Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Understanding economies with video games?

Reuters has an article about a research study being conducted to study virtual economies in video games. Now these games are not your Pac-man's or even the newer Halo varieties. These games are massively mutli-player worlds that connect thousands of game players from all over the world in a virtual universe. A lot of these massive online games, also know as MMORPGs (massive multi-player online role-playing games) have an intricate trading economy included as part of the game itself. One researcher, Edward Castronova, is studying the economies of these games and how it compares to real world economies.

These massive online games can be a seen as a model of real world implementation. One thing Operations Research analysts need is data and these types of online games could provide a lot of information. Perhaps an augmented reality could be modeled in these games to provide experimentation and research into areas of Operations Research. One example is in the case of sampling plans. Often times inspecting and sampling requires destruction of the item to be inspected. Sampling plans can reduce that destruction requirement but what if no destruction is needed at all. Perhaps a simulated world could "produce" the said item and data could be taken from this simulated production process.

On a different note the gaming business (which is a multi-billion dollar market) could learn some from Operations Research work. The mathematics involved in developing these massive games is getting more and more complicated. The games are more and more relying on physics, statistics, predictive analysis, and optimized outcomes.

I've talked about having fun in Operations Research before yet this could be on a much bigger scale and could be research focused. I'm not the first one to think of Operations Research and virtual gaming. Paul Jensen, of Jensen's Operations Research Models and Methods website fame, has a Second Life implementation of his popular instructional website.

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