The new hot job in gaming: Economist

Or as BuzzFeed sensationally puts it, economists are taking over the game industry:

It’s an interesting trend, and probably one that could’ve been foreseen. Master’s degrees in economics are somewhat rare (at least at top universities), so it’ll be interesting to see if this drives up demand.

It’s got to be a pretty small job market. What, like a dozen positions?

At the moment, probably. In ten years, who knows?

One Greek guy employed, eight million to go.

I imagine its a fun job for an economist. Unlike the real economy, you can get perfect knowledge of at least some parts of the economy and run a lot of “experiments” to test theory. Hopefully someone can get some papers out of it.

And unlike real economics, if you screw up no one loses their job and starves to death. And if people riot over poor economic conditions you can just teleport them into space

This would basically be my dream job.

Not quite true: There really are some folks who make their living gold-farming.

And I’m pretty sure I saw some academic work on game economies a decade ago, even. Though there’s surely more fodder for it now.

There is. A few economists are very well-published on virtual economies. It’s not in top-rent journals, but the research is out there all the same.

The more I think about this, the more amazing an opportunity it just might be. I spent years in financial services doing statistical analysis of transaction data, setting up pricing/loyalty program experiments, and selling analytical products to large merchants. I am getting my PhD in game theory, political/economic institution design, and swords (yes, really).

I can see an end-to-end consulting package that includes possible economic rules/institutions designed to fit particular gaming environments and empirical analysis with transaction and usage data. I have been giving some thought about going into business for myself after I finish my degree and I have some capital to play with. This is so crazy it just might work. I don’t have contacts in the video game industry and don’t know about the nuances of sell-in, but I have a few years yet to learn about that.

Per game company, perhaps.

EVE Online is nothing but an economy; the whole game revolves around creating, trading, buying, and selling. You’d better believe CCP, the developing company, has people on staff whose sole job it is to analyze the market and make predictions about how the market will be affected by new mechanics, new blueprints, new enemies, and other additions to the game. Even back-end infrastructure adjustments can matter: there are a few central areas of trade in the game where thousands of players congregate, and as they upgrade their server hardware, the game becomes more responsive in that area, meaning more people can congregate and more trading can be done.

It’s a huge, complex system, and that’s just a single MMO. Any game developer that wants to take a serious stab at creating a sustainable economic system will (or should) have at least one economist on board, if not a small team.