Every little boy’s (and several grown men’s) dream of making a living by playing video gaming is edging nearer to reality. coincapcentral of HunterCoin and the in-development VoidSpace, games which reward players in digital currency rather than virtual princesses or gold stars point towards another where one’s ranking on a scoreboard could possibly be rewarded in dollars, and sterling, euros and yen.
The story of the millionaire (virtual) agent…
Digital currencies have been slowly gaining in maturity both in terms of their functionality and the financial infrastructure that enables them to be used as a credible alternative to non-virtual fiat currency. Though Bitcoin, the very first and most popular of the crypto-currencies was created in 2009 2009 2009 there were forms of virtual currencies used in video games for more than 15 years. 1997’s Ultima Online was the initial notable attempt to add a large scale virtual economy in a casino game. Players could collect coins by undertaking quests, battling monsters and finding treasure and spend these on armour, weapons or real estate. This was an early on incarnation of a virtual currency for the reason that it existed purely within the game though it did mirror real world economics to the extent that the Ultima currency experienced inflation as a result of the game mechanics which ensured that there is a never ending supply of monsters to kill and thus gold coins to collect.
Released in 1999, EverQuest took virtual currency gaming a step further, allowing players to trade virtual goods amongst themselves in-game and even though it was prohibited by the game’s designer to also sell virtual what to one another on eBay. In a real world phenomenon which was entertainingly explored in Neal Stephenson’s 2011 novel Reamde, Chinese gamers or ‘gold farmers’ were employed to play EverQuest along with other such games full-time with the aim of gaining experience points so as to level-up their characters thereby making them better and popular. These characters would then be sold on eBay to Western gamers who were unwilling or unable to put in the hours to level-up their own characters. Using the calculated exchange rate of EverQuest’s currency because of real life trading that took place Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and a specialist in virtual currencies estimated that in 2002 EverQuest was the 77th richest country on the planet, somewhere between Russia and Bulgaria and its own GDP per capita was greater than the People’s Republic of China and India.
Launched in 2003 and having reached 1 million regular users by 2014, Second Life is perhaps the most complete example of a virtual economy up to now whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar and this can be used to get or sell in-game goods and services can be exchanged for real world currencies via market-based exchanges. There have been a recorded $3.2 billion in-game transactions of virtual goods in the a decade between 2002-13, Second Life having become a marketplace where players and businesses alike were able to design, promote and sell content they created. Real estate was a particularly lucrative commodity to trade, in 2006 Ailin Graef became the very first Second Life millionaire when she turned a short investment of $9.95 into over $1 million over 2.5 years through buying, selling and trading virtual real estate to other players. Examples such as for example Ailin are the exception to the rule however, just a recorded 233 users making a lot more than $5000 in 2009 2009 from Second Life activities.
How exactly to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…
To date, the opportunity to generate non-virtual cash in video gaming has been of secondary design, the ball player having to go through non-authorised channels to switch their virtual booty or they needing to possess a degree of real world creative skill or business acumen that could be traded for cash. This may be set to improve with the advent of video games being built from the bottom up around the ‘plumbing’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has taken is to ‘gamify’ what is typically the rather technical and automated procedure for creating digital currency. Unlike real life currencies which come into existence if they are printed by way of a Central bank, digital currencies are created by being ‘mined’ by users. The underlying source code of a specific digital currency that allows it to function is called the blockchain, an online decentralised public ledger which records all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since digital currency is nothing more than intangible data it really is more susceptible to fraud than physical currency for the reason that it is possible to duplicate a unit of currency thereby causing inflation or altering the worthiness of a transaction after it’s been made for personal gain. To make sure this does not happen the blockchain is ‘policed’ by volunteers or ‘miners’ who test the validity of every transaction that is made whereby using specialist hardware and software they make sure that data is not tampered with. This is a computerized process for miner’s software albeit an extremely time consuming the one that involves plenty of processing power from their computer. To reward a miner for verifying a transaction the blockchain releases a fresh unit of digital currency and rewards them with it as an incentive to help keep maintaining the network, thus is digital currency created. Because it may take anything from several days to years for an individual to successfully mine a coin groups of users combine their resources right into a mining ‘pool’, using the joint processing power of these computers to mine coins quicker.
HunterCoin the overall game sits within this type of blockchain for an electronic currency also called HunterCoin. The act of playing the overall game replaces the automated procedure for mining digital currency and for the first time makes it a manual one and with no need for expensive hardware. Using strategy, time and teamwork, players go out onto a map searching for coins and on finding some and returning safely with their base (other teams are out there attempting to stop them and steal their coins) they are able to cash out their coins by depositing them into their own digital wallet, typically an app designed to make and receive digital payments. 10% of the worthiness of any coins deposited by players visit the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain plus a small percent of any coins lost when a player is killed and their coins dropped. As the game graphics are basic and significant rewards take time to accumulate HunterCoin is an experiment that might be viewed as the first video game with monetary reward built-in as a primary function.
Though still in development VoidSpace is a more polished approach towards gaming in a functioning economy. A Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG), VoidSpace is set in space where players explore an ever-growing universe, mining natural resources such as asteroids and trading them for goods with other players with the goal of building their very own galactic empire. Players will be rewarded for mining in DogeCoin, a more established form of digital currency which is currently used widely for micro-payments on various social media marketing sites. DogeCoin may also be currency of in-game trade between players and the means to make in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is really a legitimate and fully functioning digital currency and like HunterCoin it really is traded for both digital and real fiat currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.
The future of video games?
Though it is start with regard to quality the release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace is an interesting indication of what could be the next evolution for games. MMORPG’s are being considered as methods to model the outbreak of epidemics because of how player’s reactions to an unintended plague mirrored recorded hard-to-model areas of human behaviour to real world outbreaks. It could be surmised that eventually in-game virtual economies could possibly be used as models to test economic theories and develop responses to massive failures predicated on observations of how players use digital currency with real value. It is also a good test for the functionality and potential applications of digital currencies that have the promise of moving beyond mere vehicles of exchange and into exciting areas of personal digitial ownership for instance. In the mean time, players will have the means to translate hours before a screen into digital currency and dollars, sterling, euros or yen.
But before you quit your day job…
… it’s worth mentioning current exchange rates. It’s estimated a player could comfortably recoup their initial registration fee of 1 1.005 HunterCoin (HUC) for joining HunterCoin the overall game in 1 day’s play. Currently HUC can’t be exchanged directly to USD, one must convert it right into a competent digital currency like Bitcoin. At the time of writing the exchange rate of HUC to Bitcoin (BC) is 0.00001900 as the exchange rate of BC to USD is $384.24. 1 HUC traded to BC and then to USD, before any transaction fees were taken into consideration would mean… $0.01 USD. This is not to say that as a player becomes more adept that they cannot grow their team of virtual CoinHunters and maybe hire a few ‘bot’ programmes that would automatically play the game under the guise of another player and earn coins for them as well but I believe it’s safe to state that right now even efforts such as this might only realistically result in enough change for an everyday McDonalds. Unless players are willing to submit to intrusive in-game advertising, share personal data or join a casino game such as CoinHunter that is built on the Bitcoin blockchain it really is improbable that rewards are ever apt to be more than micro-payments for the casual gamer. And perhaps this is a positive thing, because surely if you get paid for something it stops being truly a game any more?