I love when I get to write about whatever I feel like. Last week, I wrote a paper for a philosophy class about the tremendous benefits of playing WoW. Here it is. Don’t Plagiarize. Do show it to naysayers.
With over ten million active accounts, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is the most played massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). An MMORPG is a game in which each character can interact with each other character in the online universe. A person, the player, may have many characters; each character is a player’s virtual game-piece with specific abilities and talents based on race, class, and profession. However, World of Warcraft is not simply a mindless video game. World of Warcraft provides a free-market economy which offers a hands-on tool for understanding economic concepts such as the invisible hand, supply and demand, and saving money.
The World of Warcraft economy is based largely on the Auction House. There are also Non-Player Characters (NPCs) who are vendors, which characters may buy from and sell to. The Auction House, like eBay or any other traditional auction house, is a place where characters may sell their goods and buy goods from other characters. Characters make a deposit to place an item up for auction, and at the end of a successful auction, the auction house takes a cut of the final value. Through the Auction House, players can obtain hands-on experience with the economic concepts of the invisible hand, and supply and demand. The invisible hand concept is that the market controls itself so individuals cannot outrageously raise prices. The concept of supply and demand is that as supply increases, prices decrease and vice versa. The application of these concepts is especially seen when characters are selling profession crafted or gathered goods. Each character may only have two professions and may choose from a variety of crafting or gathering professions. This limitation requires players to depend on others for goods and services, such as herbs for alchemists’ potions, or crafted armor or weapons for characters who have chosen two gathering professions. When there are more gatherers than crafters auctioning items, goods are cheaper, but when fewer gatherers are auctioning raw materials, goods are more expensive. However, even when fewer gatherers are auctioning items, the invisible hand prevents a gross inflation of prices. Savvy players take advantage of this knowledge, and wait until there are fewer raw materials to list their own, and make purchases when there is an abundance of raw materials up on the auction house.
Another important economic lesson to be learned in World of Warcraft is the importance of saving money. Many people have what are called “bank alts” which are alternate characters that are not played, but are stationed in a major city to act as an additional bank account. People send these characters money to save and items to sell to make saving money easier and reduce the temptation to spend money on things they do not need at that time. World of Warcraft has a built-in bank system, but it is more of a safety deposit box than a true bank as each character’s gold is available to that character at all times. The game itself also has mechanisms that require players to save money that they earn by doing quests or selling goods and services.
World of Warcraft requires players to spend money incrementally while saving for larger things. The smaller spending, like groceries, are things like ammunition, food, and potions. The large things are mounts and epic mounts, which increase the movement speed relative to the standard run speed. At level forty, each character becomes eligible to purchase the apprentice riding skill, which allows them to ride a land mount and travel around the world with a 60% movement speed increase. This skill costs 90 gold, which for a level 40 character is comparable to a sixteen-year-old working to buy their first used car. At level 60, each character becomes eligible to purchase the journeyman riding skill, which allows them to ride an epic land mount and travel around the world with a 100% movement speed increase. This skill costs 600 gold, which at level 60 is comparable to someone working to purchase their first new car. At level 70, each character becomes eligible to purchase the expert and artisan riding skills. These skills allow the character to ride a flying mount and epic flying mount, respectively. The expert skill allows a character to fly a mount with a 60% movement speed increase, and the artisan riding skill allows a character to fly a mount with a 100% movement speed increase on the ground and a 280% movement speed increase while in the air. The expert skill costs 800 gold, which for a new level 70 is similar to purchasing a luxury car. The artisan skill costs 5000 gold, and is comparable to purchasing a large house without financing. In addition to purchasing the skills, each character must also purchase the mount to ride. The mounts range from 10 gold for the initial land mount to 200 gold for the epic flying mount.
World of Warcraft requires players to earn gold, save it, and spend it wisely. Players who do not save their gold and spend it wisely will be significantly less efficient players, and less likely to be successful. The game also encourages players to be students of economics, because by doing so, they will be more successful at the auction house which will allow them to spend more money on better equipment. World of Warcraft players are not sitting in front of their computers mindlessly slaughtering people and animals, they are exercising their knowledge of the invisible hand, supply and demand, and the value of saving money, which can be applied to life outside of the World of Warcraft universe.