In gaming there is something of an obsession with money. This is not just in terms of the outlay for the player but also as a game mechanic or a part of the meta-game, where we’re urged to scrimp and save our hard-earned coins to purchase imaginary goods.
There are some cases where this is perfectly acceptable. For many people half the point of existence is to earn money. Western society practically conditions us to stick that down as our major life goal. Games are aspirational in that regard, allowing us to become rich, whether through clever strategy in games like Civilization, or simply completing quests for monetary rewards in both RPGs and MMOs,
Long running MMOs like World of Warcraft are something of a special case, filled as they are with ‘gold-sinks’ – an endless stream of vaguely useless or cosmetic rewards that we can purchase to feel like we’re doing something worthwhile with the many hours we’ve spent living inside their worlds.
It’s easy to be cynical and say that playing any game should be worthwhile in itself, but these lofty goals nag at the back of our minds, designed to keep us coming back in the long-term. The human need to earn and consume has now been fully integrated into our fantasy escapism.
Other games and platforms like Xbox Live have (or had, Microsoft points were thankfully discontinued) their own form of currency that we purchase with real money and use to buy things from these controlled stores.
These are usually accompanied by statements like “Buying Microsoft points allows you to purchase products across a range of Microsoft stores including X, Y and even Z!”, as though this is some kind of genius scheme that allows for more customer freedom.
What they actually do is give the platform holder complete control of pricing, regardless of region and inflation and fluctuations.
Perhaps it would be better if we just abandoned regional currency altogether and embraced the digital. In the e-gaming world, it’s recently been asked are bitcoins the future of online casinos? Perhaps that’s a better way of doing things, with its self-regulation ensuring fair regional pricing while removing control from banks and corporations.
Maybe it could work for gaming, too. Instead of purchasing a pretend currency like MS Points or League Of Legends’ RP, we would just have to navigate one price and one form of currency instead, with the added bonus that bitcoins can be converted back into actual physical currency.
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