Hey, pointy-head gamers: I have something to add to your reading list, Yanis Varoufakis' blog, Valve Economics. Varoufakis is an economist whose CV includes authoring many interesting, academic tomes on macro-economics, including The Global Minotaur (An exploration of the cause of 2008's economic collapse: Spoiler Alert: It's not what you think), Game Theory: A Critical Text and more. In other words: A macro-economics superstar. His newest gig: Economist-in-residence at Valve Software.
The unlikely pairing began with an email. Valve capo Gabe Newell sent a blind email to Varoufakis, a self-described non-gamer, asking for assistance with a Valve problem. Specifically, Newell says his company is looking for solutions with an "issue of linking economies in two virtual environments (creating a shared currency), and wrestling with some of the thornier problems of balance of payments."
Newell recognized that Varoufakis's experience and knowledge of the current economic relationship between Greece and Germany was similar to Valve's problems with its connected economies. (Making these kinds of intellectual connections of seemingly disparate subjects is why Gabe Newell is a genius and you are not.)
Rather than delete the email, Varoufakis agreed to meet with Valve, and a partnership was born. Varoufakis will serve as Valve's economist-in-residence, using the data collected from Valve's virtual-economies and applying the lessons to the actual world.
Here's how the economist describes the arrangement in his blog:
"My intention at Valve, beyond performing a great deal of data mining, experimentation, and calibration of services provided to customers on the basis of such empirical findings, is to to go one step beyond; to forge narratives and empirical knowledge that (a) transcend the border separating the ‘real’ from the digital economies, and (b) bring together lessons from the political economy of our gamers’ economies and from studying Valve’s very special (and fascinating) internal management structure."
For more on Valve's fascinating internal management structure, check out the employee handbook from the company. I have to wonder what will happen when the economist comes across a corporate culture like this one: