Virtual Capitalism

Now as of late, I have been having a bit of writer’s block. So I thought I would take this opportunity to bring something different to my readers. Okay, I will admit it. I play video games. Yes I, father of eight and grandfather of 3 play video games.

Before you all ask why I am explaining this, please bear with me for a bit and allow me a bit of leeway in explaining the game that I play the most. Then I will tie it all in with the real world that we deal in; that is politics.

Well I play one online computer game. It is my stress reliever, my moment of zen if you will. I play a game called World of Warcraft, or WoW for short. If any of you remember Dungeons and Dragons, then you will have a good idea of what type of game WoW is. It is basically a 3D version of D&D brought to life. A “virtual reality” type, role playing game. I love it, I play it and I am not ashamed to admit it.

WoW is an MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. You are online when you play the game with thousands of other people sitting at their homes, in front of their computers also playing WoW. It is an interactive, social networking type of role playing game – and it can be highly addictive.

In a nutshell WoW is set on a fictitious planet called Azeroth. To play the game, you choose a type of character you want to play, the race you wish it to be and then the faction you wish it to be. There are two factions, or “sides” in WoW;

  • The Alliance, consisting of Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves, Dranei and Worgen
  • And The Horde, consisting of Orcs, Taurens, Trolls, Blood Elves, Undead and Goblins. There are also classes of characters, such as warriors, priests, druids, mages, warlocks, etc…

Now before you head completely spins off your body, let me give you an example. My best character is a Dwarf Warrior, but you could make a Gnome Mage or a Night Elf Druid, an Orc Warrior, an Undead Priest, etc… Each class has its function and they are designed to work with one another on missions, called quests or in dungeons, called instances. You can only talk and interact with other characters within your faction, Alliance or Horde. As I mentioned, the game has a very social aspect to it, in that you can chat with others that are online as well. You can collaborate or compete with them in game. As you play, your character progresses through higher and higher levels. You control your avatar or “toon” via a first person or third person view.

You can obtain better items for your toon, such as armor or weapons. You can get these by doing quests in the game or by actually purchasing them. The game has its own currency; Gold pieces, Silver pieces and Copper pieces. 100 Copper equals 1 Silver and 100 Silver equals 1 Gold. There is an economy in the game, so this is where I connect the game of Warcraft with reality.

I explain all this because Blizzard, the company that makes World of Warcraft has been very successful with it; and for good reason. To date they have over 12 million subscribers to the game. Subscribers pay a nominal monthly fee to be able to log onto the game and play. Blizzard long ago realized that in order to make the game play interesting or fun enough to keep people paying and playing, they had to set up an in game economy. It would be real easy for Blizz to just give each player the items they need to play the game, but after a very short time, the fun would wear off. Instead Blizz has set up WoW as a free market economy.

You see, in the real world – in a free market economy such as in the United States, if you want something, you go to a vendor that sells what you need or want and you purchase it. WoW is very similar in that if your toon needs a new item, say a weapon for instance; then you have a quite a few different options.

  • Through different professions your character can learn to make some items and gear.
  • You can find a vendor in the game that sells it and you can purchase it if you have the correct amount of currency. Vendors are NPCs (non playing characters) which are AI or artificial intelligence – in other words NPCs are computer generated characters that you can interact with in the game.
  • You can complete quests that offer gear as a reward for completing those quests. Or you can group with other players and complete instances (dungeons) and what you need might or might not “drop” when you kill a certain boss in those instances.
  • You might also approach other players via the trade function in the game and negotiate a price for the item you need, that is if they have it.
  • Lastly, you can go the auction house that is in game and bid on items there. Now this is where it gets interesting, because you can make vast amounts of in game “gold” by knowing what items are valuable or highly sought after and you can obtain or make those items and sell them on the auction house.

I find it very interesting that Blizzard chose the free market system to model their in game economy after. The sheer skill needed to obtain enough gold to purchase the high level items your toon needs is considerable.

In addition, a black market of gold sellers has cropped up. People who have mastered the skills necessary to harvest vast amounts of gold (referred to as gold farmers in the gaming community) actually sell in game gold for real world money. Just Google “WoW gold” and you will see what I am talking about.

Now what really blows me away is when I am in game and notice on the chat channels that people are complaining about “Obama bashers.” They defend him and say things like, “So what if he is socialist? What is so bad about socialism?” All the while they are competing in a free market economy. Understand that the players in the game, not Blizzard set the prices on the vast majority of all items. This means that the in game economy is elastic and suffers the same trials and tribulations of real world economies; inflation, supply and demand, etc…

If Blizzard tried to implement the policies that Obama is attempting to force upon the American public, then the number of subscribers would drop greatly. For, to have everything provided by a centralized authority would take away all the goals and accomplishments that make the game fun to play. An epic sword that has a low drop rate is held in high regard because it is so difficult to obtain. A player might run a certain instance dozens or even hundreds of times to get the item he or she is looking for. If Blizzard simply provided it to the players, where would the satisfaction be?

I submit that if socialism was truly better than capitalism, then Blizzard and other game makers would not set up free markets for the players of their games. Cheat codes on some games make them less appealing because of the same reason.

I think the Obama administration and his economic advisers need to purchase subscriptions to World of Warcraft and play for a few months before making any more changes in the United States’ monetary policy. I mean, hey what could it hurt? Besides it would be fun to be online and stumble upon a virtual president. I would know it would be him because of all the virtual secret service…