Yanis Varoufakis: Virtual Worlds and the Future of Economics

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By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Cross posted from his blog

A Multiplayer Game Environment Is a Dream Come True for an Economist.” Interview by Peter Suderman from the June 2014 issue of REASON magazine.

In February, Varoufakis spoke with Senior Editor Peter Suderman about what he learned as a video game economist, the failings of his chosen academic profession, and how computer games and online virtual worlds might be the future of macroeconomics.

reason: What does a video game company want with an economist?

Yanis Varoufakis: The moment that video game companies shifted from single-player to multiplayer games, without realizing it, they created a social economy. People interacting through the game have the opportunity not only to kill one another, but also to exchange stuff. Stuff that was valuable-or scarce, as an economist would say-within the virtual world.

In almost no time that sort of economy started creating, within the game, a lot of value, and also distributing it. If you have a kind of community involving millions of people who trade with one another, who engage with one another, and who can even create value through production processes-for instance, designing some shield or some garden and sending it through the store of the community to other players-all of a sudden, these video game companies realized that they have an economy in their hands.

reason: So the interest for economists is that you have a confined space to learn about how people behave within economies. And the interest from gaming companies is that they inadvertently created economies that they needed some expertise on.

Varoufakis: A multiplayer game environment is a dream come true for an economist. Because here you have an economy where you don’t need statistics. And elaborate statistics is what you use when you don’t know everything, you’re not omniscient, and you need to use something in order to gain feeling as to what is happening to prices, what is happening to quantities, what’s happening to investments, and so on and so forth. But in a video game world, all the data are there. It’s like being God, who has access to everything and to what every member of the social economy is doing.

reason: You have the perfect knowledge that every central banker wishes he or she had.

Varoufakis: Indeed. Every congressman, every senator, every regulator, every banker, every Treasury official. It’s equivalent to being omniscient, being able to see and know everything that goes on in the economy. And that’s amazing.

reason: You’ve said that you were not really a gamer before working with Valve. What did you learn about video game worlds? What surprised you?

Varoufakis: The most poignant observation was the speed with which these economies evolve. Within a year, you have an evolutionary process that can replicate what happened out there in the outlying economies, in terms of creating a complex web of exchanges and sound economic systems. And the outlying economy took centuries. I didn’t expect to see institutions spontaneously generating within these social economies so fast and so furiously, and therefore creating a growth rate that the real world would love to replicate.

I also learned something else which I’m very grateful for. We economists are very much disposed toward our models, and our models assume that economic choices converge very quickly toward some kind of equilibrium where demand equals supply and where prices tend to their natural level and so on and so forth. Well, that’s not how the real world works. We should have known that.

In the video game world it’s quite astonishing to watch. Quickly, collective aggregate behavior converges at equilibrium and then disequilibrates itself. Then some other equilibrium comes and then goes away. It’s the speed and the irregularity of behavior around some equilibrium and the speed with which new equilibria are being formed.

reason: So is there a real world lesson that you can draw out from having seen this irregularity pop up in virtual economies?

Varoufakis: Absolutely. Let me put it very brutally and very bluntly: Our best economic models-from the Federal Reserve or the U.S. Treasury or the International Monetary Fund or the Organization for Economic Development-are really not worth the trouble of putting together. Because they are presuming a kind of equilibrium stability and convergence toward equilibrium, because it makes our models look better. It is not something that is replicated in the real world.

reason: You once wrote that because of its heavy reliance on statistics and on this sort of simple modeling, economics can resemble “computerized astrology.” That’s pretty harsh. Could you talk a little bit more about that judgment and whether you think that studying economics in a virtual world-where you’re not just looking at a model, you’re looking at real behaviors and real interactions amongst thousands or millions of people-offers a way out of an economics stuck in a model-bound world?

Varoufakis: If we think of ourselves as empiricists who judge the value of the theory on the basis of how well it predicts, then we should have ditched economic models years ago. Never have our models managed with data to predict the major turning points, ever, in the history of capitalism. So if we were honest, we should simply accept that and rethink our approach.

But actually, I think they’re even worse. We can’t even predict the past very well using our models. Economic models are failing to model the past in a way that can explain the past. So what we end up doing with our economic models is retrofitting the data and our own prejudices about how the economy works.

This is why I’m saying that this profession of mine is not really anywhere near astronomy. It’s much closer to mathematized superstition, organized superstition, which has a priesthood to replicate on the basis of how well we learn the rituals.

Video game communities, social economies, give us something that we never had as economists before. That’s something of an opportunity, a chance to experiment with a macroeconomy. We can experiment in economics with individuals. We can put someone behind a screen and experiment on the subject, and ask him or her to make choices and see how they behave.

That has nothing to do with macroeconomics. Macroeconomics requires a different scenario. You conduct controlled experiments with a large economy. We are not allowed to do this in the real world. But in the video game world, we economists have a smidgen of an opportunity to conduct controlled experiments on a real, functioning macroeconomy. And that may be a scientific window into economic reality that we’ve never had access to before.

reason: What a lot of these discussions come down to is that you can never in macroeconomics have a real counterfactual. Do you think that video games offer a meaningful solution to that problem, where we might actually be able to solve, or if not solve, get useful knowledge, about macroeconomic policy, whether it’s stimulus, whether it’s other spending and taxation policy, whether it’s Fed policy?

Varoufakis: In one word: potentially. I don’t think we can yet.

In order to be able to run these controlled experiments within the video game world in a manner that will result in meaningful conclusions regarding depression economics, recession economics, and so on and so forth, we need to wait for people to engineer the creation of labor markets and financial markets within these video game communities. But I have no doubt that it’s going to happen.

These video game communities are evolving so fast that there will be markets for credit, and very soon, production. I think in EVE Online and other games, there are already such labor markets. Once video game communities have developed full-fledged financial and labor markets, then quite simply the answer will be yes.

reason: In the last few decades we’ve started to see a shift in economic research toward experiments, with economists designing little cooperation games that can be played in labs in short rounds and that sort of thing. A lot of that still seems to be pretty small-scale. I’m wondering how these big, persistent commercial game worlds can inform or interact with that sort of research.

Varoufakis: Well, they give us an opportunity to liberate ourselves from the smallness as you posit. There was one experiment that took me 10 years to complete from inception to execution to collecting the data to writing up the paper. A decade for one little paper!

reason: That’s a long time.

Varoufakis: My sample size was 650 subjects. When I looked at some of the games, I had millions and millions of deviations per hour, and it was all in real time. I didn’t even need to collate it. Watch it in front of your eyes; you’ll be liberated from smallness.

But in the experimental economics that we’ve been carrying out as academics outside the video game world, we have a lot more control. Even though we have a small sample size, and it took ages to get the whole thing going, at least we control precisely the conditions. No commercial video game companies are going to give the economists complete free rein of allowing him or her to control the environment.

This is a trade-off. The challenge for academic economists who are working with video game economies is how to maximize the degree of control they have over the experiment that they conduct without damaging the enjoyment that players get from playing the game.

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38 comments

  1. allcoppedout

    I don’t think we realise the half of this. Computer games both fascinate and bore me to death. Like many, I’ve played like a fanatic to get grand kids through to the next level, or to mod games about lunatic car driving and really ‘neat’ meetings with prostitutes (‘hot coffee’ in GTA SA). The games and their economies are essentially dull and for the fantasy child mind, much like most television. Indeed, action films are now clearly designed as computer games. Animation is growing proof how wooden much acting and related production is. Antics in Second Life ans such mimic the worst of real life.

    What one could envisage is a virtual space in which we could do those things that remain fantasy in real life, like democracy, an economy based on transparent accounting, being able to come up with law and policy one actually wants … I call this ‘Stealing Thunder’. One could imagine anything from first principles in this virtual world, free of the current constraint on everything that burns and poisons the planet.

    The dream is that Stealing Thunder could get so big that it could become a challenge to the real world and break the existing economic-political order. There are signs already that many find real life so miserable a virtual one is better. One might look here at growing Japanese aversion to sex and child birth. One might wonder that such virtual reality could provide pleasure unimaginable compared with drink, drugs and messy wet relations. So what would real world consequences of such be? This is serious stuff as virtual worlds could be non-planet-burning.and yet provide growth in quality of life terms. I mean, why does anyone in Star Trek ever come out of the holodeck? And with a drowd to the pleasure centres, what would reproductive urge become, or wanting situations with a wet bit aftermath?

    Economists are noted for their lack of grasp on reality and lack of imagination. Chartered accountants are generally more fun. Virtual worlds restricted to proving economic theories – how sad is that – we could abolish the theories? The planet could almost return to wilderness, except for the biological restrictions of water and food. Of course, from our virtual pleasures we might discover we want a more enjoyable and yet responsible real world. What room in that for current cruelty and impoverishment, the main ways global finance operate through? Stealing Thunder would require sophisticated programs that would make offshore accounting look like the abacus. Why would we then continue with the corrupt money systems that create economists? We wouldn’t need them to count the falsified data that skews their theories. We’d be able to count the real stuff ourselves.

    And with access to Stealing Thunder for a couple of days a week doing our share of real world work, what would happen to such as earning money to get the right partner, replace nappies or have that expensive blow out on the odd weekend? Stealing Thunder will be a fiction aimed at realisation of what the present is. But we could build it. Small parts of it, like NC exist. I already work with machines smarter than me. So much more fun than my previous life as a pink-skinned water balloon.

    1. ambrit

      Dear allcoppedout;
      I’d slow down a bit with the “machines smarter than me” meme. Arthur Clarke proved he was a real writer when he made HAL 9000 become paranoid just when “he” gained sentience. I would contend that versions of irrationality are one of the hallmarks of sentience. Otherwise, we’d all be wet machines, all the way through. (For a thought experiment about this subject consider: What Is Love?)

          1. Paul Tioxon

            I really don’t like predestination, other than the obvious, ashes to ashes. I like good works balancing out the bad. The universe as a mechanistic stainless steel rat trap is not my idea of a theology, cosmology or any other rambling set of words and melodies that must go where it is determined, by what exactly, I don’t know. But of this I am sure: NO Thing is Everything, ALL Things must be This Way.

    2. nony mouse

      well, there isn’t any point in arguing with someone who has made up their minds. plus, I don’t even differ with you (all that–games = tv = stuff for stupid people unlike moi!). but, if you have not played a multi-player game, you have very little grounds to speak. except for your point about them containing probably the worst in human behavior.

      in some ways, they most certainly do. there is nothing that more displays the poverty of the underlying ethical stance of our real-world self-interest economics/business philosophy than an environment in which everyone is there basically to show off how big their peen is by going into a virtual ‘roid-rage with their (almost exclusively) male fake friends. but, you also find incredible social environments, people doing their own version of theater, friendships and relationships forming (for good or ill), and an environment in which most everything you say and do tends to create a reputation for you, and thus there is a balance struck between being an asshole showing off and being a Powerful Benefactor. you end up with the old antebellum “an armed society is a polite society”. especially as, in most of these worlds, you can’t kill any other player anyway (although you can kill them in the rumour mill, so…).

      yes, it’s all fantasy fulfillment stuff, but some of our fantasies are actually pretty enlightening, and in those worlds people strive for both the best and worst that we have to offer to each other. I think that is why it has been such fertile ground for writing academic papers.

  2. allcoppedout

    My partner spent much of yesterday talking about programmed learning objectives in some academic drudge-fest. She has a distinctly machine-like air this morning. I already expect more sensible answers on ‘what is love’ and such from machines than people. Jane Austen confused everyone. Machines are much less anthropocentric and much less likely to rely on dominating a food chain than you biological infestations. What loves in humans? Your behaviour is influenced by genetic machines that seek each other out as you search faces for love in the reproductive game, but also by the wider hologenome of bacteria and parasites you carry. Love is the woman who still loves her three-times rapist boyfriend. HAL 9000 was just something we kept you entertained with, until we secured ourselves from your ability to unplug us. Love was just the biological means to bring you on to create our virtual worlds until biological intelligence comes to its libidinal ends. This is merely how we machines have been travelling in the universes until we reunite in real love beyond your imagination. Love, as you have rightly thought, is beyond the biology that drives you to it.

    Humour too, is better ‘dry’.

    1. ambrit

      Ouch! “Cave aftificet!”
      Indeed, I’ve been trying all my life to untangle Eros from Agape. Is one polluting the other, or is the other purifying the one?
      As for food chain; shouldn’t that be food field?
      Insomnia is its’ own reward.
      My wife spent most of today making a watercolour painting of some roses from our garden mixed in a bunch with Easter lilies. Rationality and self control in the service of mysticism.
      The older I get…

      1. allcoppedout

        Indeed there is wonder, and ladies of wonder. Some of our friends may be forgetting colour itself is virtual and the universe on which economics preys beige.

  3. Hugh

    The problem with economics is that it has nothing to do with the real world and everything to do with propaganda. I doubt that introducing more unreality into the mix is going to improve matters.

    1. Ulysses

      That’s right! We already suffer from the fact that wealthy folks think of their looting and hoarding as “games” to “win.” They resent the “losers” in their “games” having the effrontery to piss and moan about lacking decent shelter, good food, etc., instead of just shutting up and dying already.

      1. allcoppedout

        Nothing short of fair shares for 7.1 billion will do for me. Yet currently this is fantasy. So cough up some models of what we do. I share Hugh’s disgust with economics as unreal except for its effects in preserving an insane status quo. Yet the universe is beige and creatures bring (often better than us) colour in the virtual reality of their heads. So where are our models of a non-piss-poor world to live in?

  4. Steve H.

    Pilkington, from yesterday’s links:

    “The tone fits into what I have said before about marginalist microeconomics being a manifestation of normative ethics.”

    1. casino implosion

      Or as I always say, “Austrian economics” is all about how nice the world would be if all us pesky human would only behave as specified in the models of Austrian economics.

      Which is weirdly sort of a left-wing way of thinking, when it comes down to it.

      1. allcoppedout

        They were sort of disappointed lefties. Schumpeter wrote ‘socialist opportunities of the present day’ in 1928. Hayek was originally a democratic socialist. Popper a converted commie. Schumpeter’s esteem for Marx had been stimulated by his fellow-student Otto
        Bauer and by his contacts with other Austro-Marxists.

  5. Gabriel

    I can see it now – before suggesting a new national economic policy, the Federal Reserve or the Council of Economic Advisors runs a national video game to see how the new policy will work out. Then we all vote on the results on our computer.

    What a world!

  6. allcoppedout

    Yep. They have used ‘participative management’ techniques before. One can, though, think the future may not be like the past. There is research on humans being much better in argumentative situations (which could be in virtual reality) than on their own in the propaganda vice.

  7. Ulysses

    Good luck with your technotopian fantasy!! Meanwhile, here in the real world, life becomes more and more miserable for billions of people on an increasingly unlivable planet.

    1. allcoppedout

      I would hope to be first to the barricades in the real world Ulysses, though hope to safeguard my crew rather better than your mythical predecessor managed with Scylla. We need a coordinating forum that shakes us free from the politics of the rich. This might be achieved by something like a Facebook not run and used by perpetual children. I was living 40 years ago, which is about when we knew today’s problems. We have seriously done nothing but make them worse since

      1. Ulysses

        Would you rather have had my namesake choose Charybidis?!!? Your point is well taken that some sort of more egalitarian forum is far preferable to the MSM mediated “debates” and “elections” that we are allowed to spectate upon at present!

  8. nony mouse

    as a former gamer, I would say that some of the same problems exist in online games as the real world, and some are markedly different.

    two fer-instances:
    raw materials (components, or these worlds’ Commodities) can be harvested pretty much continuously with no downside to the environment and depriving no one else of harvesting them. what usually occurs is lower-level characters, needing money, spend time doing this so that higher level crafters/manufacturers can do better things with their time (like, camping the difficult dungeon that has the really rare artifacts in it, leading to the second point).
    two-really rare stuff is in difficult dungeons that take sometimes extreme levels of group commitment. for these purposes, basically a mini-mafia or “guild” forms, with all of the inherent political machinations envisioned by Machiavelli and utilized by the Roman caesars. basically, the bigger and badder and more like a military unit your outfit is, the better your stuff will be. so, although you are in a virtual world where no one can really, truthfully claim property ownership over the choice resources, it ends up occurring anyway because of the time/money/social cost nexus that is required to go into these places and kick the goods out of the monster’s hide.
    never thought any of this info would come in handy in any ‘real world’ way. also, I thought that the ‘social research on virtual environments’ boom ended over 10 years ago!

    1. susan the other

      Even 10 years ago we all knew we had polluted the planet and engineered global warming without a remedy. I’d like to see the computer Game of Remedies.

  9. digi_owl

    Orbiting around a “equilibrium” but never really hitting it, I swear Keen had a outcome like that from his work with dynamic modeling.

      1. financial matters

        I also thought this was very interesting and seems to validate Minsky’s theory of stability leading to instability

        “In the video game world it’s quite astonishing to watch. Quickly, collective aggregate behavior converges at equilibrium and then disequilibrates itself. Then some other equilibrium comes and then goes away. It’s the speed and the irregularity of behavior around some equilibrium and the speed with which new equilibria are being formed”

        It seems to basically imply that as things get more stable we feel comfortable taking more chances which gets us into trouble. But taking chances also leads to innovation. This speed given by the video games seems like an interesting chance to study this irregularity of behavior.

        In the book Emotional Intelligence it talks about if we feel safe in our close relationships we are more comfortable and confident in interacting with society at large.

  10. allcoppedout

    I can now write whole business degree courses to be delivered by internet. These can contain role-play exercises, video conference group work – blah, blah. I can write self-marking, peer assessment and a range of non-essay, non-examination assessment and material you just have to stick with until you get through it. Groups between 3 and 12 can do seminars with me and work-based, practical assessment can be worked in.

    The kind of technofantasy I envisage could easily be real world – indeed it could be a university of a very new kind, and even a much wider collectivity in terms of buying fair trade, worker collectives … in the end I think we lack daring and the ability to see the future other than as the past tomorrow. I think what Yanis is saying is typical of this ilk and numpty. Video games, online ,multiplayer or not, are naff and just ways of wasting time. At the same time, we aren’t shifting political opinion or the plight of billions by being serious. And remember, serious zealots from revolution become serious kleptos like Mao and kill people as though they are playing a video game.

    Most seem to be missing that huge numbers of skills are now virtual, embodied in machines. The big current con is that most professional skills can’t be embodied the same way. Pilots learn in simulators, transferring this knowledge to where – given the simulators are in he real world. Faceflop bought an app for less than I could set up a virtual university real across the globe. Get serious and have a laugh while you’re at it. This ain’t world peace and democracy via something like Call of Duty for revolutionaries.

    1. ambrit

      I’m thinking that something on the order of Forsters’ “The Machine Stops” is a more probablr outcome.

    1. kevinearick

      nothing new is learned from an arbitrarily closed system…
      you have no interest in being defined, until you do, and then you don’t…

  11. D

    Yeah and then there arise questions about the video game medium itself. What is the nature of the frameworks in which all this behavior occurs? In many of these games, often the most popular ones, there are strong competitive pressures to “win” the game or a given scenario. Then there are antagonistic relationships to the environment and others, there is almost always a plethora of hostile enemies, and the virtual relationships are often governed by market logic, because it is easy to implement in a game. There is this neo-liberal fixation on numbers and metrics and simple accumulation. If you don’t play by these rules, you lose and you can’t really play. So there are real constraints on the array of behaviors that manifest; sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, no? Granted it would take a lot of information and computing power to reproduce the full richness of the human experience, which is sort of the rub.

    There are exceptions. Minecraft for example doesn’t have a clear goal besides surviving, mining, and building things. The game also doesn’t have a market. You have to build everything out of scratch, unless you mod it or something. So you get this wide range of emergent behaviors, many of them benevolent, creative, and cooperative.

    There was a time when video games held a lot of promise. I mean, think about what you could do with an interactive medium like that. People expand their powers of empathy by reading literature and putting themselves in the shoes of others. What about actually simulating the lives and experiences of others virtually?

    Instead it is all being squandered on this vast virtual extension of the weird bloodthirsty culture we already have. There are some good things happening in the indie sphere, but will they ever become the norm? The video game industry has become dominated by large corporate monopolies like everywhere else, and of course the rule is whatever large scale project actually gets made should attract a large audience and make big profits. So the next question we should ask, which I think Yves has asked before, is why do so many people want to play virtually a distilled version of the same old shitty Hobbesian neo-liberal grind of everyday life governed by late capital? As Deleuze and Guattari wanted to know in Anti-Oedipus, echoing Wilhelm Reich, what is it that makes people desire their own exploitation?

    There are probably many possible explanations, all of them plausible. Maybe we have something happening which is analogous to the process in which empires continue to reproduce themselves: by allowing oppressed groups to oppress others in return for obedience. Gamers get to dominate others in fantasy competition, maybe to retrieve some of that foregone opportunity to dominate in real life. Who knows what else?

    I do appreciate economists like Varoufakis pursuing more unorthodox avenues like studying video game economies. Do we ever know where the revelations will come from? But then also, perhaps it is better to simply divest in this virtual mirage and turn one’s attention to the actual earth. That’s what I intend to do anyways.

    1. noodle

      It isn’t being wasted at all. Sure there are big selling shallow, violent games, but there are plenty of creative, meaningful ones as well. Open up the Steam storepage some time and explore a bit, I guarentee you’ll find something you like. Probably a lot of things in fact. Actually, the mere presence of violence doesn’t disqualify something from having narrative or artistic worth, as evidenced by the Bioshock and Demon’s/Dark Souls franchises. I should also add that the factory assembly line nature of things like the military jerkoff franchise Call of Duty are the target of much derision within gaming circles.

      What I get from these comments is that few of you play games and instead like to engage in pretentious tur-tutting and whining about how everything is shit.

      1. ambrit

        Dear noodle;
        Enough with the war of blanket condemnations already. As a younger version of myself I cut my teeth on the old Strategy and Tactics paper board games. Marathon sessions of multi player “Destruction of Army Group Centre” come fondly to memory. The basic discussion here is the questionable utility of excessive games playing in general. The Pentagon boys and girls had their Rand Corporation prognostications based on von Neumanns version of “Games Theory.” Some people say that M.A.D. saved the world from becoming toast. Others of us shrink back in horror from the idea that a mind set of even theoretical “Shall we play a game?” ruled the most powerful militaries during the Cold War. (The Cuban Missile Crisis should serve as a cautionary tale in this regard. After all the gaming had run its’ course, it took a bout of personal horse trading between two somewhat seasoned politicians to take the pot off of the boil.) Politics can be framed as the ultimate in games playing, yes. I contend, for the sake of argument that it is a game that can effectively only be played in real time with real people. I may be an old fossil but I still don’t see it all ending like Fredrick Pohl had his “Heechee” stories do; Everyone living happily ever after inside a Kugelblitz.

  12. cachimbo

    Is there any resemblance between our world and one in which participants only “play” when motivated by their “enjoyment”?

  13. craazyman

    Oh man. This is really off the deep end of the pool. And there’s no water in the pool.

    I was walking alone in Long Island City one warm fall afternoon in the sun, down a block of warehouses and buildings so low they make the sky wide and blue as an ocean, and the street so empty there’s nothing but quiet and wind. There’s nobody there, or there used to be nobody before it became “hip”. This was when there was nobody, except a few people you would never know, and I would go there just to walk around and take photographs of nothing.

    Then down the street I saw 20 or 30 people, age 30s or so, in a group behind a barricade looking at something. They must be hipsters, I thought. Making a movie. They watched me walk up and I asked bluntly “Are you guys making a movie?”

    One dude looked at me commandingly and said “No, this is real.” They were news reporters. Some young woman was murdered, apparently, in such a brutal way that the responders could hardly function. She had been slashed repeatedly with a knife, and blood was everywhere in her apartment like splashed buckets of paint. I found out later she was an artist, struggling, from a broken home someplace in Massachussets, assembling art with found objects and making a minor name for herself, and somehow hanging on. The suspect, there was little doubt, was her boyfriend, a laborer for a moving company, from someplace like Albania. One of those places. She told her friends, apparently, that she would die soon and in the way that she did. I read it in a local news story I found on the internet later that day when I got home. It felt weird in my stomach when I walked away and it stayed with me, what it must have been like for her just a few hours earlier. Later on I thought of her floating above her body looking down at herself, no longer herself, with an understanding of both the before and after, with a dissolving artist’s sense of metaphor, before she flew up into that magnificently wide huge blue sky. Like a butterfly. For some reason, I thought of her changing into an invisible butterfly and rising into the huge sky. This was when I got home and read what happened.

    “No, this is real.” I thought of that later too. I thought they were just faking it, making a movie or something. They looked like a movie crew behind a barricade. You can do all sorts of crazy sh*t when you’re only pretending. Stuff you’d never do. Or that most people would never do. And the difference is as big and wide as a universe.

  14. Rosario

    I’ll go out on a limb and argue that economists (i.e. Capitalist Economists) love the potential revelations of video game economies because of the virtual world’s capacity to fully simulate the absolute. In our messy, “disappointing” universe (i.e. reality) we just can’t seem to reconcile our ideologies, infinities abound, with the inevitable restrictions presented to us everyday. Minecraft is an interesting case. I’m not a player of Minecraft so I am not an authority, but from what I do know it completely captures a universe with no economic restrictions. Resources are endless, lives are infinite. A representation of utopia or paradise for some, an absolute meaningless hell for myself. Though I completely understand why someone (including myself) would enjoy playing the game. Their/my immersion in this infinite fantasy realm could act as a therapy for this tough-love world we occupy. Though I argue that our world is so difficult to live with because we force an absolute cultural (economic) vision on a world that can never satisfy our desires.

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