Players for hire
DOI link for Players for hire
Players for hire book
In this chapter, I will use trends from automation and video game revenue models to make the following predictions about the future of low-skill work:
Within five years, some game companies will be paying players in some way to play their games. This will be in the form of small points-based incentives that can be liquidated in the form of purchasing power.
Within ten years, paying for players will become a standard revenue model in the game industry. Payments will either be in the form of liquid virtual money or real cash.
Within twenty years, game playing will be a significant source of income of the low-skill workforce. Wage-playing will be the primary means by which the extreme gains of the wealthy will trickle down to the poor.
In broad outlines, the argument is that automation and other trends will dramatically increase inequality in technologically advanced countries. Low-skill workers will find themselves largely unemployable in most of their traditional occupations. Meanwhile, ongoing wealth gains at the top of society will increase the ability of privileged people to devote time and money to leisure activities, especially to video games. Big spenders already support the game industry’s current free-to-play revenue model: It only takes a few high-spending players to offset the free access given to anyone who wants to play. The model works because the free players, those who spend no money, make the high-spenders feel better: Their presence in the game creates a real human community. The presence of other people is valuable to the big spenders for several reasons: The thrill of being richer and more powerful than others, yes, but also the simple happiness of companionship. Whatever the reason, big spenders are willing to pay a company enough money that the company can afford to open the doors to anyone. It is a small step from this model to one in which the game company directly pays the underlings for their presence. For the company, the added cost from paying players to come into the game and be relatively poor and underprivileged will be exceeded by the added revenue from big spenders who will enjoy a larger virtual society to befriend (or dominate). The number of players for whom this kind of model makes sense will increase as the twenty-first century unfolds. The number of real-world low-skill unemployed will increase, and the incomes of the high-skill technocratic elite will rise. In other words, both extremes of the play-for-hire model will grow as automation increases. Within a generation, playing games for money will come to be seen as a legitimate occupational choice for those whose skills are not valued by brick-and-mortar labor markets. Play-for-hire will become a primary way that the income gains from technological progress will be distributed to the low-skill population.