Move over, Greenspan

Greetings, capsuleers!

Some of you may have read in various articles and interviews recently that CCP was bringing an economist on board to act as a sort of Alan Greenspan for the virtual world of EVE Online. That economist is me. So here comes a short intro and a bit about what I plan to do as a part of the EVE dev team.

I am an economist by training, having finished my B.sc. degree in Economics from the University in Iceland in 1992. Later, I went for further studies in the United States and finished a doctorate degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from University of Rhode Island (URI) in 2002. I started my academic career at the University of Akureyri (UNAK) in Iceland, becoming the dean of the Faculty of Business and Science.

While studying at URI, I was introduced to experimental economics. This brief introduction started a chain of events which resulted in my becoming the lead economist for EVE Online.

In 2004, UNAK hosted a conference on experimental economics. One of the lecturers at the conference was Dr. Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, then the lead designer for EVE, who gave an introduction to the EVE Online community and its economy. I was fascinated by the “smart gaming” aspect of EVE-– where the sandbox nature of the game requires players to use a higher level of strategic thinking and real-world business skills-–a unique feature among its counterpart MMOs. It is obvious that only the smart ones can survive in EVE.

In the real world, economic information is the cornerstone for our daily business; everyone takes note when news on inflation, production and interest rates are announced and traders try to predict beforehand what the news will be. There is a constant game between the market and authorities on predicting each other’s move and for that everyone needs information. Though EVE is a virtual world, the basic needs are the same. Players, designers and the company leaders at CCP will all benefit from having a central figure to monitor inflation and trends and provide a focused insight into what is happening within that virtual world so that everyone can make better decisions.

As the lead economist for EVE, my duties will include publishing economic information to the EVE-Online community. My duties will also be to coordinate research cooperation with academic institutions as the academic world has expressed quite an interest in doing research on this phenomenon (which shows how important MMOGs might become in future research into economic and human behavior).

Since joining the EVE dev team, I have been exploring the game, reading the message boards and dev blogs, design documents and other resources - growing more fascinated with the community, its complexities and the unlimited potential of it all. In my reading, I was particularly intrigued by a PowerPoint presentation by the aforementioned Dr. Emilsson from a Fanfest 2005 lecture. There, I could see how fundamentally CCP has understood that the social structures in EVE are far beyond those of other games and, as such, pave the way for innovations no other MMO has ever seen, such as the player council mentioned in a recent article in the New York Times.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll talk more about the economics of EVE as we prepare to publish our first economic report in Q4. For now, I’d like to hear from you about your impressions regarding the in-game economy and what areas of it interest you the most.