Edward Castronova: Perfidious Oeconomy
Castronova's keynote the third day of the DiGRA conference stirred up reactions among the audience. The rhetoric of the performance was threefold.
First Castronova enacted a series of games played by people in the audience who went up to the stage. For each round a rule was added, and in a very neat way illustrated a way of statesmanship.
In anarchy the resource pool was depleted.
In the dictatorship one can take tax and make sure the pool grows.
In democracy players could also negotiate so the pool would grow.
Then he went on to show some slides with the bottom line that the magical circle should be protected - in this specific case by not allowing real money trade in MMOs. After this he went on to describe the tragic childhood of an unknown person that we in the audience then recognised as JR Tolkien. It was a very effectfull speech, and it became personal when Castronova showed a picture of himself with his baby child, there is no distance in the eye in a situation like that. Bottom line: protect the magical space of escapism. Or Refugee from this harsh world. I got totally immersed in his speech, it felt very emotional. So when the speech was done I almost got annoyed when people in the audience questioned the personal approach, and how he could make that bridging. Several colleagues pointed out that the rhetoric used was very inspired by preaching, and so the response. I don't have much experience of being preached to, so I didn't recognise it as a pattern. It was interesting to first be so emotionally immersed and then immediately getting to question this feeling. One friend also made the argument that one does not make the world better by not engaging in it, by fleeing into a refuge of fantasy. This in relation to Castronova's reference to terrorism.
EC said, showing terrorism slide: “This is not how we were supposed to live. The road to middle earth is the way to home. Is not an escape.”
Then, referencing to real money trade in MMOs:”We have to protect the forest from the shopping mall, not the other way around. It is the market that invades. Fantasy too needs to be protected.”
I haven't made up my mind about the speech as a whole, and I probably won't. I, like many others, use fiction as a refuge and I have done so as long I can remember. But it doesn't mean that I spend all my time disconnected from others and the societies I'm part of. Thus a refuge - not a permanent withdrawal.The line of course has changed the past ten years since we have started to spend time in shared fantasies (stolen expression from Fine). Protecting this refuge from the power of market - I saw that as EC's main point, and I agree with that. But I think he would have gotten the point across also without being so personal. On the other hand I had an immersive experience while listening, and that was nice. I think what one can react to is that the same patterns of rethoric' has been used to manipulate large groups of people.
He also made a disgression from the magic circle of the DiGRA conference, which is about game research, by bringing in the explosive subject of terrorism, unavoidably colored by subjectivity.