For a long time, the only way to obtain gold in the original Old School RuneScape was through trading art and other items with other players. But after inflation increased dramatically in Venezuela, the local government was forced to devalue its currency, the Bolivar. Inflation reached 100% per annum in December of last year and the value of the currency collapsed: a single USD in December 2016 was worth 1000 USD in January 2017.
It’s hard to believe that a game like Old School RuneScape (OSRS) has achieved such a vibrant and thriving community in the past decade. Usually, free-to-play games tend to have a low level of success, but the game’s developers at Jagex have managed to make OSRS a game that has a fantastic and loyal playerbase. But how did OSRS, which started out as a fairly niche game, become so popular?
The Venezuelan bolivar is a fiat currency that has no relation to the monetary units it is based on. The country used to use the “old” bolivar, but in 2010 the government created the bolivar fuerte in order to maintain the country’s high exchange rate, and to stop the country from suffering hyperinflation. The bolivar fuerte is now Venezuela’s official currency. While it’s not the currency that the country uses, it’s the one most Venezuelans use to pay for things.
We can all agree that gold farmers in MMORPGs are a plague and that people shouldn’t support them, but the issue of gold merchants being pulled into Old School RuneScape a few years ago has a few more twists than one would anticipate.
We get a deeper look at the reason of a gold farming boom in OSRS in the most recent edition of NPR’s Planet Money radio program, which was directly driven by a decrease in Venezuela’s GDP from 2014 to 2020 and hyperinflation of the Venezuelan bolivar, which saw the currency’s value plummet significantly. Alex, an OSRS player from Venezuela, was interviewed on the show, and he described how being a gold trader helps individuals like him escape the country’s inflation trap.
“If you find something like RuneScape and realize that by putting 10 hours a day into it, you could be making $8 that day, but you made that money in dollars – in a currency you know isn’t going to be affected by your country’s rampant inflation – then you run the numbers and realize that by the end of the month, you could be making more than a university teacher –
Because OSRS gold was more valuable than the Venezuelan bolivar and it was a simple game to operate in terms of system requirements, many individuals, including Alex, soon became immersed in the world of old-school Gielinor. It also sparked conflict with the rest of the OSRS community, resulting in the so-called Great Battle of the Revenant Caves. The program lasts approximately 21 minutes and provides an interesting look into a society that is often mocked.
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