Every little boy’s (and several grown men’s) dream of making a living by playing video gaming is edging closer to reality. The recent release of HunterCoin and the in-development VoidSpace, games which reward players in digital currency instead of virtual princesses or gold stars point towards another where one’s ranking on a scoreboard could possibly be rewarded in dollars, and sterling, euros and yen.
The story of the millionaire (virtual) real estate agent…
Digital currencies have already been slowly gaining in maturity both with regards to their functionality and the financial infrastructure that allows them to be used as a credible alternative to non-virtual fiat currency. Though Bitcoin, the very first and most well known of the crypto-currencies was created in 2009 2009 2009 there were forms of virtual currencies found in video games for more than 15 years. 1997’s Ultima Online was the initial notable attempt to add a large scale virtual economy in a casino game. Players could collect coins by undertaking quests, battling monsters and finding treasure and spend these on armour, weapons or real estate. This was an early incarnation of a virtual currency in that it existed purely within the game though it did mirror real world economics to the extent that the Ultima currency experienced inflation as a result of the game mechanics which ensured that there is a never ending supply of monsters to kill and thus gold coins to collect.
Released in 1999, EverQuest took virtual currency gaming a step further, allowing players to trade virtual goods amongst themselves in-game and even though it had been prohibited by the game’s designer to also sell virtual what to each other on eBay. In a genuine world phenomenon which was entertainingly explored in Neal Stephenson’s 2011 novel Reamde, Chinese gamers or ‘gold farmers’ were employed to play EverQuest and other such games full-time with the aim of gaining experience points to be able to level-up their characters thereby making them more powerful and sought after. These characters would then be in love with eBay to Western gamers who were unwilling or unable to devote the hours to level-up their very own characters. In line with the calculated exchange rate of EverQuest’s currency as a result of the real world trading that took place Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and an expert in virtual currencies estimated that in 2002 EverQuest was the 77th richest country on the planet, somewhere between Russia and Bulgaria and its GDP per capita was higher than the People’s Republic of China and India.
Launched in 2003 and having reached 1 million regular users by 2014, Second Life could very well be the most complete exemplory case of a virtual economy to date whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar that may be used to get or sell in-game goods and services could be exchanged for real life currencies via market-based exchanges. There have been a recorded $3.2 billion in-game transactions of virtual goods in the a decade between 2002-13, Second Life having become a marketplace where players and businesses alike could actually design, promote and sell content they created. Real estate was an especially lucrative commodity to trade, in 2006 Ailin Graef became the very first Second Life millionaire when she turned an initial investment of $9.95 into over $1 million over 2.5 years through buying, selling and trading virtual property to other players. Examples such as Ailin are the exception to the rule however, only a recorded 233 users making a lot more than $5000 in 2009 2009 from Second Life activities.
How exactly to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…
To date, the ability to generate non-virtual cash in video gaming has been of secondary design, the ball player having to go through non-authorised channels to switch their virtual booty or they needing to possess a degree of real world creative skill or business acumen that could be traded for cash. This may be set to improve with the advent of video gaming being built from the bottom up round the ‘plumbing’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has taken is to ‘gamify’ what’s usually the rather technical and automated procedure for creating digital currency. Unlike real life currencies which come into existence when they are printed by a Central bank, digital currencies are created when you are ‘mined’ by users. The underlying source code of a specific digital currency that allows it to function is called the blockchain, an online decentralised public ledger which records all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since digital currency is only intangible data it really is more susceptible to fraud than physical currency for the reason that you’ll be able to duplicate a unit of currency thereby causing inflation or altering the value of a transaction after it’s been made for personal gain. To make sure this will not happen the blockchain is ‘policed’ by volunteers or ‘miners’ who test the validity of every transaction that’s made whereby with the aid of specialist hardware and software they make sure that data is not tampered with. This is an automatic process for miner’s software albeit an extremely time consuming one which involves many processing power from their computer. To reward a miner for verifying a transaction the blockchain releases a fresh unit of digital currency and rewards them with it as an incentive to help keep maintaining the network, thus is digital currency created. Since Bitcoin Revolution Official can take anything from several days to years for an individual to successfully mine a coin groups of users combine their resources right into a mining ‘pool’, using the joint processing power of their computers to mine coins quicker.
HunterCoin the overall game sits within such a blockchain for a digital currency also called HunterCoin. The act of playing the overall game replaces the automated process of mining digital currency and for the first time helps it be a manual one and with no need for expensive hardware. Using strategy, time and teamwork, players go out onto a map in search of coins and on finding some and returning safely to their base (other teams are out there attempting to stop them and steal their coins) they are able to cash out their coins by depositing them into their own digital wallet, typically an app made to make and receive digital payments. 10% of the value of any coins deposited by players visit the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain and also a small percent of any coins lost whenever a player is killed and their coins dropped. While the game graphics are basic and significant rewards take time to accumulate HunterCoin can be an experiment that might be seen as the first video game with monetary reward built-in as a primary function.
Though still in development VoidSpace is really a more polished approach towards gaming in a functioning economy. A Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG), VoidSpace is defined in space where players explore an ever-growing universe, mining natural resources such as for example asteroids and trading them for goods with other players with the purpose of building their very own galactic empire. Players will be rewarded for mining in DogeCoin, a far more established form of digital currency that is currently used widely for micro-payments on various social media marketing sites. DogeCoin will also be currency of in-game trade between players and the methods to make in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is a legitimate and fully functioning digital currency and like HunterCoin it might be traded for both digital and real fiat currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.
The future of video games?
Though it is early days with regard to quality the release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace can be an interesting indication of what may be the next evolution for games. MMORPG’s are being considered as methods to model the outbreak of epidemics due to how player’s reactions to an unintended plague mirrored recorded hard-to-model areas of human behaviour to real life outbreaks. It could be surmised that eventually in-game virtual economies could be used as models to check economic theories and develop responses to massive failures based on observations of how players use digital currency with real value. Additionally it is a good test for the functionality and potential applications of digital currencies which have the promise of moving beyond mere vehicles of exchange and into exciting regions of personal digitial ownership for instance. In the mean time, players will have the methods to translate hours before a screen into digital currency and then dollars, sterling, euros or yen.
But before you quit your day job…
… it’s worth mentioning current exchange rates. It’s estimated a player could comfortably recoup their initial registration fee of just one 1.005 HunterCoin (HUC) for joining HunterCoin the game in 1 day’s play. Currently HUC can’t be exchanged right to USD, one must convert it right into a competent digital currency like Bitcoin. During writing the exchange rate of HUC to Bitcoin (BC) is 0.00001900 as the exchange rate of BC to USD is $384.24. 1 HUC traded to BC and to USD, before any transaction fees were taken into consideration would mean… $0.01 USD. This is simply not to say that as a player becomes more adept they could not grow their team of virtual CoinHunters and perhaps hire a few ‘bot’ programmes that could automatically play the game under the guise of another player and earn coins for them aswell but I think it’s safe to state that at the moment even efforts like this might only realistically bring about enough change for a daily McDonalds. Unless players are prepared to submit to intrusive in-game advertising, share personal data or join a game such as CoinHunter that is built on the Bitcoin blockchain it is improbable that rewards are ever likely to be a lot more than micro-payments for the casual gamer. And perhaps this is a positive thing, because surely if you get paid for something it stops being a game any more?