For the longest time, since back in the days when I played EQ, I had this conviction that maybe the activities players undertake in MMO’s could be harnessed to affect the real world. I’ve thought about the subject a few times, but never really sat down and tried to come up with a practical example of how it might work, but yesterday, a news piece on Kotaku jolted the idea from it’s dusty shelf in the back of my mind and into the grinder of conscious thought.

So here’s a possible practical take on the subject: I’m an avid World of Warcraft player. WoW has a number of seasonal events, usually tied into real-world holidays (the Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day events have already taken place this year, for example). The next of these events is Children’s Week. During children’s week, players can take their characters over to the orphanages of the faction capitals (Stormwind for the Alliance, Orgrimmar for the Horde) and become ‘patrons’ for children orphaned by the many wars of recent Azerothian history.

So, to tie it in to the real world, perhaps Blizzard could implement a couple of daily quests (quests you can do once a day, usually to build up reputation with one of several factions, or to obtain gold) that players can do that, when completed, flag that user’s account. For that month, Blizzard can then take a small portion of the profits they make from that user’s subscription (anywhere from 1 cent to a dollar, say, depending on the scope of the event, the redoability of the quests, etc), and put it aside. At the end of the event, Blizzard could take all the money accumulated through this process, and maybe match up to a certain amount, or a certain percentage, or whatever the corporate number crunchers deemed appropriate, and present it to one or more real-world charities (perhaps there is a way for players to affect this, maybe by having each daily quest associated with a different charity, so players can choose to focus on those charities they personally support).

I think something like this would give the game industry some good publicity, not to mention it would be a good tax write-off for the developers.

Another take on this same subject that might help combat mudflation would follow a similar mechanic, but players would spend money in-game for the same effect. Completing a quest by donating, say 100 gold, might flag the user’s account, as above, to donate a small portion of their subscription payment to a charity.  Events like these could be staged once a year, to sink large amounts of gold out of the economy, and could be rewarded in-game with a title like ‘the benefactor’, for example. Perhaps, to keep the title, players would need to make continued donations in-game, providing a regular sink for excess gold.