[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

Rayzam rayzam at travellingbard.com
Fri May 23 21:10:39 CEST 2003

From: "Chris Schofield" <cscho at worldnet.att.net>
> From: Dave Rickey

>> In spite of centuries of work, a continuing effort in the public,
>> private, and academic arenas, the "dismal science" is going
>> nowhere, and has been for a long time.  I'm going to make a bold
>> statement: It is not only worthwhile for economists to study
>> online game economies, but there are Nobel prizes waiting for the
>> ones that figure them out.

> I am no economist, but it seems we're talking about experimental
> versus theoretical economics here.  As an undergraduate (years
> ago), I supplemented my budget by participating in economics
> experiments.  Basically, experimental economists were trying to
> test economic theory through controlled experiments.  One thing
> they found was that the monetary rewards for doing well had to be
> significant or else the participants didn't act "rationally".  If
> the compensation was small, they tended to take very risky
> actions.  On the other hand, if the compensation was significant,
> the experiments tended to support traditional economic theory.
> The lottery effect is a similar case: what rational consumer would
> play the lottery?  We have to consider the risk profile and
> enjoyment associated with an activity if we are to really
> understand what makes a participant act the way he/she does.
> These are not easy things to quantify.

Actually, there's a relatively new field attempting to quantify
these situations, and more. It's called Neuroeconomics:

It relates the different responses not in the sense of rationality
but in the sense of neurophysiology, hormones, etc.

> In a MMORPG, we have the additional complication of dealing with
> outside world valuations for in game items.  How do we account for
> the monetary value a virtual item has when trying to understand an
> on-line world's economy?  I would expect that mixing economic
> system valuations would greatly increase the difficulty in
> understanding the on-line world's economy.  It would be nice to
> draw a box around an on-line world's economy, but we probably
> won't get as useful information if we do.

My pointer above to neuroeconomics relates to this too. It may not
be necessary to judge real world valuations as much as real world
physiology.  It's not the actual value or the perceived value, but
how it makes the player feel.

> Pulling this back again to Dave's point, Dr. Vernon Smith and Dr.
> Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for their
> work in Experimental Economics.  I wouldn't go so far as to say
> that there is a Nobel Prize in studying the economies of on-line
> worlds, but it seems to me that the experimental economists would
> certainly be in their element when it comes to studying (and
> manipulating!)  them.

An offshoot of neuroeconomics, albeit sometimes going by the same
name, is trying to predict behaviors of a population, especially
from the behavior of a few. Not surprisingly, this is what
neuroscientists have been doing for many many years. Those
researching this attempt to treat a mass of people in an economy
like a brain: an interconnecting network of neurons. Whether they'll
study existing on-line worlds, or simulate their own, is an open

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