Fiat Institutions in Virtual Worlds

Long before the age of billion-dollar Bitcoin mines, China was the world’s richest source of World of Warcraft gold.

WoW gold is a virtual currency that players use to buy weapons and animals for in-game missions. The currency is normally earned by completing challenges and killing monsters, but professional “farmers” spend their days performing rote tasks to acquire gold which they resell for US dollars. For a while, Chinese prison guards forced labor camp inmates to play Warcraft so that they could harvest the gold. Even Steve Bannon helped run a gold farming business.

There’s more: Each game server features an auction house, where gold can be used to buy tokens redeemable for digital goods and access to other Blizzard games. Tokens trade in a real-time market. It’s not that different from the ether-ICO economy, except that central banks haven’t tried to ban World of Warcraft.

A number of countries now want to control how people invest their digital currencies, but they will fail. Fiat authority is not transferable.

Just like money is a shared hallucination, so is authority. It makes no difference whether players are using virtual gold to buy virtual swords to join virtual guilds; or if they’re using virtual ether to buy virtual tokens issued by virtual companies. The only way to assert authority over a Warcraft realm is to become a max-level paladin, and the only way to assert authority over a decentralized currency is to control 51% of the nodes.

As a reminder, here is a handy guide from Mircea Popescu on how to interact with fiat institutions that attempt to claim jurisdiction over virtual realms.

See Also:
A history of World of Warcraft’s gold economy –Memory Insufficient

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