I’ve always been fascinated by how serious games are when it comes to their in-game resource economy, it really takes a creative business mind to balance such a thing for a long and a joyful gaming experience.
Let’s start from the beginning, most games that are built with the mind-set of having a moderate to a relatively long experience provide certain elements to make the experience rich and more interesting, one of these key elements is the concept of “resources” – if you’re a Role Playing Game (RPG) gamer you’re probably very comfortable with this term, now these resources – be it money or some other type – are super important to progress in the game.
Normally, the genre and the game design elements of the game deduce the potential uses for the resources you need to acquire, for example most games offer money as their main type of resource, thus enabling you to buy items like weapons, health items, tools and such, in addition to money, other games introduce other resource types that add extra layers of complexity in the game economy.
“Bioshock” and “Horizon: Zero Dawn” are really good subjects to showcase how this is accomplished, in Bioshock you need to acquire an item called “Adam” to enhance your special fighting skills, whereas money is needed to buy weapons, “Horizon: Zero Dawn” takes it to another level, you’ve got wires, wood, metal shards, power cells and so many more, each weapon and ammo type require a variety of items to be available before you can craft those, pretty neat design if you ask me.
The mighty “Adam” in Bioshock
So many types of items in “Horizon: Zero Dawn”
There is a lot of resemblance in the way economy works inside these virtual worlds of games and in real life, here are several observations that I made across the years and their ramifications on human behavior:
Games endorse and reward hard work
I really love the way games introduce the player to the virtual world, it’s just genuine and realistic towards how economy and life work all together in harmony. Like in most games, you normally start the game journey as the protagonist with zero to almost nothing in your hand, and to complete the adventure you’re required to complete a set of tasks, these tasks don’t come easy, they require you to do your homework, some of these tasks are even harder than the rest, which makes their outcome even more rewarding.
Games normally urge you to collect money through multiple channels, you can either finish side quests- basically like a freelance job – to get compensated with cash to aid you in your journey, the more you spend your game time in those, the more cash you earn, this is very analogous to life and it sets a clear undeniable concept, money in real life is – or “should be” depending on your views – a mere exchange of your precious time.
Game developers are very ethical people – most of the time – and they will try to convey ethical and responsible messages to their players, like the idea of working hard to gather what you need in terms of resources – money or other items like I’ve mentioned above – to get to a variety of goals in the game, for instance you might need to buy a weapon to defeat a difficult boss in the game, or buy an item to travel somewhere far within the vast game landscape, just like in real life, money and resources are necessary means to get to a plethora of different ends and needs.
“Horizon: Zero Dawn” got so many side quests with different rewards
I honestly believe that exposing the youth to such an ideology at an early age is very healthy and valuable, a large portion of people lack the true understanding of the value behind wealth, time and ethics.
Games believe in saving
One of the behaviors that games emphasize on is the idea of saving.
In many occasions, players will have to scavenge items, collect money, gain experience – XP is the common term if you’re no gamer – and acquire skill points which can be used to enhance the capabilities of your character, but if you’re into games you might already know that you don’t spend anything unless you need to and it’s preferable that you save up until you have a desperate need at a later stage, a good example of this is when you fight a boss and realize all of a sudden that you require specific skills in order to have a fair fight with the boss, this is where it gets convenient for you to open up the option menu and spend your skill points on something worth the wait, even though you might be intrigued to go to any merchant in the and go on a spend-spree party to buy things that aren’t necessary or you probably don’t need.
You will always realize after playing for some time that difficult hiccups are waiting for you in the near future, so it’s always better to be packed and ready for whatever that might show up, and again, this is the case in real life.
I can’t really stress on how useful this is to apply in real life, as we go and wander in life we can’t escape the absolute necessity of saving, this has always proved to be beneficial in getting you ready for misfortunes and surprises that most of the time require a large portion of your net-worth to overcome.
Games teach the idea of compromising for a greater goal
“Nothing comes cheap and you can’t have it all, you’ve got to choose wisely if you ever get a choice in the first place”, that’s the idea that well-crafted games often feed their players, and that can’t be further from the truth in real life.
When a game is well-designed, it communicates the previous idea very clearly and it makes sure you understand this in your game journey; everything you spend of your resources has to count, because all in all, resources are limited and scarce, this applies to money, items and even skill points in games.
For example this skill-tree explains how you’ve got many choices in terms of character development but really limited amount of resources to use, this gives a lot of responsibility on the player to wisely choose what they feel important to acquire, this also endorses the idea of spending your resources on what you believe is your strongest trait while compromising on others.
Skill-tree in “Horizon: Zero Dawn”
Selling stuff to get some decent items in “Horizon: Zero Dawn”
At a point in the game, it’ll get very difficult to come by resources like money and items and you’ll find yourself reverting back to desperate work-arounds, an example of this is when you have to sell some of your game items to get cash to buy something necessary and far more important to progress in the game, there are even times where you’ve got to make some calculated guesses in order figure out the perfect timing to buy or sell an item.
This is really a decent approach towards teaching players how to adapt and become dynamic and flexible during their stay in the game, real life is all about being financially dynamic and adaptive to a variety of factors.
Games mimic market fluctuations and unpredictability
Markets are never stable, everything can change overnight, this even holds true in games, some games even apply this in their game economy where there are times when certain items are super cheap because of the abundant supply, and in the next day all of this changes and these items become hard to come by, even merchants within the game will change their price quite often based on different trends, that has a lot of implications on the player if they use item very frequently.
You can even find the same item being sold by a set of different merchants, though the twist is that not everyone sticks to the same standard price, some of these merchants have the same items but are grossly overpriced, so the lesson here is that you have to do your homework even before you buy the items you want in the virtual world.
This is super cool honestly because it mimics real life in an insane level of detail, World of Warcraft (WoW) is a game that has a complete separate economy and spending habits, definitely worth the read and checkout.
“World Of Warcraft” – a game with an economy by itself
Games tell you it is okay to partner up but be careful
The term partnership has a nice sound to it, and that also stands true in games, many players prefer to cooperatively tackle missions and finish quests together if the game allows them to, this really helps if for example you want to defeat a difficult clan or a boss together and split the items – also known as loot – nonetheless, this has its own set of quirks and problems.
Just as in real life, not everyone you meet in a good person, many participants in games don’t stick to their word and can really screw you over when it comes to splitting the items after you finish a quest together, who said building trust in games is an easy job?
Truth is, trust is a subject that people often learn the hard way, what’s a better way to find out than in games where what’s on stake is really insignificant and doesn’t have serious ramifications.
All in all
It never stops to amaze me how games are just the perfect simulator to a variety of disciplines, and simulating finance is no different.
Games have always proved to be an elegant medium to transfer ideas and host content, but to have it train for the real thing, even in aspects that are unprecedented, games do shine, in my personal experience, I believe that gamers who prefer such games tend to do really well when it comes to managing their real life budgets and financial errands, let me know how you feel.
On a side note, you guys should play “Horizon: Zero Dawn” if you’ve never done that yet, such a good experience.
I give you one of the best game I got my hands on, enter “Horizon: Zero Dawn”