What can RPGs learn from MMOs?

edited January 2006 in Story Games
This is not a challenge to the thread with the opposite name. I actually agree with the general point that MMOs and CRPGs in general could learn a lot from TT RPGs. But that said, I think that there are some interesting developments in the MMORPG world that may shed some light on TT games as well.

As it happens I have a good friend who is writing papers on the topic of scarcity (and perception of scarcity) and it's relation to value, and he stumbled across a professor named Edward Castronova who has done a lot of interesting work in looking at MMORPGs, and their real world impacts.

Of particular note, he wrote a paper called "The Right to Play" (a google on his name and the paper may bring it up - I found it at this site: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/DisplayAbstractSearch.cfm) in which he discusses the fact that the real world values of the objects created in cyberspace were starting to make these fictional worlds, well, no longer functionally fictional. When "farmers" are hired to do nothing but play the game as a job, and people pay real money for the products they produce...where is it a game any more? Where's the fantasy and wonder?

What I thought was interesting is that this, I think, can't happen to TT RPGs (at the very least is nowhere near it happening). First question, is the paper correct in your opinion, that comercial interests are damaging these worlds? Second, If there is a threat, is it possible that TT RPGs might also somehow be threatened so (again, I doubt it)? Assuming not, then aren't TT RPGs a haven against this sort of thing? That is, might we be able to promote ourselves as a place where the problems of MMORPGs do not happen, yet you still get the same thrill?

Or are they simply too different to compare in this way?

I recommend reading the professor's papers, it's fascinating stuff. And maybe there's more in there that I haven't seen that we can learn from for TT RPGs.

Thoughts?

Mike

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