Virtual Economies in Context
Virtual economies have been a core feature of multiplayer digital spaces almost from the beginning. Even before computers, games based on the economy have long been popular (e.g. Monopoly).
Game design theory argues “fun” derived from games comes from being put in challenging states that have a metaphorical relationship to survival, yet are completely safe. If so, economy games are fun because they allow players to practice survival-relevant heuristics (such as calculating opportunity cost, preference, risk assessment, and resource management) in the face of complex, realistic problems provided within the game context.
In other words, economy games not only satisfy the requirements for fun; they also meet the requirements for intrinsic motivation very well. Based on these thoughts, but also the near universal presence of economies in games, that economic simulation is second only to combat simulation in its ability to produce fun and other pleasurable game experiences.