Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Well, at least I can still play EVE Online to take my mind off the economic cri- DAMN IT!"

It’s remarkable how persistent online worlds are taking on more and more of the complexity of the real world. Case in point: The world of massively multiplayer online game finance is also a feculent cesspool of corruption, negligence, and incompetence. On the plus side, at least the average gamer doesn’t have the lobbying clout to ask Uncle Sam for a few hundred billion dollars every time he screws up.

Case in point: banking in the popular outer space MMO EVE Online. The in-game economy is player-run, and enterprising players of EVE have actually created banks where people can deposit their hard-earned ISKs, the game’s currency, and earn interest. In June, news that EVE’s largest bank, called EBank, had lost over 200 billion ISKs due to embezzlement by its own CEO, “Ricdic” (possibly not his real name), resulted in an actual angry-mob-of-Bedford-Fall’s-residents-swarming-the-Building-and-Loan-in-It’s a Wonderful Life-style bank run as depositors rushed to get their money out while they could.

Things have now gotten even worse, with the proprietors of EBank announcing a freeze on all withdrawals and cessation of interest payments because of their unexpected discovery that, due to a combination of theft, bad loans, bad management, and lack of auditing and oversight, EBank currently has a deficit of 1.2 trillion ISKs. (Plus, I’m sure the sort of top-shelf marketing consulting firm that was no doubt needed to come up with the name “EBank” doesn’t come cheap.) EBank is promising to start allowing withdrawals again once it is on more secure financial footing, though given that they are still bleeding out 12 billion ISKs a month that may be a while.

There are three important lessons here. One, rigorous auditing and record-keeping is essential to any business venture. Two, never under any circumstances trust a grown man who calls himself “Ricdic.” Three, in these troubled times, you can’t count on the banking system to be there when you need it. I hate to toot my own horn, but it’s incidents like this that confirm the wisdom of my recent decision to empty my bank account and invest all my money in South African bullion coins as a hedge against hyperinflation and the imminent civilization-shattering collapse of the global financial system. A few years from now, when you’re hauling whole wheelbarrows of nigh-worthless green paper to the grocery store in a mad rush to buy food before your money loses its last remaining shreds of purchasing power while I’m living like a king off of my stockpile of gold Krugerrands, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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