Monday, March 25, 2002

Jills is discussing Costranova's paper on economy on EverQuest, touching on scarcity and games.

Our culture is rife with stories of the futility of unlimited wealth, the main theme being how everything becomes boring, how the diversity created by lack, restrictions and the need for an effort makes life more enjoyable. Modern myths center on the unhappiness of the rich and beautiful, and are full of tragic deaths caused by having too much.

To match this myth, poverty is supposed to lead to a more profound happiness than wealth. At the moment the Norwegian aid organisation Kirkens Nødhjelp is showing a series of little advertisements on television, asking people to contribute to building wells in Africa. The films are doing its best to promote the myth of the happy pauper, the pictures showing pretty, smiling, water-drinking children and their mothers, slender and elegant as they balance 20 liters of water easily on their heads, and as much swaddled like a baby on their backs.

It's interesting to see that this isn't just a myth, but has been adopted as a rule of the games simulating life. Scarcity, struggle and reward is what gives a sense of progress and of self-fulfilment. All the MUDs I have played have tried to balance this: find the balance between the challenge and the reward, and when simulating some type of society controlling currency is the most recognizable way to do just that. Wealth is a measure of success, and as such, it's desirable. Just having it given to you might be comfortable, but no fun.

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