Now, onto the actual content for the Future is Last Week. This one is... strange. Out there in China (you know, where strange things come from) there's a growing sector of sweatshop labor. Sweatshops wherin the workers spend their days playing MMO games.
In the past, I've posted about things involving in-game profiteering, from the Gaming Open Market to interesting eBay scandals. Somehow though, in my rather limited imagination, I never saw this one coming. I really should have though. If one person, playing MMO games can almost make as much as they do working at a newspaper (a reporter tried that experiment), the imagine what thousands of people making pennies an hour can do.
We're looking at millions of dollars exchanged over bits that have no practical purpose whatsoever. Solely entertainment value. I mean, this is amazing. People want to be entertained, so companies released games that had in-game economies and encouraged trading goods between players (they were called MUDs and MUSHes and the like, but they never caught on until Evercrak put a nice 3D engine on one). Since there was an in-game enconomy, and the in-game experience changed due to what items you owned, this created a demand for the items. Now, the game company theoretically controls supply, but they can't be tight-fisted about it. Players need to feel like they've earned it (and that it's capable of being earned), and they also need to be able to exchange it when they need it no longer.
So really, the company controls the supply in the same way a mountain controls the coal buried in it.
Which means, any ambitious miner can go in and dig it out- and now they control the supply.
What I think I love about this most, well, it's horrible of me really. I can remember back in the early nineties a great deal of glamour filled pixies-and-daisies prognostications that this new channel of communication (the Internet) was going to tear down walls and improve communication and make us better people. It'll end war and cure cancer, and it's also a floor wax and a dessert topping! When reality hits, we suddenly see, people are people. You give them a new toy, and all they really do is find new ways to do the same old miserable things they've always done.