Xfire Debate Club: Ask Your Questions about Virtual Economies

Xfire Debate Club: Ask Your Questions about Virtual Economies

One of the major responsibilities a debate moderator has (other than counting how many times someone says "strategery") is posing interesting and bombastic questions to the panel.

With that in mind, I wanted to reach out to members of The Escapist Forum for questions they might want to ask about the future - and present - of virtual economies.

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Community participation! This could be interesting. I like it.

Bombastic questions, eh? Okay, how about this one: the doomsday scenario that gets tossed about when discussing virtual economies is the possibility that taxation of virtual economies would begin. What do you foresee about the likelihood of this happening? If it happens, how, and by what legal basis? Would it depend on the type of economy (e.g. paying for virtual goods vs. paying for access to the server, official vs. unofficial channels for resale of virtual assets)? If you had to come up with the way to tax virtual economies, how would you do it?

So far, virtual economies have really only existed when attached to games. Some people approach a virtual economy expecting the level playing field that they associate with games, rather than the much subtler and more turbulent space of advantages that are inherent in economic systems. This, understandably, makes many people disappointed or angry. Do you think that this problem is one with massive games in general, or virtual economies in general, or unique to certain implementations of it, or merely a misunderstanding on the part of these users? Based on that answer, what are your thoughts about a solution?

What about the possibility of trading between different virtual economies? Is there a precedent for this sort of thing? Do you think it's possible?

As a follow-up: many have speculated that reliable trading on the Internet requires the ability to consistently identify others - that is, to be sure that the ===RADERZFAN666=== you met in World of Grindcraft is the same ===RADERZFAN666=== you meet in Space Wall Street Online (without necessarily identifying who ===RADERZFAN666=== is in real life), that doesn't involve the same company owning both of those games. Would a universal, commercially independent identification system be necessary to facilitate inter-virtual-economy trading? Would the possibility of inter-virtual-economy trading strengthen the incentive to make a standard Internet identity scheme?

Virtual economies present the possibility to experiment with economic models that would be unintuitive, irrational, or even impossible in the real world. Do you think that there is a future in academic study of alternative economic models through virtual economies?


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