Academic Research on Player Motivations to Participate in Virtual Economies

Hello players,

I am a high school senior in an AP Research course undertaking research on what motivates players to participate in the economies of MMORPGs, and I need your help. In order to conduct my research I am distributing a survey to players: it takes only around 10-15 minutes to complete, and is hosted on Google Forms. No IP addresses or personal information will be logged or collected in any way. If you have any further questions, I have included an email address that I will check periodically at the bottom of this post.

If you would like to just jump into it, here is the link:

If you’d like some background information first, here is a summary of what exactly my research project consists of.

Current literature on player behavior suggests that while there are a great deal of parallels to the regular economy in MMORPGs - for example, the persistence of the law of demand has been shown by Castronova et al. (1) - the platform diverts from the real world in enough ways to possibly yield some interesting results.
Most of research into virtual economies (which I define as the internal economic system of a virtual world) focuses on the practice of Real Money Trading (RMT) in MMORPGs since it crosses paths with the real economy, has attracted so much attention within player circles and discussions, and crosses into legal circles very quickly. I am not pursuing this direction, but understanding RMT is vital to understanding virtual economics. RMT connects research into virtual economies to research into regular economies; what happens in the game’s economy affects the exchange between the real world and the world of the MMORPG. Understanding what motivates players to participate in the virtual economy is important for understanding how these economies work - what affects one will affect the other and therefore has consequences.

The direction that I am more interested in, however, is player psychology within the context of virtual economies. Dozens of articles and studies describe how players have gone in interesting and unexpected directions with their styles of play. For example, Bergstrom et al.’s book ‘Internet Spaceships are Serious Business’ focuses on EVE Online’s culture of cutthroat economics and political maneuvering, as well as the vast networks of authority and relationships that have developed over time (2). In the Scientific American, an article discusses EVE Online’s hired economist Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, who describes its virtual economy as a near-perfect model of laissez faire economics despite being almost purely built up by players (3). In another example, Second Life has the Ginko Bank failure and multiple massive real estate exchanges going for hundreds of thousands of dollars in real money to show for its unusual player behaviors, and continues to exist with a sprawling economy despite rejecting many of the typical consumer products we see in the real world.

To summarize a longer point, players have shown their vast capacity for surprising researchers with their behavior - I want to see if the reasons they participate in their virtual economies reflects this defining characteristic.

The survey I’ve created asks for age and gender for demographic purposes, as well as a series of twenty four yes-or-no questions that ask whether or not different variables affect economic participation. The end of the survey has an open-ended free-response box for you to leave any additional motivations that the survey did not cover, or for you to leave any additional criticism, resources, or insight you may have on the research.

If you would like to contact me about this topic for further dialogue or for questions, I’ve set up an email that I will check periodically that can be found below.

The survey will close on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018. I will post the finalized paper for my research on Google Docs on Monday, April 30th, 2018 for those of you interested in viewing the results of my research. The paper will be accessible through this link:

Link to survey:

Thank you once again for your time!

Researcher’s Email:

Works Cited

(1) Castronova, E., Williams, D., Shen, C., Ratan, R., Xiong, L., Huang, Y., & Keegan, B. (2009). As real as real? Macroeconomic behavior in a large-scale virtual world. New Media & Society,11(5), 685-707. doi:10.1177/1461444809105346

(2) Carter, M., Bergstrom, K., & Woodford, D. (2016). Internet spaceships are serious business: an EVE Online reader. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

(3) Seiler, J. (2008, March 17). What Can Virtual-World Economists Tell Us about Real-World Economies? Retrieved January 11, 2018, from

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.