In the well organised world of economic research, experiments are usually conducted on a rather small scale, granted with numerous variables and first-rate modeling techniques. These however are bound to have a more or less high error coefficient. Thus completely accurate models of the evolution of real economies based on these experiments are far from achievable.

Nonetheless there is a solution to this predicament. Large scale economies can be simulated through means available to all of us namely the virtual worlds of video games/computer games. These cyber-worlds comprise millions of players/consumers/producers (a number that is growing exponentially) whose activities can be described as those of a real population. Thus it is possible to collect all data on the standard macroeconomic indicators: GDP, inflation, productivity and wages if we just consider the cyber worlds of a virtual game (such as Warcraft, Everquest or Linage) a country onto itself.

The possibilities that open up are enormous. We could successfully simulate conditions in the real world at a higher advance rate and come up with a viable result. Thus it will be possible to find solutions to problems that haven’t occurred yet, and by means of these techniques, might never occur.

One researcher in this field is making a significant breakthrough. Edward Castronova is currently working on a game devoted solely to the purpose of experimenting on creating virtual Petri dishes to “conduct experiments about social-science issues”. The game will first test an economic theory known as quantity theory of money supply (the effect of money on inflation).

It is however painstaking (but enjoyable) research and is a long way from completion:

Gabriela Radu