EVE Online is a massive multiplayer online role playing game, or mmorpg. A “sandbox” game (so named due to the free reign the developers give to the players in the virtual world) Eve is a large open world with over 500,000 current subscribers. After an unintended experiment within the popular game World of Warcraft where a virtual “plague” gave researchers the ability to see real life plague behavior in a contained environment, news media began to be curious about the strange nature of online worlds. In EVE, actions that would be considered against the rules in other games like scamming, stealing, and griefing (the act of attacking other players) is allowed. The game runs on a single server, meaning that all players are forced to play together and interact with one another for better or for worse. Recently, researchers from Columbia University have become fascinated with the implications of this small virtual world.
The economy in EVE is driven by supply and demand. This is because all items in EVE (no matter its size or complexity) are created by individual players. These markets are the reason this computer game has become so well-known and prominent within even academic circles. There have been wars and economic crises throughout Eve’s lifespan and have usually been caused by the many player alliances that reside in EVE’s universe of New Eden. Each alliance has its own culture ranging from warlike nomadic tribalism to full blown space communism. As is all too eerily reminiscent of our own world, these wars can be caused by resources, territorial claims, or even cultural differences. A recent battle that hit many mainstream news sites was the battle of B-R5RB which saw the destruction of 11 trillion ISK, (The in game currency) which when converted to USD is $300,000 to $330,000 in game damages. Within the game, cultures are established, political figureheads chosen, and resources are fought over. At the center of this mess, a real world economy, shifting and bending with the effects of a virtual market place.
The economy in EVE has become so complex it is carefully monitored by a hired team of economists who watch over the market and advise the developers on how and when to stimulate or manipulate the market. This is not easily done however because the ISK in the game is tied to the creation of economic value. ISK cannot just be simply injected into the market due to fear of inflation.
EVE and other mmos can be seen less as a game and more as a simulation of the human psyche in a virtual world. The players and how they interact in a world when allowed free reign can be indicators on how humans would act in the real world. Some players form large states and work together, some work to build a home and provide for themselves and friends, and some become pirates and thieves taking what they want from others. All of this within one server, with 500,000 players and 40,000 online at any given time, creating a mini society with its own problems, victories, and economy.