPG, you start out at level 1, with no skills, and play through the game to work your way up. If you choose PVP, you create a level 20 character (that's the top level), but with limited skills. Any skills you unlock by playing your RPG character are also available to your PVP character.

To explain the difference a bit more, the end game in EverQuest, or Star Wars Galaxies, is that there isn't one. There are increasingly more difficult quests to embark on, that often need a cohesive team of 50 or more players in order to be successful.

In Guild Wars, the end-game is guild-based gladitorial style combat for rank. Until the expansion packs are released, anyway.

#47 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Regarding looting-only items: A lot of the epic level items in WoW are available only by doing a mass raid with about 40 other players, killing a particular monster and getting the loot wot drops from that monster. While you usually get a lot of blue lvl items on the way there, you're probably NOT getting enough epic items to cover everybody in the group AND the items bind either on pickup or on-equip. Granted, you solve that problem by having farmers work in raid groups, but that's a lot of farming focused on a handful of items as opposed to being spread out elsewhere in the game.

I understand the farming aspect of WoW much less than I understood it for EverCrack. EQ has a much longer levelling period and was much less rewards driven than WoW seems to be. In WoW, I can get through my first ten levels in a day or so, and then take another week to hit level 20, AND THEN stuff begins to take longer and longer to get. (I got my mount in late April, having been playing on and off since the beta ended. I decided to stop levelling so I could play BattleGround with lower level friends.) In EverCrack, you sweat and sweat and sweat, and maybe get to level four or five in the same amount of time it takes a WoW player to get over that first hump, and feel like a midlevel player. So I can see why EQ players sometimes feel like they've got to buy stuff. But a casual WoW player can make it to the highest ranks in a matter of a few months. My best friend who has never played a MMORPG before I recommended WoW is high lvl rogue nearing 60. (She surpassed me while I was busy moving.)

Anyway, I gotta run. I wanted to comment more (especially as I was wondering what Patrick and Teresa might make of WoW) but I'm supposed to be at the Palace of Fine Arts by noon. Ciao.

#48 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:49 PM:

This article has some more about the inner workings of the Everquest economy.

Call them virtual counterfeiters. To hunt them down, Sony has a team, separate from the NOC, that combs game logs for suspicious activity. "We have ways of observing our world and what goes on," says Chris Kramer, Sony Online Entertainment's public relations director. "We keep checks on the economy, so when we find that something happened to create a spike in the economy, we go back and track it immediately."

Hackers who are caught are expelled. However, because it's a virtual world, they can create new characters and return.


I smell a job opportunity for all these economists writing their dissertations about virtual economies: become regulators. You'd think that if Everquest has such a gigantic virtual economy that it would also have the SEC, the Fed, counterfeiting investigators... and that it could pay at least a few people real money to fill such positions. It might even be "real-world" experience suitable for future positions in regulating the real economy. I see that Sony is doing some of this already, but maybe it hasn't gone far enough.

The real world serializes all of its bills; Could you run servers to track every piece of gold? Legal tender is only about 4% of the money in the economy. Failing that, at least set up banks to create credit accounts, obviating the need to carry around massive piles of cash. When a piece of gold gets paid to a game merchant, put it back in the system. Would that be electronic electronic money?

"We're looking at transaction rates that rival the Visas and Wall Street brokerage houses," says Adam Joffe, chief technology officer for Sony Online Entertainment [see photo-illustration, "En Garde"]. "Thousands and thousands of transactions per second." And it takes epic levels of processing power to keep it all going.

Wild.

#49 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:04 PM:

The real world serializes all of its bills; Could you run servers to track every piece of gold?

There is no limit to the amount of gold in an online world. None. No worries about being crucified on a cross of gold here.

If there were a trackable limit, I'd guess it would take a farming cluster or a cloned bot no more than a week to amass so much of it as to make the remainder useless for trade. Transaction between players would still go on using barter, but any interaction that requires gold (auto-healing in temples, frex) would fall apart.

#50 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:13 PM:

56 cents per hour for playing MMORPGs? Chicken feed! I know someone who runs a stable of online poker players; he pays $15 per hour to people who play in single-table no-limit hold'em tournaments on sites like PartyPoker and PokerStars on his bankroll.

I'd be really surprised if there weren't entrepeneurs running similar stables out of sweatshops in China.

#51 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:41 PM:

One of the things I am simultaneously most proud and ashamed of is that I co-designed and wrote an online roleplaying game that was compelling enough to make one of my friends fail out of school. That was fifteen years ago, but I still dream of bringing it back someday.

#52 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:31 PM:

Is there (in sf or the real world) a system that offers game rewards for real but dull work? I think that if you set it up properly, you could get people to pay for the privilege of doing your data entry.

#53 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:02 PM:

Is there (in sf or the real world) a system that offers game rewards for real but dull work? I think that if you set it up properly, you could get people to pay for the privilege of doing your data entry.

Look, I'm playing this new MMORPG version of Sim City with my friends and it kicks ass...

Thanks for the Terra Nova link, a real gold mine.

#54 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:02 PM:

Gah. I can't find it, but I saw a gadget a few years ago that linked an exercise bike to a videogame console's parental control lock. People were awarded for exercising on the bike by having their game-time alotment upped by the number of minutes spent on the bike.

Does that count?

#55 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:11 PM:

I don't think an exercise bike/game point set-up counts. It doesn't make me want to go "Bwah-hah-hah!" unless there's excess electricity I (not the player) can sell to the grid.

#56 ::: theresa ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:06 PM:

There are *created* limits to the amount of money that exists in virtual worlds. Usually the amount of money in a game explodes because players found a bug and are exploiting it, or simply because game designers aren't economists. I think it's a great idea (whomever said it) to have an "Alan Greenspan" on staff.

The problem in most MMOs is that once the hardcore players reach maximum level, they don't have much to spend money on, but they have access to more gold than lower level characters. They're really left with two choices: create other characters and 'twink' them (give them high level armor & weapons, items characters of that level couldn't afford), or they hoard their money to buy things, like rare drops.

This drives prices up, as in-game auctioneers will sell to the highest bidder, and high level characters have - and have access to - the most gold.

I was playing EverQuest when Shadows of Luclin came out (2002-ish) - SOE introduced horses for the players that cost insane amount of money, simply to try to reduce the amount of money that existed in the game. You'll see all sorts of things like this - especially in the games where players can 'own' land and build houses or castles, and things for the castles..

Another way around the money hoarding issue is having items/armor/weapons degrade over time (or forcing characters to buy food & water to survive). This makes players either pay to "repair" their items, or purchase new ones every few months.

#57 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Amazing . . . you try to create a realm of High Fantasy where players can enact feats of derring-do, and you end up worrying about sweatshops and bean-counters.

Anyone want to go down to the Quarry and play Cops n' Robbers? I have a new cap gun, and my counsin Harry said he'd bring his laptop to calculate realistic cash levels in Chicago's banks for any week in from 1920 to 1936.

#58 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Do any games try to solve inflation by making it feasible but adequately difficult for characters to create wonderful things to sell to each other? I realize there's a risk (a certainty?) of unbalancing the game if some of those wonderful things are weapons......

The best would be if players could charge for running adventures for each other.

Stephan, that's a good point. I blame Tolkien--you allow history and geography into your fantasy, and the next thing you know, you've got economics.

#59 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:41 PM:

I don't play MMORPGs but I do have some friends who do. There is an element of "crafting" that can come into play, where player-characters can have some sort of skill to create game items (weapons and healing balms most commonly) which they can exchange amongst each other.

Star Wars Galaxies was notorious for having an entire player character skill set for Cantina Dancers... they could bump-n-grind for players in order to gain experience, and players could recover from fatigue by watching the hootchie-cootchie. (George "Pimp Daddy" Lucas, anyone?)

And, of course, there's always virtual real estate speculation as a side item. Heh.

#60 ::: theresa ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:54 PM:

Crafting skills exist in most modern MMOs, although the time + cost/reward ratio is usually very, very low. It also takes a very Type 1 mindset, as 'crafting' usually consist of clicking on items in a particular order, thousands and thousands of times.

As far as player-created content, Second Life takes the cake. Almost everything is player-contributed. I believe the Sims took a similar route, where players could create and upload content for others to use..

Neverwinter Nights, while not a true MMO, was created in part so players could create custom campaigns and content, and has a very active online community build around that content.

I haven't play SWG myself, but my boyfriend does. I really like that it's a "not everyone is a hero" game - there are dancers, merchants, healers, pilots, stormtroopers, and farmers.. Players can create an income and be a vital part of the game by doing just about anything.

#61 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Problem of crafting in most, if not all, MMORPGs I've seen is that the primary materials become subjects to inflation and speculation as much as the produced items. Sometimes even more when your crafting level depends on the number of item you've created.

I've just had that horrible vision of Elite turned MMORPG...
I'm going to have nightmares.

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:09 PM:

The online game with the most subscribers (40 million?) is NeoPets. It has a multilevel-marketing set up, with a hierarchy of players, with the higher-ups getting commissions in game money from their downlines. My son was REAL good at this. There is also a level to the game which the company running it knows not. This involves international hacking, identity theft, and theft of the funny money and doodads buyable thereby. Offline emails, anonymized, negotiate between shifting coalitions of the top-level players. My son also suspects that the Stock market game (NeoPets includes a portfolion of games) is in fact a simulation of some basket of commodities, currencies, and securities, so that the millions of players are simulating trading strategies for someone wealthy in The Real World. Go ahead, prove him wrong. Some Economics professors have said that they would run things that way, for the glorious free distributed computation. Experimental Economics. Do you know if you're a lab rat?

#63 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:19 PM:

Amazing . . . you try to create a realm of High Fantasy where players can enact feats of derring-do, and you end up worrying about sweatshops and bean-counters.

It seems to me that one of the important shifts in fantasy fiction over the last few decades is that it is now not only possible to have the Dead Souls thinking seriously about launching a couple of Magic Missiles at the Rightful King, it would no longer create much of a stir among the audience.

It's interesting, for a couple of values of the word, to see how economic actions affect the structure of "home" games. The collectible card game made it possible to get better at the game by spending more money on it, in an environment of artificial scarcity. One can get an edge at some sports by buying better equipment (the edge is usually small compared to differences in skill, though the golfball people don't want you to think that), but if you want carbon-fiber golf clubs you just buy them, you don't have to buy five hundred clubs in sealed packages to assemble a set o' sticks.

The MMOs borrowed their "work hard and get goodies" paradigm from face-to-face games, and don't seem to have thought much about the fact that a home campaign is a closed world, with an economy that can be tuned by fiat, and in which social rules count for as much as written ones. It didn't take long at all for exploitive gameplay to kick in, and while there have been some ingenious technical patches, the overall problem is one of deliberate transgressive behavior. (Some people insist that they are simply "choosing" to play the game as thugs and bandits, which, ugly as it may be, doesn't break the fantasy paradigm.) It's the old question of "who are the police in the anarchist utopia?" with the combined difficulties that a)the unrestricted right of reprisal is the shortcut to chaos, and b)the players, who are paying regular fees to the operators, generally do not think of themselves as being in an anarchy, but a sort of theocracy where the invisible gods will step in if anybody Goes Too Far. (Face-to-face players often behave very transgressively toward the society around them, but the dead NPC extras just go home at the end of the night and come back next time you have fun storming the castle.)

It's entirely possible that the massive online game could be a new social interociter, turbo-encabulating its way one smoot at a time towards the Big Rock Candy Server. And it could be that the developers will start thinking about what kind of society they want inside their box, rather than soldering in some code every time there's a crisis (though I'd bet more heavily on the interociter). Or the technical solution might be to have lots of small servers running open-source "universe code," housing a few hundred avatars whose players have all agreed to certain social norms -- which could be anything; there could easily be Iznogoudia, for people who just wanted to grab a +3 chainsaw and go batsh*it on each other's loot piles. This would not be the same thing as knowing there were tens of thousands of folks out there, but it might be a more workable answer to actually playing games.

"HAL, I'd like to ask why the pod bay is entirely filled with enchanted armor and gold-plated ugly-bashers."
"Just a moment . . . just a moment . . . Dave, Frank wants you to join him in the reactor access. He says he's discovered a new lower level on the Discovery, and it's filled with sides of beef and casks of ale."
"That's tempting, HAL."
"You'd better hurry, Dave. You won't need your helmet."

#64 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Even in Cops n' Robbers, there's an economy.

Hey, trade ya my sheriff's star for a roll of caps!

#65 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:53 PM:

Damn, this sort of thread makes me happy. Now I want to go create an automatic game playing macro program. All that AI work, unwasted! Create robots that earn money! They work even cheaper than Romanians!

Or gee, there's always lobsters!

Sure, I miss my moon shuttle and air car and I could really use the robot maid, but I still like this century.

#66 ::: Sharon Mock ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:32 AM:

Hey, I loved SWG's entertainer class. (I gather it has since been gutted.) It was social, it was fun, it was different. When I played dancing had not devolved entirely into lap-dancing, though it was already headed in that direction. But then, players will always destroy the things that seem the coolest in concept. Especially, sadly, anything that smacks of girl cooties.

My character did not dance; she played music. She was a terrifying, skull-faced, pointy-headed Zabrak. It took me quite a while to notice that only a few people realized she was female.

I do believe SWG was the first game where you could successfully create a drag king. In every other game, there's no hiding the female features. And I swear I did it by accident!

Great stuff in that game. Way too much work required to establish and sustain your character. I played for a couple of months, went to Worldcon, and couldn't muster up the energy to get back into the swing of things again.

#67 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:31 AM:

Crafting skills exist in most modern MMOs, although the time + cost/reward ratio is usually very, very low. It also takes a very Type 1 mindset, as 'crafting' usually consist of clicking on items in a particular order, thousands and thousands of times.

Well, there's Puzzle Pirates, which I play on occasion.

In this game, there are a number of commodities, some of which players can make by playing the generally amusing puzzles. For example, one distills rum by moving little molecule spheres around to get columns that are all clear. (And lest one wonder how a virtual person benefits from rum, if you don't have any on your ship when you go out viking, your crew's performance is significantly degraded.)

So making stuff isn't just tacked on to the game; it's an integral part. The only way to generate rum, alchemical potions, or ships is for players to work at it.

Though they have not yet come through on their promises to implement puzzles for weaving or metalworking.

#68 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:44 AM:

Oh, and addendum: in Puzzle Pirates, things wear out. If you don't buy new clothes every once in a while, you end up with rags (though you are never naked, of course); if you don't buy a new sword, you eventually have a stick.

So you need money for things.

#69 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 10:52 AM:

MMORPGs arguably introduced a new way to create wealth in the Real World, by embedding labor in Cyberspace. This might be one way to increase global GNP by a factor of 10, if only we could persuade, say, the average person in China that online objects have intrinsic value. Cyberspace in lower-polluting, uses little real estate, and has other advantages -- speed, maintainability, backups. Property rights in Cyberspace have, at best, an incomplete set of legal precedents. But this may be expected to change. What is the value of a pseudonym used in posting to Making Light? Creating a brand name is a classic example of an intangible but sometimne very valuable property. The top brand names -- Coca Cola, Disney, etc. -- are worth in excess of $10,000,000,000 [10 billion]. Just as there is roughly $10,000,000,000,000 [10 trillion] in electronic cash flow per day, it is clear that more and more of the world's economy is shifting from purely real-world to a maix of real and cyber. How far can that trend continue? I don't have the answers, but wanted to raise the question, here, in this way. Of course, theoriews of creating something out of nothing led to the dot com boom and bust, which bust wiped out my retirement portfolio. But the BIG software boom is still ahead. And somehwere lurks the Bill Gates of mRNA.

#70 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 06:18 PM:

It didn't take long at all for exploitive gameplay to kick in, and while there have been some ingenious technical patches, the overall problem is one of deliberate transgressive behavior.

This is also an ongoing blight in all online play, alas. (And in much forum behaviour, too.) The problem is so elegantly described on Penny Arcade yet again (not entirely safe for work, due to harsh language) but the solution still eludes us gamers.

Any new ideas on how to make the online games more self-constraining would be greatly appreciated.

#71 ::: theresa ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 06:31 PM:

Carrie -
I love Puzzle Pirates. I've been playing it off and on since the beta. It's a phenomenal example of a casual MMO, and it has a very well thought out economy. I especially love the new(er) doubloon ocean. What a great experiment!

JVP -
This is, in part, what I see Google accomplishing in the next few decades: unifying online and offline content in a cohesive environment. Just look at Google Earth - and all of the new hacks for Google Maps.

With Google now creating a service similar-but-different to PayPal, one can only imagine what their next few steps will be.

#72 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 11:26 PM:

Steve --

Self-constraint is simple in principle; you have a weighted vote system, so that someone who significantly irritates many other players finds everything harder to do.

If your weighting system is smart enough to count diversity of originating IP and diversity of activity, and if the votes are in some game sense expensive, things would start to balance back out.

#73 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 09:49 AM:

Graydon, right now there is a voting system in place for Xbox Live... the actual operating parameters are kept secret to avoid players gaming the system, but it certainly is a weighted voting system based on "gamertag" diversity and diversity of feedback generated. (I suspect it's inversely related to diversity to limit the damage of "grief" voting.) Since the mechanics are secret, I don't know if the the act of voting is expensive in game terms, though it's likely that feedback votes count for less from those who give out the most.

Alas, the problem is that players aren't using it properly... and then complaining to the administrators when it doesn't work. There may be problems with implementation on a large scale, too; the system may be saturating with half a million unique users per day logging anywhere from 3-5 million sessions of up to 16 players each.

Is this an implementation problem? Or is there something else going on?

#74 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 02:22 PM:

The current issue (July 2005, Volume 26, Number 7) of Discover Magazine has a nice article by Steven Johnson: "Your Brain on Video Games." Recent cognitive research suggests that, although playing The Sims, Tactical Ops, or even Grand Theft Auto may be addictive, it may also make you a better thinker. See also:

James Paul McGee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

John Beck and Michael Wade, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever, Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

#75 ::: perianwyr ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 02:30 PM:

I'm still kind of shocked that the MMO companies themselves haven't gotten in on the action by producing character "packages" which customers who want to start strong out of the gate can buy.

Now that you mention it....

UO's advanced characters are only so good, but an experienced powergamer can turn a bought character into a full-powered one in a few hours. The tamer is most notable as a good deal- taming is highly irritating, and a couple pieces of cheap jewelry can turn the purchased tamer into a full-fledged one.

#76 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 09:20 AM:

David Bilek tries to revive my lost youth by saying:

The early MMORPGs I am familiar with looked rather wholesome on the surface, with heroes and heroines heroically smiting evil monsters for glory and gold. Under the surface they were sleazy, lurid, fetishy sex fests. Both online and offline.

I've never seen this side of the equation portrayed correctly in fiction.

What about The Saturn Game?

#77 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 01:30 PM:

"Under the surface they were sleazy, lurid, fetishy sex fests."

Picture the confusion of workers in an Asian game sweatshop fighting monsters to get their hands on a coveted "Rod of Vibrations," the rare "Black Rubber Bodice of Ravishment," or the legendary, almost priceless "Digby's Mighty Tower Salve."

"What are these things for Hyung?"

"It is best not to ask. Just think of the bonus money and help me kill this orc."

#78 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 03:38 PM:

To continue the note of titillation in connection with MMORPGs -- not to mention the topic title -- the following is shamelessly gacked from Esther Dyson by way of COMP.RISKS today:

Subject: Life gets messy online/offline in China

http://www.pacificepoch.com/newsstories?id=33425_0_5_0_M
Game Accounts Take Center Stage In Divorce
Legend of Mir 2, Online Game, SNDA, Shanda
Posted by:

#79 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 03:40 PM:

[ Dunno what went wrong there! Must try again ...]

To continue the note of titillation here, the following is shamelessly gacked from Esther Dyson by way of COMP.RISKS:

Subject: Life gets messy online/offline in China

http://www.pacificepoch.com/newsstories?id=33425_0_5_0_M
Game Accounts Take Center Stage In Divorce
Legend of Mir 2, Online Game, SNDA, Shanda
Posted by http://www.PacificEpoch.com/members/profile_view_ind.php?id=164
Zhou Zhengqian on Jul 01 | 17:07

A divorce in Chongqing has turned ugly when both parties want their joint online game accounts, Chongqing Business Post reports. Mr. Wang from Chongqing and Ms. Ye from Huibei met last September on Shanda's (Nasdaq: SNDA) online game Legend of Mir 2. Wang saved Ye's character from being killed by another player. The couple married at the end of October but decided to get a divorce in June. During their marriage, the couple jointly
played over ten Mir 2 accounts, attaining level 40 to 50 status for all of them. The characters and virtual items are estimated to be worth 40,000 to
50,000 Yuan. Wang said that he wants to keep the accounts and virtual items and is willing to give their joint apartment to Ye. However, Ye wants to split the apartment and game items equally.

#80 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 06:59 PM:

Okay, if characters and virtual properties have real-world value, then what IS the economic theory, and the impact of enrepreneurial and community activities?

Panel: Cyberspace Economics: New Opportunities and Challenges.
Amy Borgstrom: Civic Networking For Community Economic Development: Acenet’s Approach

"...For the last five years, ACEnet has experimented with the use of civic networks to enable community-based microenterprise and small business assistance programs to increase their effectiveness. We currently view civic networking and the use of Internet-based applications as a key amplifier of our community-based economic development efforts."

"Our current approach consists of three complementary strategies: we use civic networking to link microfirms with high value markets; to create networks of firms and service providers within communities; and to enable community-based microenterprise and small business assistance programs around the country to work collaboratively and learn from one anothers' experience. This approach is based on the assumption that the most lucrative markets require a level of sophistication that can best be achieved if community groups and firms in low-income communities both locally and throughout the country find new ways to work together."

What's the Right Economics for Cyberspace, by Michael H. Goldhaber
"In April's First Monday , I argued that the growth of cyberspace heralds a new kind of economy, and with it, a new kind of economics, both based on the characteristics not of material, mass-produced goods, nor of money, nor of information, but of attention. In a reply, one of the editors of this journal, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, argued against the very possibility that the 'law of supply and demand' and other basic laws of classical economics might no longer hold. He took me to task for making this claim, and tried to show it was wrong in the case of attention."

"In this rejoinder to Ghosh, I show that the assumptions of classical and neo classical economics are inappropriate for the attention economics that the orginal article introduced. Attention cannot meaningfully be quantified, even approximately, thought the total available is still limited. Ghosh's main points are shown to depend on ignoring this key fact. I also offer further evidence and argument that standard economics fails for the net. "

Of course, plenty of bestselling authors and respectable members of the Press just don't get it. For instance, almost at random:

Weakonomics

"... [Frakonomics author] Levitt’s calculating individual is the ideal subject of contemporary neoliberal economic reform, in particular the expansion of the market into all possible areas of life. Blair’s 'stakeholder society' and Bush’s 'ownership society' are based in just such a fictitious understanding of the individual as Levitt offers...."

#82 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 12:52 PM:

David Bilek's assertion re: "sleazy, lurid, fetishy sex fests" almost makes me want to get a WoW account.

Almost.

#83 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:51 PM:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but under U.S. law, one can be arrested for Child Porn for involvement (possession?) of Hentai (loosely, anime porn, some Science Fiction or Fantasy). This is so even though no actual human children are involved.

The argument by antiporn activists includes the hypothesis that watching porn tips some men into committing rape. I'm just wondering, does that slippery slope lead to the belief that watching hentai or playing the "hot coffee" modification to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas lead to men raping toons?

And will there be 3rd world sweatshops of people running anime lapdancers? Better settle this now, before haptics takes over, right?

Rockstar, Media Group on San Andreas Scandal
More groups wake up to smell the "hot coffee."
by David Adams

July 12, 2005 - The "brew"-haha over the so-called "hot coffee" modification to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas continues, with a media watchdog group now issuing a warning to parents about the game -- and developer Rockstar finally commenting on the allegedly unlockable pornographic content....

#84 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 03:30 PM:

New Cat-vacuuming Measurements, and, in very specific circumstances, plot can become separated from character and progress independently through the Web, Department:

Letting The Spin Loose

"Two properties of an electron - its spin and its charge - are generally thought to be inseparable, intrinsic characteristics, no more given to sudden changes or going off on their own than say, the fur on a cat or the paint on a bicycle."

"But a team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science has recently demonstrated conclusively that, in very specific circumstances, spin can become separated from charge and progress independently down a wire. Their findings appeared in a recent issue of Science...."

#85 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 10:32 AM:

10 Ways MMORPGs Will Change the Future

"There are more people playing World of Warcraft in the U.S. today (two million) than had indoor plumbing 100 years ago. There are more people with blogs today (31 million) than had internet connections ten years ago."

"Truly, this morning's science fiction is this afternoon's science not-fiction...."

"Thomas Edison said it best: 'Change happens with ball-flattening speed....'"

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