HOW much would you be willing to spend on an imaginary item — a collection of pixels and polygons sitting inside a computer? For some video gamers, the sky is the limit.
While most people worry about paying off their mortgage and keeping food on the table, others are splashing mortgage-level sums on virtual items housed on game servers half a world away.
We’re not talking about spending 99c on extra lives in Candy Crush — there are cases of people spending millions of dollars on fake things.
These digital distractions can be purchased directly from the game company itself (sort of like buying personalised numberplates from the RTA), or within virtual marketplaces where players determine their own rules of supply and demand. However you purchase them, they’re big business.
A World Bank report from 2011 estimated that the trade in virtual items — everything from spaceships, weapons, clothing and hats, to even entire cities — was worth around $3.7 billion globally.
The man tipped to become Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, until recently worked as a consulting economist with video game giant Valve, researching player-driven digital economies.
Highlighting how the lines between digital and real-world value are blurring, in 2013 an Australian World of Warcraft player sued her insurance company after it refused to pay out a claim for $75,000 worth of gold bullion stolen from her home.
Kristina Fincham had built up her real-world stash through ‘gold farming’ — performing mundane tasks within the game, such as repeatedly killing the same monster, to collect items which can then be sold for real-world money.
In some cases, a lot of real-world money. If you haven’t played a video game since Pong, brace yourself.
Ameeta Parsuram ‘Meeta’ Psychologist, Poet & Lyricist