Virtual economies finally recognized?

This little reading I found is utterly fascinating – Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention.
I remember my attention was first brought to this a long time back, when Slashdot ran a story about how EverQuest’s economy equals that of a small country, with it’s own GDP! This is incredible – the first thing I remember thinking about is the fact that there is this group of people who wrote and distributed an online game, and basically created an economy that crossed the boundaries from virtual to real. If you extrapolate that, these people actually created real jobs for gamers – those who are willing to take it to the extreme, of course.
All someone has to do is invest a significant amount of time online in this virtual world, and in the case of Everquest or Worlds of Warcraft for example, keep leveling up the player character and pick up ever more rare, powerful and special objects. Once accomplished, all this gamer has to do is to find a willing buyer for the items (or even the character itself), and voila! Real world transactions.
Theoretically, someone could actually make a living out of this. Well, probably not at the current scale, no, but a virtual world where people hang out just like they do in real-life, like the Metaverse in Stephenson’s Snow Crash, would make this very viable.
It’s not hard to see why there are fanatical gamers go berserk when their virtual characters are killed online – the time they invested simply vanishes… In fact, I remember there was a case in South Korea (I think it was, anyway – for scary gamer anecdotes, say South Korea and you’re probably not too far wrong) where a gamer killed in real life the person who ‘killed’ his online game character.


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