Every little boy’s (and most grown men’s) dream of earning a living by playing video games will be much nearer to reality. The current launch of HunterCoin as well as also the in-development VoidSpace, games that reward players in electronic money instead of virtual princesses or golden stars line towards a future in which one’s ranking on a scoreboard may be rewarded in dollars, and sterling, euros and yen.
Digital currencies have been gradually gaining in adulthood both in terms of their performance and the fiscal infrastructure that enables them to be used as a credible solution to non-virtual fiat currency. Players could amass gold coins by job quests, battling creatures and finding treasure and invest these on armour, weapons or real estate. This was an early incarnation of a virtual money in that it existed only within the match though it did mirror real world economics to the extent that the Ultima currency experienced inflation as a result of the game mechanics that ensured there was a never ending source of monsters to kill and thus gold coins to collect sumokoin.
Released in 1999, EverQuest took virtual money gaming a step further, allowing players to exchange virtual goods amongst themselves in-game and though it was prohibited by the game’s designer to also sell virtual items to one another on eBay. In a real world phenomenon which was entertainingly explored in Neal Stephenson’s 2011 novel Reamde, Chinese players or’gold farmers’ were employed to play EverQuest and other such games fulltime with the aim of gaining experience points in order to level-up their personalities thereby making them more powerful and sought after. These characters would then be sold on eBay to Western players who were reluctant or unable to spend the hours to level-up their own personalities. Depending on the calculated exchange rate of EverQuest’s money as a consequence of the real-world trading which happened Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and an expert in virtual monies estimated that in 2002 EverQuest was the 77th richest nation in the world, somewhere between Russia and Bulgaria and its GDP per capita was higher compared to 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 market so far whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar that may be used to buy or sell in-game goods and services could be traded for actual world currencies via market-based exchanges. There have been a listed $3.2 billion in-game transactions of virtual goods from the 10 years between 2002-13, Second Life having become a marketplace where players and companies alike could design, market and sell content they made. Real estate was an especially lucrative commodity to trade, in 2006 Ailin Graef became the 1st Second Life millionaire when she turned an initial 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 Ailin are the exception to the rule however, only a documented 233 users earning over $5000 from 2009 out of Second Life actions.
How to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…
So far, the ability to create non-virtual money in video games has been of secondary design, the participant needing to go through non-authorised stations to exchange their virtual booty or they needing to possess a degree of real world creative ability or business acumen which could be traded for money. This might be set to change with the debut of video games being built from the ground up around the’pipes’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has taken would be to’gamify’ what is the somewhat technical and automated process of producing digital money. Unlike real world currencies that come into existence when they are published by a Central bank, electronic currencies are created by being’mined’ by users. The underlying source code of a particular digital currency that enables it to operate is called the blockchain, an online decentralised people ledger which lists all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since electronic currency isn’t anything more than intangible data it is more vulnerable to fraud than actual money in that it is possible to duplicate a unit of currency thereby causing inflation or changing the value of a trade after it’s been created for personal profit. To ensure this does not occur the blockchain is’policed’ by volunteers or’miners’ who test the validity of every transaction that’s made whereby with the assistance of expert hardware and software they ensure that data hasn’t been tampered with. This is an automatic procedure for miner’s applications albeit an extremely time consuming one that involves a lot of processing power from their computer. To reward a miner for confirming a trade that the blockchain releases a brand new unit of digital money and rewards them as an incentive to maintain maintaining the network, thus is electronic money made. Since it can take anything from several days to years for an individual to successfully mine a coin collections of users combine their resources to a mining’pool’, using the combined processing power of their computers to mine coins more rapidly.
HunterCoin the sport sits inside such a blockchain to get a digital money also known as HunterCoin. The action of playing the sport replaces the automated process of mining electronic currency and also for the first time makes it a guide one and without the need for costly hardware. Using strategy, time and teamwork, players venture out on a map seeking coins and on locating some and returning safely to their base (other groups are out there attempting to stop them steal their coins) they can cash out their coins by depositing them into their own pocket, typically an app designed to create and get digital payments. 10% of the value of any coins deposited by players go to the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain and a little percent of some coins dropped when a player is killed and their coins fell. While the game graphics are fundamental and significant rewards take the time to accumulate HunterCoin is an experiment that might be viewed as the very first video game with financial reward built in as a primary function.