Every little kid (and many big men) dream of earning a living by playing video games is close to reality. The latest release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace under development, games that reward players with cryptocurrency rather than virtual princesses or gold stars, point to a future in which an individual’s rating on the scoreboard can be rewarded in dollars, pounds sterling, euros and yen.
The story of a millionaire real estate agent (hypothetical) …
Cryptocurrencies are slowly gaining maturity in terms of their functionality and the financial infrastructure that enables them to be used as a reliable alternative to non-virtual fiat currency. Although Bitcoin, the first and most popular cryptocurrency was created in 2009, there have been forms of virtual currency in use in video games for more than 15 years. Ultima Online of 1997 was the first notable attempt to integrate a large-scale virtual economy into a game. Players can collect gold coins by doing missions, fighting monsters, finding treasure and spending it on armor, weapons or real estate. This was an early embodiment of a virtual currency in that it was completely in-game even though it reflected real-world economies to the extent that the Altima coin was subjected to inflation as a result of the game’s mechanics that ensured there was an endless supply of killing monsters and thus collecting gold coins.
EverQuest was released in 1999, and took the cryptocurrency game a step further, allowing players to trade virtual goods among themselves in-game, although the game’s designer also banned selling virtual items to each other on eBay. In a real-world phenomenon pleasantly explored in Reamde’s 2011 novel by Neil Stephenson, Chinese players or “gold farmers” are hired to play EverQuest and other similar games full-time with the goal of gaining experience points to upgrade their characters, making them more powerful and desirable. These characters will then be sold on eBay to Western players who are unwilling or unable to set aside hours to upgrade their characters. Based on the calculated exchange rate for EverQuest coin as a result of the real-world trading that occurred, Edward Castronova, a professor of communications at Indiana University and an expert in virtual currencies, estimated that in 2002, EverQuest was ranked 77th in the richest country in the world, somewhere between Russia And Bulgaria’s per capita GDP is greater than the People’s Republic of China and India.
Second Life was launched in 2003 and reached 1 million regular users by 2014, and is perhaps the most complete example of a virtual economy so far where a virtual currency can be used, the Linden Dollar that can be used to buy or sell goods and services within the game is exchanged for real-world currencies via exchanges. Market-based. $ 3.2 billion in in-game transactions were recorded for virtual goods in the ten years between 2002-13, Second Life became a marketplace where players and companies alike were able to design, promote, and sell the content they created. Real estate was an especially lucrative commodity to trade in, in 2006 Eileen Gref became the first millionaire on Second Life when she converted an initial investment of $ 9.95 into more than $ 1 million over a period of 2.5 years by buying, selling, and trading virtual real estate for other players. Examples like Ailin are the exception to the rule however, only 233 registered users make more than $ 5,000 in 2009 Second Life activities.
How to be paid in dollars for asteroid mining …
Until now, the ability to generate non-virtual cash in video games has been of secondary design, where the player has to go through unauthorized channels to exchange virtual spoils or possess a degree of real-world creative skills or commercial acumen that can be traded for cash. This could change with the advent of video games that are built from the ground up around the “plumbing” of well-known cryptocurrency platforms. HunterCoin’s approach is to “skew” what is usually the technical and automated process of creating a digital currency. Unlike real-world currencies that come into existence when printed by a central bank, digital currencies are created by being “mined” by users. The primary source code for a particular digital currency that allows it to function is called the blockchain, which is the decentralized online general ledger that records all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since digital currency is nothing more than intangible data, it is more vulnerable to fraud than physical currency, as it is possible to duplicate a unit of currency, causing the transaction to inflate or change the value of the transaction after it is made for personal gain. To ensure that this does not happen, the blockchain is “ monitored ” by volunteers or “ miners ” who test the validity of every transaction made with the help of specialized hardware and software ensuring that the data is not tampered with. This is an automatic process for the miner program albeit very time consuming and involves a great deal of processing power from their computers. To reward a miner for verifying a transaction, the blockchain issues a new unit of digital currency and rewards them with it as an incentive to maintain the network, thus creating the digital currency. Because it can take anything from several days to years for an individual to successfully mine coins, groups of users pool their resources into a mining “pool”, using the combined processing power of their computers to mine the coins more quickly.
The HunterCoin game is located inside the blockchain of a digital currency also called HunterCoin. The process of playing the game replaces the automated process of mining digital currency and for the first time makes it a manual process without the need for expensive hardware. Using strategy, time and teamwork, players venture out on the map in search of coins, find some and safely return to their base (there are other teams trying to stop them and steal their coins) they can exchange their coins by depositing into their own digital wallet, usually an app designed to conduct Digital payments and receiving. 10% of the value of any coins deposited by players goes to miners who maintain the HunterCoin blockchain plus a small percentage of any coins are lost when the player is killed and their coins are toppled. While the game’s graphics are basic, the important rewards take time to accumulate, HunterCoin is an experience that can be considered the first video game with built-in monetary reward as a primary function.
Although still in development, VoidSpace is a more polished approach to gaming in a lean economy. A multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), VoidSpace is set in space as players explore an ever-growing universe, counting natural resources like asteroids and trading them for goods with other players with the goal of building their galactic empire. Players will be rewarded for mining at DogeCoin, a more established form of digital currency that is currently widely used for micro-payments on various social media sites. DogeCoin will also be a currency for in-game commerce between players and a means of making in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is a legitimate fully functional digital currency, and like HunterCoin it can be traded for both digital and real currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.
The future of video games?
Although they are early days in terms of quality, the release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace is an interesting indicator of what could be the next evolution of gaming. MMORPG is currently seen as methods of modeling epidemic outbreaks as a result of how player reactions to an unintended plague are recorded on aspects that are difficult to model for human behavior in real-world outbreaks. It can be speculated that ultimately, in-game virtual economies can be used as models to test economic theories and develop responses to massive failures based on observations of how players use real-value digital currency. It is also a good test of the functionality and potential applications of cryptocurrencies that promise to move beyond mere exchange tools to, for example, exciting areas of personal digital ownership. Meanwhile, players now have the means to translate clocks in front of the screen into digital currency and then the dollar, sterling, euro or yen.
But before you quit your day job …
… it is worth noting the current exchange rates. It is estimated that a player can comfortably recover the initial registration fee of 1,005 HunterCoin (HUC) to join the HunterCoin game in a one-day game. Currently HUC cannot be exchanged directly for US dollars, one must convert it to a more established digital currency such as Bitcoin. At the time of writing, the exchange rate for HUC to Bitcoin (BC) is 0.00001900 while the exchange rate for BC to USD is $ 384.24. 1 HUC is traded to BC and then into USD, before any transaction fees are taken into account, it will equal … $ 0.01 USD. This does not mean that when the player becomes more skilled because he cannot grow his team from virtual CoinHunters and may use some “bots” that will automatically play the game under the guise of another player and earn coins for them as well. But I think it’s safe to say that for now, even efforts like this may only realistically lead to enough change for the daily McDonald’s. Unless players are willing to serve intrusive in-game ads, share personal data, or join a game like CoinHunter based on the Bitcoin blockchain, the rewards are unlikely to be more than small payments to the average player. And maybe that’s a good thing, because surely if you paid for something, it wouldn’t be a game anymore?