Real Life and Video Games

A few years ago, I watched a video about the design philosophy of video games. Specifically the massively multiplayer variety and how inflation is managed.

In these massive multiplayer games, there exist elements solely there to ensure your character spends money at them. This virtual money is then gone forever from the game's economy. Players can feel like this is an unnecessary part of the game, however from a designer and programmer perspective, these elements are the only way to keep the amount of money in the player supply somewhat in "check." Otherwise players would be able to generate enormously vast sums of virtual wealth.

See, in these games, when a monster or other enemy is defeated, very often they have a little bit of virtual money for the player to take off them. This money didn't exist before and now can be circulated in the game economy. Most of the time this amount is small enough that it won't make a big difference to an individual player. With hundreds or thousands of players playing, this amount does add up quickly. Thus, the makers of the game feel, usually, that a way to have money leave the game forever needs to exist. Largely, this philosophy is born out of the belief that there is only so much money to go around the virtual economy. Designers and programmers feel that the "pie" should be kept to a manageable size.

All of that said, the reason I give this background is that the way money enters the virtual economy isn't that different from real life. In the game, currency is manifested on defeated enemies. In real life, value, as Rabbi Daniel Palin might say, is manifested when we serve one another. There are many who believe that the real-life economic "pie" is a finite amount. They believe that for me to succeed, someone else must fail or lose. I disagree with this philosophy.

During the time humans were hunters and gatherers, every time an arrowhead maker made an arrowhead for a friend that is great at hunting, value was created. The hunter now had more time to focus on hunting, hopefully bringing more food back, which he could trade for the arrowhead. The arrowhead maker then doesn't have to hunt for his own food because he served the hunter well.

The value of the arrowhead to the hunter didn't exist until the arrowhead maker manifested it through his service to the hunter through the work of his hands. Before he made his first arrowhead, the economic "pie" didn't even exist.

Today, and this week, as you work, I encourage you to remember that every time you serve, you are creating new economic value. Your service makes the pie just a little bit bigger. When the whole pie is bigger, each of us can have a bigger piece.