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My mother often reminded me that nothing good would ever come from playing video games. As a young child, I dismissed her words as baseless propaganda to coerce me into doing more chores. After all, I was having plenty of fun catching Pokemon on my neon purple GameBoy; and isn’t fun good for its own sake? I was always the traditional good student, receiving excellent grades and performing well on standardized tests, so my penchant for computer games was seen as the only major obstacle to my academic success. Ironically, my greatest flaw would ultimately allow me to break out of my conventional role as just another passive learner.
My online learning experience began with the multiplayer roleplaying game Diablo 2. It was relatively straightforward, a point-and-click game where I used my characters to kill monsters, gain levels, and collect loot. As a beginner, I took the obvious route to character improvement by grinding away at endless hordes of monsters in order to find unique and rare items. I steadily climbed higher in the ranks, but the laws of diminishing returns brought progress to a halt. Like the majority of players, I was a frustrated peon stuck in the middle class of the Diablo 2 hierarchy.
Eventually, I began to realize that even artificial worlds have economies that can be manipulated. Instead of focusing on the tedious parts of the game that most people get caught up in, I turned my attention to mastering the Diablo 2 economy. I became an expert at trading; I studied market patterns, utilized outside resources like trade forums, and paid careful attention to online news events that might cause price fluctuations. In retrospect, my transformation resembled a self-taught economics lesson, though at the time I was more interested in the fact that all of my characters were equipped with the most powerful gear.
.Economic principles, like buy low and sell high, were second nature to me and I never consciously thought about the intellectual reasons for twisting the supply and demand for certain items at just the right time; I was simply having fun.
As time passed, I adjusted to my new role as online merchant. Instead of signing on to my main characters to monotonously click away at never-ending columns of monsters, I mainly found myself signing on to mule characters (characters created solely for the purpose of storing surplus items) to manage my digital wealth. Rather than scavenging through trade channels and bartering games for hours, I acquired any rare items that I needed by sending a few emails and making a few deals. My trading habits had so completely warped my gaming experience that it seemed like I wasn’t playing the same game as most other players. I kept in mind how frustrating, yet still massively popular, the game was to the masses of players who hadn’t discovered the secrets of trading.
Having applied real world economic strategies to Diablo 2, I took it one step further by connecting the two economies through eBay. I started listing my extra items for sale on eBay, and soon my eBay business took off. I began to seek cheap item suppliers and connections, eventually developing an intricate business process that catapulted me to the rank of eBay Powerseller Silver Level.
My change of perspective in a favorite pastime allowed me to acquire and apply self taught entrepreneurial skills. With my natural affinity to item trading, my concrete financial success on eBay, and my capability of balancing “work” with other activities like school, running, and bodybuilding, I can easily picture myself succeeding in a world-class economics program.
As for my bewildered mother, now she has no choice but to acknowledge that good things, both material and intrinsic, do come from playing video games.
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