Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games

I consider myself an avid gamer, and, as you can imagine, once I picked up this book I didn’t really want to put it down.  I took some time to read the lengthly introduction and got a pretty good idea about what the book was going to cover.  First of all, for everyone that doesn’t know, the video game industry is almost a $19 billion one, almost sneaking past Hollywood.  Also, your average video gamer isn’t a 16 year old boy anymore.  Today the average age of a video gamer is around 30 and almost half male half female (60-40).  Another shocking statistic: 40% of people that play Second Life make over $90,000.  There is even an exchange rate for the Linden Dollar (Second Life’s currency) and the US Dollar. (Games of Empire)

The book walks us through development of video games and the role of various parties involved in that process, including the various ways of outsourcing labor.  Eventually it gets to the real point, which is how video games are mirrors for current cultural trends, globalization, militarism, and exploitation, to name a few.  A few notable games are investigated including World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, Second Life, and Full Spectrum Warrior. World of Warcraft and Second Life are two notable games whose economies are explored in this book.  Oddly enough both of these virtual economies come very close to what our US economy looks like.  In each game there is a small group of people who have a vast portion of the total wealth.  Everyone else is left to divide the remaining wealth as best they can.  Even in virtual capitalist economies, the results are very similar to our capitalist economy.  Is this how the games were designed, or is it a function of something else, possibly human nature?

Full Spectrum Warrior is a first person shooter (FPS) set in environments similar to Afghanistan and Iraq and developed by Pandemic Studios and the US Army.  The Army was experimenting with the game as a new way to recruit soldiers.  Are video games being used to shape the next generation’s view about militarism and its goals?

Games of Empire talks about many interesting relationships between video games and our world, between these virtual worlds and reality.  Are they really so different?  I think the most important question is why are these games such an accurate reflection of our world?  Maybe this is just how humans are supposed to develop and there’s not much we can do about it.

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One Response

  1. I’m surprised Jordi hasn’t commented on this post considering his interest in the avatar based world of Second Life. These virtual internet worlds have exploded over the past decade. Did you know you can actually sell clothes you have created on second life for actual U.S dollars? The shear size, communication, and networking power of these virtual world are astounding. Do you think these worlds have any practical business applications?

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