"Every human being is interested in two kinds of worlds: the Primary, everyday world which he knows through his senses, and a Secondary world or worlds which he not only can create in his imagination, but which he cannot stop himself creating." W.H. Auden
Effigy of Gabe Newell in Valve Theme sim run by permabanned griefers, taken offline by Linden Lab.
The Washington Post Wonk Blog by Brad Plumer contains an interesting revelation. Like other journalists, he's fascinated with the idea that Gabe Newell has hired an economist to work at his game network Steam full time. What is this economist going to do? Well, here's the answer that has been elusive to us plebes until now:
Valve wanted to link different Steam games together so players could
trade virtual items. As Gabe Newell, the chief executive of Valve,
explained in an e-mail to Varoufakis: “We are discussing an issue of
linking economies in two virtual environments (creating a shared
currency), and wrestling with some of the thornier problems of balance
Who is "we"? And which two virtual environments? Is this just two games in Steam that might be roughly comparable in their values and economic features?
Or is Second Life in this mix?
I can't believe it's not.
Here's what I wrote on the Washington Post comments section:
Ah. Your article has just inadvertently
indicated what some of us have suspected -- that once the virtual world
of Second Life is listed on the powerful gaming network of Steam (owned
by Valve), there may be pressure by Valve's CEO Gabe Newell (or may be a
deal already in the workds) to take over the LindEx, which is the
virtual exchange for the Linden dollar (worth about 248 to US $1.00).
There have been discussions before about whether the Metaverse (the
alternative universe of worlds, games, social networks, etc.) should
have a currency like the old Gaming Open Market (which Linden Lab, the
makers of Second Life, helped shut down as a competitor to their own
exchange but which traded the Linden at a higher value because it didn't
print and sell money the way Linden Lab does).
This would be a
bad idea regarding the mixture of the virtual world of Second Life and
games on Steam because Second Life's economy largely rests on land, i.e.
re-rental of server space, and content related to land (houses,
gardening supplies, etc.) Linden itself isn't happy with this labor- and
cost-intensive solution to how to profit from virtuality, but it is
what gives them $75 million in profits annually currently. They, like
other game makers such as the recently revived There.com, hope to make
profits in digital content sales, through commissions on the sales
themselves and/or through commissions on currency exchange. That's less
server-intensive to manage, although risk and fraud mean it is still
staff-intensive. In any event. These markets are fragile -- I remember
once when the company announced that it might start a new flat rate for
island sales rather than putting them on an auction, it crashed the
You're absolutely right about how the gambling
law in the US led to a run on the banks, very much helped along by a
wannabee anti-crime crusader who helped the stampede by talking to
media. While no one wants to endorse fraud, this prevented an orderly
management of the wind-down. Foreign bankers and stock market exchanges
in SL who invested in gambling joints hadn't counted on a US law
affecting them. But then the credit card companies told Linden that if
they didn't ban gambling, they would lose their services. Then it was
I find it very disturbing that Valve would hire a
Greek socialist who advised a failed government to organize a virtual
economy. It's part of that "better world" philosophy that Silicon Valley
giants who themselves are capitalists think up for the rest of us in
the form of technocommunism. The Lindens, in printing money and
controlling currency exchange, frankly acknowledge that China was their
model. The oligarchs who control the Metaverse want to make sure that
virtual economies reward them first of all, as they do in Russia.
The Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis is as anti-American as they come, blaming America for the global recession. Oh, never Europe with its socialist economies, including Greece, where people wouldn't pay their taxes yet built swimming pools.
"Whom better to ask, Newell figured, than an expert on the difficulties that Germany and Greece faced after joining the euro?," reports Plumer.
An expert who advised a failed government that had to get a Euro handout? I look at this with frank disbelief.
As I noted, what really happens with these geeks and game-god gankers that want to tinker with virtual economies -- i.e. the lives of real people online -- is a deep-seated desire to create that utopian "Better World" that all people untethered to real life business outside the gaming world seem to acquire, especially in Silicon Valley. And what they want to put into effect are things that usually turn out to be socialist if not communist in nature. I remember how furious Richard Bartle got when I called him on game-god socialism. Yet he was frowning and fretting at the land for sale in Second Life. He'd be happy now, with the ministrations of our game gods, the land is now not even worth 0.2/meter for a bot to come pick up. Governor Linden now sells land for $1/m and holds the price up, glutting the market. Of course, the Lindens have always printed land -- and currency! -- like tinpot dictators or the Russian or Chinese governments (or the US government with food stamps!). They have to, to make revenue. They need land (server) sales/rentals and commissions on currency, not a viable economy that increasingly would likely have little to compensate rent-seekers.
Another bonus with this Washpo piece is the reappearance from post SL-boom obscurity of Beyers Selleers (Richard Bloom), and economist at Cornell University.
I'll never forget my shock when he put Intlibber and some of the other shadier characters of the SL banking and stock world on a Metanomics panel. Says Beyers:
“If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can
buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system
so that it doesn’t spin out of control,” says Robert Bloomfield, an
economist who studies virtual worlds at Cornell’s Johnson School of
Well, you do if you are installing socialist or game-god communism -- which is what these oligarchic companies wish to do. What is control? What is spinning? Is it the human desire for free enterprise that always overcomes even the most vigilant game-god oppression?
That's not to say that game/virtual economies don't need regulation:
“We’ve even seen large alliances trying to manipulate aspects of the
market to control the supply and affect prices,” Guðmundsson says. “It’s
a lot like OPEC.”
Indeed. Remember how Anshe cornered the market on all new prime beach waterfront on the Mainland? But the question is: how liberal and how democratic are these economies when a company runs them? EVE Online has the most player democracy in the Metaverse (supposedly).
Again, the question to ask about something like Ginko: was it a high-interest investment club? Or a pyramid scheme? Pyramid schemes that take five years to play out seem more like investment clubs.
Says Beyers again:
Some economists, however, are starting to observe intriguing phenomena. A 2010 study
by Cornell’s Bloomfield looked at an unregulated stock exchange in
Second Life, called SLCapex, which raised $145,000 from investors. He
found that the market tended to favor large investors over small
investors. And, he realized, existing economic theories could not
explain why issuers continued to raise so much money in such a setting.
Truly, the companies that raised all that money were losers, many are gone from SL, including Intlibbers, and market theories couldn't explain these things -- only psychology and forensic criminology could.
The desire to play the role of a big CEO, build big buildings, collect money from your new friends that you flatter and give insider deals to, the mutuality of friending and business in SL, the role of griefing and mafias -- these all explain how "the stock market" worked in SL a lot more than an economic textbook.
One researcher delights in virtuality for experimentation because of the alleged transparency:
“In real life, if you want to know what’s happening with car sales, you
might call up a handful of car dealerships and ask what their sales are
like this month,” says Dmitri Williams, a researcher at the University
of Southern California. “In a virtual world, you just know everything.
There’s no sampling, there’s no error. It’s perfect information.”
But that "know everything" stuff is available *only to the game gods and their hired economists*. The publics -- the players -- are in the dark. Second Life's makers, Linden Lab, used to publish all kinds of economic statistics, including how many dollars Supply Linden was printing and selling on the LindEx, and the number of people who spent more than a dollar a month, and the statistics on revenue for avatars -- not to mention concurrency figures. All of this information is hidden now, as it is in most games. The consumer is not an informed player in a game-god's market -- it's more like a casino where the house has to win a good percentage of the time.
If virtual-world economists were ethical -- and they aren't -- they'd think about the ethical ramifications to experimenting on people. Instead, they see games and worlds with people and their savings tied up in them as a playground:
Virtual worlds offer one possible way forward. In his essay
explaining why he took a job at Valve, Varoufakis noted that the field
of econometrics is a “travesty,” in part because of “our inability to
run experiments on a macroeconomy such as rewinding time to, say, 1932,
in order to see whether the U.S. would have rebounded without the New
Deal.” But, he added, in a digital economy, it was possible to alter
values, rules and settings, and go “back to observe how the community
responds, how relative prices change, the new behavioural patterns that
evolve. An economist’s paradise indeed.”
It's bad enough when you're data-scraped by marketers on social media who take away your privacy. Do you want to be a pawn in somebody's "econometrics" experiment to test out their favourite socialist theory on you and see if you howl?
But then everybody forgot about the fact that some griefers tried to do a little defeat tap dance and get people on their side, and try to get a vandalism of Wikipedia, to the effect that "Linden Lab expels universities and gamers" (like...that's what it's really all about!) and moved on to Pandaria or whatever that new WoW version is called.
Griefing on the grid today may or may not be payback for that but lost in all the trash talk and self-justifying QQing -- well, wait, let Lordfly describe it:
The rest of this is just neckbearding basement-dwelling trollery with
alts and counter-alts and counter-hyper alts and intrigue and irc
channels and chat logs and reddit threads and indignant outrage and how
dare you and I will call my internet lawyer and you're all in trouble.
(I have to agree with Cristiano for once that that *is* the best post evah!)
But lost in all that was the interesting fact that the griefers broke ranks. Now, we know that they always squabble among themselves, but this time, curiously, a few of them blurted out the truth quite bluntly. Even they get tired of their banal antics.
There were some anonymouses on the reddit thread hinting that it was all a troll of sorts, but then on the Alphaville Herald, where, as Uri says, the truth always comes out in the comments, there was this reference to the "Queen Mary strategy".
The Queen Mary is reference to a WWII boat in a California harbour where the griefers had their alternative "SLCC" -- i.e. some of the more pathetic remnants of Woodbury and the Herald, which never comes out anymore, drank themselves into a stupor over the weekend, and cooked up a plot.
The plot seemed to be to piss on the Lindens' parade with their new Steam thing, then see how long they could go before being banned -- whereupon they would kick up a fuss on social media and make it seem like LL was repressing creativity and fanboy copies of game items.
So with that plan working more or less as soppily conceived on the Queen Mary, the loudmouths on Twitter with day-old accounts and nobody they're following except me (like "Maria Scripps") claim that now LL has suffered a "PR disaster". Nonsense.
As two of the hardcore goons tell us, it's all Tizzers' fault again.
First Robble Rubble tattles:
Originally Posted by Adeon Writer
And Hissy's friends should really not gone around telling people that they were Tiz. People might get the wrong idea!
[2012/06/12 12:11] Second Life: You have offered friendship to Disembodied Hand
[2012/06/12 13:34] Disembodied Hand: yoooo
[2012/06/12 13:35] Disembodied Hand: this is uhm
[2012/06/12 13:35] Disembodied Hand: tizzy right?
[2012/06/12 13:35] Sassypants (hissyfits): Hey!
[2012/06/12 13:35] Sassypants (hissyfits):
[2012/06/12 13:35] Disembodied Hand: Yeah?
[2012/06/12 13:35] Sassypants (hissyfits): Possibly. (shh)
[2012/06/12 13:35] Disembodied Hand: Lol
Originally Posted by Adeon Writer
It's almost like they WANTED the sim to get banned for some reason or another...
was Tizz's "masterplan" for the sim, it started out as a reddit themed
sim named Reddit. He later switched to a steam theme when his admin
staff ran off all the redditors and the place became infested with
welcome area people.
[6/26/2012 2:59:58 AM] Tizzers Foxchase: Well at least we're seeing the
general sentiment about Second Life on r/gaming. Good to know they hate
[6/26/2012 3:00:53 AM] Tizzers Foxchase: We could almost just pull the
sim and be like LINDEN LAB BANNED REDDIT and create this hyped angry
bandwagon that Linden Lab would be really confused about.
Yeah, "hyped angry bandwagon" is exactly what they created, and that's exactly the term for it.
I´m no JLU fan but it´s certainly not Vekman´s fault there is a thread
on Reddit about this, and as for the percieved popularity of the sim,
that´s questionable at best.
ETA: I can´t believe i agreed with GLE´s comment, is like hell is freezing over.
actually had some pretty high traffic with it being on reddit
previously and because of prok's blog posts. The ironic thing is the
traffic was actually starting to drop dramatically and the sim was dead a
day before it vanished. I do think Kalel helped get the place banned,
but at the same time tizz was trying to get it banned so he really just
'fell for the trap' I guess you could say.
Quite by accident I learned today that a) there still is a Governance team in SL (for some time I had been told by various Lindens that they were folded into Customer Service and no longer seemed to have any identity of their own, i.e. mission, but now the term is being used again at Concierge) and b) there is a new Linden on the block who is quite grim and has special powers to bust griefers.
Responding to several alarm calls from tenants about griefing and crashing of a sim, I came flying out and started scanning around and spotted a punk-looking guy in a black jacket with a skull and crossbones.
I figured him for a griefer type and was about to flick him off this server but first, I zoomed in on his name and saw that lo and behold, he was a Linden, intent on his work. Of course, Lindens can mix in with griefers and be part of the problem, but this one had the sim up and running tip-top in minutes -- following a spate of what was described by one Linden as "major mainland griefing" by an object with a funny name.
I won't reveal this grim Linden's name or he will be targeted by Woodburies to be their new cat-and-mouse chum, and by the JLU to become their new briefer at superhero seminars.
I stumbled on his special powers when I saw his laser-like eyes beaming out rays from a grotesque skeleton head.
Well, it's Halloween, and the Lindens are now bulking up to fight those who constantly wish everybody "Happy Halloween" even on Christmas.