Hello! Two sort of related things:
1) I'll be speaking with Neal Stephenson this evening at the University of Washington about his new book, REAMDE, focusing on the legal dimensions of gold farming and virtual property. The available seats seem to be booked at this point, but there's standing room -- more about that here.
On page 35 of REAMDE, Stephenson describes the way that Richard Forthrast, the book's protaganist (well, the main protaganist) hit upon the idea that made him rich -- a MMORPG that encourages gold farming and is premised on a stable virtual currency:
It didn’t take a huge amount of acumen, then, to understand that the value of virtual gold in the game world could be made stable in a directly analogous way: namely, by forcing players to expend a certain amount of time and effort to extract a certain amount of virtual gold (or silver, or diamonds, or various other mythical and magical elements and gems that the Creatives would later add to the game world).
Which sounds suspiciously like Bitcoin, no?
2) And speaking of Bitcoin and its intersection with virtual economies, earlier this month, Mark Jansen pinged Ted and I about his M.A. Thesis, recently submitted at Utrecht University. It is embedded below and it offers a whirlwind tour of Bitcoin, goldfarming, currency systems, cyberlibertarianism, etc. Very much of a piece with the themes of Stephenson's REAMDE and a nice intro to the issues.
Update: Worth reading from Technollama -- it seems like there's a very large amount of concentrated wealth in the Bitcoin economy.Bitcoin the Political Virtual of an Intangible Material Currency