In an article on the disappearing line between real and virtual (MMORPG) economies, The Boston Globe turns to Professor Henry Jenkins for a quick perspective:
As the Xbox generation spends more time online, immersed in multiplayer online games with thousands of other people, the value of their characters increases. So something that one can’t touch—a cute elf, a powerful warrior, or a butt-kicking ogre—accumulates real-world value. Call it the world of Dungeons & Dragons and Dollars—or, as one professor calls it, an “illusionary economy.”
“For the players, these characters are not without value,” says Henry Jenkins, director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. His upcoming book, “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide,” touches on this virtual commerce among online game players. He compares this underground character trade to buying your way into any coveted group.
“You are buying the power to participate,” he says. “The game world is kind of like a social or country club. So it’s somewhat similar to buying access to some sort of entertainment or some membership to participate instead of building it from the ground up. For the people who participate, it’s not just about the fantasy of slaying dragons but about the reality of forming strong bonds with other people around the world, and that’s what gives real economic value to buying these characters.”