Greece's new finance minister used to be Valve's games economist


So, what he’s saying is that Greece’s economy is basically an in-game currency.


Huh. His blog entries on the subject while at Valve were good enough to make me sad when he left. But, hell, can’t blame him now!

Well, at least he’s not World of Warcraft’s former economist.


Given that Greece voted fairly dramatically against The Responsible Plan As Dictated By Serious Economists Who Understand This Stuff So Shut Up And Take It, it’s probably very, very, sensible of them to look for somebody a bit less traditional than an ex world bank staffer or something.

On the other hand, if Greek state payments start coming in the form of unlockable hats, don’t say you weren’t warned.


Well, if foreign bankers who tried to overrule democracy with their stupid austerity plan (which, last I checked, was increasing rather than decreasing debt) get some digital hats for their trouble I won’t be shedding any tears.


Soon Greece’s economy will all be about hats.


Good for Greece (supposing the government there is solid enough to get things done).

He’s intimidatingly smart and quite readable. His book on game theory is great for anyone interested in the subject. Modern Political Economics is a good deconstructive take on the post-recession world economy (another like it is Mark Blyth’s Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, the Greek translation of which features an intro by Varoufakis).

Much of the “game economist” angling on this story seems to evince outmoded conservative-ish anti-gaming prejudice. “Yeah right, a half-Marxist half-Keynesian video game economist (snrk) is going to save Greece”. Actually, it’d be fifty flavors of boss to peek behind the scenes at anything Valve is up to; having been personally sought out by the owner is a helluva nice feather in his cap.


When I heard the news, I was happy. I’ve been regularly wandering over to his blog since he became Valve’s economist. Interesting guy. He’s going to do a lot of good.


Also worth noting, for any naysayers making fun of videogames, Forbes thinks Valve is worth $2-$4 billion. If the greeks hired an economist from a $4 billion bank or even a $4 billion manufacturer it would not be a surprise, except that they don’t want some bank economist. They’ve had their fill of those.


Another thing is that a game economist is the closest thing you can get to economics as an experimental, testable science.

You can change how currency flows around an in-game economy quite easily, you can observe all the variables and control them much more easily than you can in the external world. This should lead to a pleasing lack of self delusion about what works and what doesn’t. In a game, if your theory doesn’t stack up, you will see the results quite quickly.

It’s probably one of the best backgrounds to grind out the political biases and magical thinking that infest so many “economic” thinkers and commentators today.


[quote=“Purplecat, post:12, topic:50901”]
It’s probably one of the best backgrounds to grind out the political biases and magical thinking that infest so many “economic” thinkers and commentators today.[/quote]

I suspect that election of Syriza required a fair bit of magical thinking on the part of the populace.

On the other hand, when your leaders buried you in a mountain of debt buying the electorate’s loyalty for years, magic is all you’ve got.

If Greece’s multi-millionaires and billionaires were paying any taxes at all, there wouldn’t be any problem, right? Don’t they hold the world record for large scale tax evasion, with at least $30 billion going uncollected every year and over 90% of Greeks cheating on their taxes, or something like that?

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As he noted in his blog at Valve, several of their games (Team Fortress 2 in particular) have their own, player driven economies which emerged without interference from the company. It was a good opportunity to observe economic theory in the wild without any repercussions to anyone (unless they were scammed out of their burning hat).

It is definitely worth a read.

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Amazing how much that extra uncollected income could help, no matter what the country. But when tax cheating is endemic to the entire system, maybe it’s time to try something else.

I did the archeao-tourism thing for a month in Greece a couple years back. One of the things the locals mentioned were that they were amazed how quickly the idea of purchasing cars beyond ones’ means spread throughout the country: In the 90’s most cars on the road were 10-20 year old shitboxes, but once the EU banks started lending to anyone in the 00’s, everyone wanted a fancier brand new car than their neighbors.


I think that’s why late feudalism had sumptuary laws. So that instead of competing on having the most expensive clothes and so on, the rich could compete on having the most expensive fines to pay.


Here was his own piece on how he got the job of Valve economist:

hm, so the subtext here tells us that Valve bought Greece because … it
has a nice view on the ocean and wonderful islands for new
RTS/ego_shooter games?
remeber in Shadowrun the ultimate power for any Megacorporation was called… Ex… Ex… here

I’m glad they went for this guy and not for the one behind Diablo 3.


Greece is not quite the world record holder, neither for tax evasion:
They’re the 72nd worst, if you compare amount vs. spending on health care.

Nor for corruption. In 2014, it ranked 69th out of 174, very middle of the pack on both charges.

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