The latest episode of PBS Digital Studios’ weekly Web series, Idea Channel, from producers Kornhaber Brown, questions whether games like Diablo III are creating actual value from their virtual economies.
For years now, people have traded virtual goods in online games like Second Life for real money. A black market has arisen for World of Warcraft and Everquest characters that have amassed incredible weaponry and powers. And now, Diablo III has taken this commerce a step further toward legitimization by creating a Diablo III Auction House – where axes, swords, and other awesome gear have taken on real world value and are traded with real people for real cash right inside the game platform. This all begins to redefine how we think about the value of the activity within these games. Philosophers Geog Hegel and John Locke maintained that when a person joins a certain amount of labor with an object or goods, a certain amount of ownership is transferred. Given the huge amount of time and effort that goes into procuring objects in some of these games, it’s not hard to see a correlation. And while our legal system is scrambling to keep up with these new developments, it’s becoming increasingly more common to see virtual goods transfer via real-world cash.