Virtual Economies Remain Badly Flawed Research Tools

1229493866106_us_backyard1_997 There's been a lot of work done on virtual economics over the past few years, from Indiana University studies to the Virtual Economy Research Network.

These researchers all use virtual economies as a test-bed for real-world economic policies, as well as testing grounds for real-time experiments on price, economic growth, and wages.

They had best be cautious. As Pixels and Policy reports, virtual economies are far from the hailed research tools some virtual world cheerleaders think.

Continue reading Virtual Economies Remain Badly Flawed Research Tools

Developers Should Open Virtual Goods Markets

Gamestop-sign We recently wrote that developers were fighting a failing battle by trying to restrict secondary virtual goods markets through tools such as account banning and eliminating in-game trade.

Now an article published by the CIOL Network seems to agree: Fighting the market in in-game goods will not only ruin the experience for honest players, it won't work.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what CIOL recommends, and whether or not their recommendation could soon come true.

Continue reading Developers Should Open Virtual Goods Markets

Industry Increasingly Doubtful Over Second Life’s Sustainability

Beatlefest_Blarney_10-09-2006_1077x808pxBashing Second Life is a time honored tradition, but a recent piece critiquing the world's long-term potential may be the most compelling.

Michael Hickins, a writer for InformationWeek, combines the concerns of various media outlets and virtual world skeptics into a readable and disconcerting piece on the potentially grim future of Second Life.

Then again, skeptics have been calling Second Life's death for years. Pixels and Policy investigates whether Hickins has the proof behind his predictions.

Continue reading Industry Increasingly Doubtful Over Second Life’s Sustainability

Misguided Headline of the Week: Second Life Economy “Too Big to Fail?”

Gink4_wideweb__470x341,0 Miranda Marquit of the science and tech website PhysOrg asks us whether virtual world economies like Second Life are "too big to fail." Pixels and Policy wonders if the patchwork economy of Second Life might be too ethereal to expand.

Enthralled by Ms. Marquit's seeming comparison of Second Life to the major banks and lenders bailed out by the United States last year, we did a bit of investigative work on just how solid the economy of second life truly is.

Turns out the virtual grass isn't as green as imagined.

Continue reading Misguided Headline of the Week: Second Life Economy “Too Big to Fail?”

Discussion: Is Virtual Consumerism Built on Social Pressure?

We wrote an article last week that asked whether virtual world consumerism is essentially a product of social pressures. In support of our opinion, we cited an article from the Virtual Economy Research Network that made the case. One of its better points:

Beyond individual appearance, consumption can also be associated with
group membership and belonging.

Through their visibility, items of
virtual clothing, accessories, and full avatar skins serve as marks of
membership within particular groups.

Bank1 What the article is saying is something anyone who went through high school would know: It's a whole lot easier to be accepted by a (virtual) social group if you look the part.

For the most part, Second Life's furries hang out with other furries, and someone dressed in a Steampunk outfit will likely have a difficult time being accepted.

Well, our article caught the eye of my friend and critic Dusan Writer, who took us to task and inspired a lively debate on his website. 13 posts later, its apparent there's a clear divide between those who view the consumerism in Second Life as a product of social pressure and those who view it as a means of digital self-expression.

But what kind of social pressure is it that makes self-expression dependent on purchasing things? This sentiment is inherent in Dusan's argument that consumerism is self-expression: Second Life avatars are expected to express themselves through what they've purchased, and the in-world society gives positive feedback to avatars that look especially attractive due to their purchases.

Though this pressure may not be visible, it certainly is a social pressure. The unspoken need for people who associate with the Furry mindset to purchase Furry outfits in order to participate in Second Life group activities is evidence of this. Furries who show up looking human will find a much different atmosphere than their fox-eared companions.

I'd like to keep this discussion going — post your thoughts and I'll follow up through the week as the discussion develops.