World of Warcraft: Further Research

Unfortunately, my WoW research is on hold indefinitely until I get up the gumption to do it again.  In the meantime, I’ve been thinking of ways to go about looking at the real money trade (RMT) and prices that would yield excellent examples of real life economic phenomena. 

For instance:  Suppose it were possible to differentiate between gold acquired through intended mechanisms and gold acquired via RMT.  In other words, suppose there were a way to “tag” RMT.  This would make it possible to examine the flow of RMT as opposed to regular gold.  Does RMT acquisitioned gold circulate in the same general pattern as does normal money? 

 Why?  Because we could use such information to look at the effects of fluctuating currency markets have on an economy.  The exchange rate with dollars is so small that the effect on the American economy is negligible.  But as my previous research has shown, RMT can have a profound effect on the price level in the virtual economy of World of Warcraft.  Embedded within fluctuations of the price level we may find evidence of any number of economic phenomena taking place.  For instance, we may see RMT gold as foreign direct investment, and to the extent that RMT causes short run increases in economic activity (as when the federal reserve increases the money supply), we may see the virtual economy produce more as well until prices adjust. 

 There are two ways to go about getting data from and about the game.  The first is through user-interface add-ons like Norganna’s Auctioneer, which can collect information from the auction house.  I have a great deal of data from the April 2006 to October 2006 and could reexamine for certain fluctuations.  However, it would be extremely difficult to control for the account eliminations Blizzard was enacting at the time.  So better off perhaps getting someone to modify the code to collect data and index it by date and time. 

 The other possibility which I was considering for this summer but which did not pan out was an actual in-depth panel study utilizing interviews with individual players.  I think this should be explored by researchers with more time and resources than are currently at my disposal. 

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