August 2005

Stress Fractures

You\’e2\’80\’99ll have to excuse me, this is a blatantly political update, and one that has nothing to do with MMOs, silly links about cats, or Queen Antonia beauty pageant winners. I\’e2\’80\’99m sure something shiny will distract me by tomorrow, though.

Like everyone else, I\’e2\’80\’99ve been compulsively reading the news sites for news about Katrina, and even occasionally watching the net feed from WWL. We\’e2\’80\’99re really seeing something phenomenal here, and I mean that in the most literal sense.

Men are two days from savagery. I\’e2\’80\’99ve often said that, and in fact batted around gaming ideas focused on what would happen when comfortable Americans discover that they can\’e2\’80\’99t go to the Stop and Go for groceries. Well, those ideas suddenly seem incredibly perverse, now that we\’e2\’80\’99re seeing it play out in real time. Basically, people grab stuff in grocery bags and swim off. And speaking of which\’e2\’80\’a6

The media is racist. To quote Metafilter: Black people loot, white people borrow. Which isn\’e2\’80\’99t surprising, because\’e2\’80\’a6

The country is racist. To quote an unnamed rescue worker originally quoted on

The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number \’e2\’80\rdblquote 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be able to get out. The resources \’e2\’80\rdblquote meaning, the political will \’e2\’80\rdblquote weren\’e2\’80\’99t there to get them out.

Which, if you follow through to its conclusion\’e2\’80\’a6

The government has failed. We\’e2\’80\’99re seeing the results of a government policy and culture that is so used to using shock and condescension to speak to its people that when an actual crisis hits, it\’e2\’80\’99s dumbfounded.

Look. We lost a city. Literally. There are over a million refugees in the southeast US right now. I\’e2\’80\’99m not talking about the poor souls in the Superdome who can\’e2\’80\’99t sleep in three days because of the water, heat and smell much less find a waterlogged corner to take a crap from the last-minute scrounged up MREs. No, I\’e2\’80\’99m talking about the lucky ones. The ones who owned cars and left.

If this happened in France? Or Germany? Or hell, even Poland? There\’e2\’80\’99d be a tent city outside of Baton Rouge. Someone would have already printed temporary identity cards, troops would be filtering refugees for weapons and the Red Cross would be registering survivors. They\’e2\’80\’99d have a fucking PLACE TO SLEEP.

Here in the land of the free? We tell them to find hotels. How immensely fucked up is THAT? We\’e2\’80\’99re watching an entire city bankrupt itself because we can\’e2\’80\’99t be bothered to do a simple refugee housing operation that WE\’e2\’80\’99VE DONE IN OTHER COUNTRIES. Maybe we\’e2\’80\’99ll depend on the Baptists or the Salvation Army to do it, and maybe they won\’e2\’80\’99t be as insistent on trying to use the refugees that come to them for a bowl of soup as an opportunity to convert them.

Even when we have vague stabs of conscience, we screw it up. The Governor of Texas this morning made a grand prounouncement, stating that the people of Lousiana were family, and that the unused Houston Astrodome would be opened for refugees – like the Superdome, but with working AC and toilets, so it\’e2\’80\’99s at least a minor upgrade. He said the right things. It\’e2\’80\’99s what we should be doing.

Except, of course, we\’e2\’80\’99re turning away refugees there too. See, they\’e2\’80\’99re only taking people from the Superdome there. Actual refugees should continue to bankrupt their personal savings, thanks.

In the meantime, the Astrodome is turning away refugees who aren\’e2\’80\’99t part of the Superdome evacuation. That was bad news for Christy and Honald Salomon and five carloads of family members, including a 93-year-old great-great-grandmother.

The Salomons and their extended family have been staying at a Comfort Inn for $55 a night. News of a longer stay had the family searching for more permanent housing arrangements.

But they were turned away from the Astrodome a little before noon, with only a one-page information sheet of services offered by the Red Cross.

\’e2\’80\’9cPeople with no money will be able to stay here, but what about people like myself who have a little money to hold us?’\’e2\’80\’99 said Brian Salomon. \’e2\’80\’9cWhere are we going to stay when we run out of money?\’e2\’80\’9d

Now look. As I keep feeling compelled to remind myself, I\’e2\’80\’99m a conservative at heart, and what\’e2\’80\’99s more, a libertarian one. Most things, the government should not be involved in. But you know, when a whole goddamned city gets wiped off the Earth in 2 days? Last time I checked, this is why we had a government. And they had damned well better drop everything else they\’e2\’80\’99re currently being bitchy about and start FEEDING PEOPLE, and while they\’e2\’80\’99re at it, SHOOTING LOOTERS IN THE HEAD.

I pay taxes for a reason, and it\’e2\’80\’99s not to keep President Bush on permanent campaign trips so he can sell the Iraq war.

As Americans, we shouldn\’e2\’80\’99t hope for our government to act. We should DEMAND it. And come elections, remember both the heroes (among them the New Orleans mayor, who deserves several medals) and those who were so thoroughgoingly incompetent they couldn\’e2\’80\’99t do their jobs.

Thank you, and let\’e2\’80\’99s get back to bitching about XP grinding or something.

The economics of dancing

We\’e2\’80\’99re like a little hive mind here, in the happy mmogblogosphere. Somebody new shows up, we all stop by and compliment their taste in furniture, then all of a sudden we all go on a simultaneous tear. The reason behind this, of course, is that none of us has truly original thoughts, something painfully obvious to any MMG player.

So let\’e2\’80\’99s talk economically. I\’e2\’80\’99ll start with one of my first five-baggers. See, I don\’e2\’80\’99t know much about economic theory – just enough fringes picked up from history and political science. You know, the important stuff. \’e2\’80\’9cHitler took over Germany because the Weimar Republic printed lots of money and that was BAD.\’e2\’80\’9d So, if we want to stop Hitler from taking over World of Warcraft, we need to stop printing those damn quatloos. Ergo, to \’e2\’80\’9cfix the economy\’e2\’80\’9d in MMGs, set up a closed money supply! M1 for teh win, baby! I\’e2\’80\’99m sure you could find some ranting to that effect in the LtM archives. I\’e2\’80\’99m too embarassed to look. Because four years in the MMG industry has taught me that that was one of my more profoundly stupid ideas.

See, setting up a closed money supply – tracking the amount of money in circulation in an MMG, and indexing NPC prices for required commodities based on that amount – it would work. It would work really, really well. It would simulate the accumulation of wealth in the hands of 5-10% of the population. Much like, you know, real life. And a socialist revolution, while amusing, probably isn\’e2\’80\’99t going to happen in an MMG any time soon. Among other reasons, it would make life impossible for new players, short of pledging fealty to older players in exchange for a rusty short sword. While again this would be true to life (hellloooo middle ages!) it would not be fun. Unless you were the guy pimping for the sword.

As babylona (who, for all the protestations of not being an academic, thoroughly kicks any other academic\’e2\’80\’99s ass in terms of rational online economic analysis) states, the personal economy in an MMG is entirely seperate from any global MMG economy that exists. This is patently obvious to any MMG player and makes any actual economist\’e2\’80\’99s head explode. It\’e2\’80\’99s like saying that in the midst of a global depression, my stock portfolio is doing perfectly fine, thank you, as are all my friends. The reason for this is that we set up an economic Hero\’e2\’80\’99s Journey as part of the game\’e2\’80\’99s natural development.

No matter how depressed or inflated the state of the in-game economy is, chances are good that you can exist entirely apart from it. You won\’e2\’80\’99t be the fully optimized templated out avatar of uberosity that you could be if you purchased the best of everything on the player-run market, but you can exist. You can purchase the baseline crappy gear from NPCs that developers add specifically to allow low level players to exist apart from ther economy. As you progress, you can go into your own little dungeon (literally, in newer games, spawning your own copy thereof) and gather your own +7 crap. You don\’e2\’80\’99t need the player economy at all.

The more the game insulates players from the player economy, the more the active participants in the player economy (the merchants, crafters and sellers) complain. Their lifestyle is dependent on a steady flow of players. Player crafters in particular are dependent on a steady flow of new players, because new players are the only target market for the 80,000 panjarkastarkaskeddooowhowho chain mail coifs that they created on their path to mercantile glory. Eventually the high-end player market exists in its own space apart from the economy, where players offer rare items and items that would otherwise require tedious camping, because that rarity gives those item their own value apart from anything designated by the designers.

Anyway, just a few notes tossed off in haste, so I can keep up my rep in the mmogblogosphere as one of the kewl kids. Tune in next week when we all talk about the same thing once again!