Gaming and Gold - An Introduction

Posted by Arun Menon at Jan 20, 2010 06:15 PM |
Arun Menon in this first entry, provides a brief description of the area of study and the questions that need to be engaged with in the course of this study.


The Center for Internet and Society has initiated a project to study Online Gaming, particularly Mmorpgs. The title ‘Gaming and Gold’ may throw off the casual reader who is not sufficiently acquainted with this area. For this reason, the first few blog posts will focus on providing a contextual background but before that a brief introduction to the theoretical premise is necessary.

The study ideally focuses on the Mmorpg[i] genre, which is a subset under online gaming (that involves more than two players over a network, if Andrew Rollings definition is considered). This would be to effectively locate 'attention' as a currency, a medium that enables/facilitates the flow of currencies both internal[ii] and secondary[iii]. Attention also influences the generation of in-game currencies and their real values are often speculated and traded in secondary markets depending on the flow of material attention. The approach would have to take in Mmorpg games that have dynamic communities, which are engaged with the production processes in the game-world.  This would throw light on many other issues surrounding production of virtual resources. Lisa Nakamura has extensively studied the racialisation of the production processes that are deployed in the game world.

 This would naturally involve the technologies incorporated by the developer, since all trade and financial activities rest on social interaction, which is what eventually translates into currency both real and virtual. Social interaction therefore is dependent on how well the in-game communication system is developed. The lack of social interaction would generally imply a lack in any form(s) of trading. The Theorization of the Gaming space would necessitate the adequate placement of the contextual area that surrounds it.  An examination of what this space constitutes is important - the definitions, the terminologies, the backgrounds, the people, the developers, the communities, and the developments in online gaming (Mmorpgs) - would form a relevant background to the study.

To begin with what is Attention Economy? What is Attention Currency and why is it relevant to my study?  ‘Attention economies’ and ‘attention currencies’ are terms that are largely associated with marketing and advertising terminology. Thomas H. Davenport discuses Attention Economies and Attention Currencies in detail and defines attention as ‘focused mental engagement’, which is treated as a scarce commodity, particularly one that is spent in the act of consumption (of information). Could this concept be used to read market transactions (both internal and secondary) particularly in community-based online gaming? The use of this concept would naturally have to be very different from the way it is construed in advertising and marketing. The examination of the economies surrounding gaming and how gamers interact with their virtual world may be better articulated by placing attention as the mediating force, and the facilitating conduit which enables then the flows of real and virtual goods and services. Such a reading breaks away from the way Davenport addresses this issue. Davenport discusses attention economies and currencies elaborately, but his perspective does not suit an application to Gaming economies.

Exploring the activities of the internal markets and the trading that takes place, outside of the internal markets, i.e. in the secondary markets places two things in perspective a) Trading as an activity that increases the ‘value’ of the account/identity and b) Trading as an activity that enhances rankings and gameplay. The questions that arise out of these trading activities alone would directly place attention in a seemingly material form on the one hand which then enables non-material gains on the other hand. What are the gains of trading online? Are they only material in the form of virtual currency and virtual goods? Studies surrounding these concepts rely largely on a marketing perspective and how attention should be approached as a scarce commodity.

Watch this space for more posts on Online Gaming, Reviews on a few Games and the current ‘scene’.



[i] Massively multiplayer online games.

[ii] An internal market is within the game environment (In-Game) and as such operates as a system that enables trading within the game between players and between the game developer and the community. This usage is predominantly used defining World of Warcrafts market, but can be easily used to define in-game markets on any Mmorpgs.

[iii]  The secondary market is the unofficial market operating around the game environment trading in game merchandise but is not officially sanctioned, in fact certain games ban accounts that are involved in gold farming.





Arun Menon