Video Game Capitalism: Virtual Reality Car Insurance A Real Threat?

I did a quick post earlier, about a Reddit info dump hyping GTA V online’s imminent release. I covered a lot of the more stand out details mentioned, but I felt I needed an extra article to get some thoughts out on a rather odd development. The piece of info in question, involved having the ability to buy car insurance, so that you can “make a claim” in case your car is ruined in GTAO. You do this with in game funds (more on that later), but the absurdity still exists, the absurdity of  buying car insurance, for a fake car, in a video game.

This new turn of events seem fascinating to me, regardless of how minor a detail it is, in the big picture of GTA Online. The possible doomsday implications of what it could mean are what really grab me, and I have no problem entertaining you with the ideas of crooked business once again injecting itself in our virtual lives.

Just from the start, Insurance in the real world, is already a pretty abstract concept. I speak to a service that is not tangible, and can not be transferred, which brings into question the legitimate value of the trade. Even putting aside (for the sake of time) how backwards “pre-existing conditions” can be , we struggle to understand how insurance has become so accepted in it’s current form, with all of it’s absurdity.

Now, we’ve reached a point in video games, where insurance once again, makes enough sense on some absurd level of finance, to merit it’s inclusion in something as fictionally over the top, as GTA.

Starting with the basics of the introduction of in game car insurance, I understand some of the vehicles in GTAO may be hard to achieve, or have special customization that would be an absolute nightmare to recreate. This is all well and good, but doesn’t stop me from seeing beyond the reasonable function of it’s inclusion. I fear for the future of where this practice may be headed, on a paranoid but easily justified level of speculation.

While I do believe Rockstar’s  implementation of car insurance, is in favor of the player, that won’t stop others, and I’ll speculate EA here, as to doing it for the favor of the almighty dollar. What may be a free and fun gameplay device now, may actually become an irritating real world dollar sucker later, falling whim to the very same corruption of real life insurance. While I’m not suggesting someone as infamous as EA will start to include “pre-existing conditions” into hypothetical video game car insurance, you can take a rather clever design approach that begets broken economics…also known as “smart capitalism”.

Just like in the olden days of the arcade, you could easily trick the player into spending more money through unfair difficulty. The bread and butter of the coin-op, involved robbing the players of the chance to succeed, with overwhelming odds and intentionally flawed mechanics, to push the player into spending “just one more quarter” to overcome the odds.

In my speculation, a company like EA getting their collective hands on something like in game car insurance, could operate in the exact same way. EA has already been shown to have no qualms about abusing design to try and milk the player of money, so what’s to say they wouldn’t go a step further, old tactics in tow with a new look to distract. Instead of creating a really cheap jump or very unfair boss that makes a player reach for a quarter to continue, we just update the design and make it topical. With this in mind,  is it really far from absurd to think EA would makes in game car-insurance an actual real world expense, possibly mandatory in some context, and then intentionally implement design to destroy your vehicle faster?

With EA, I say anything is possible.

So yes, while I may be doom saying about a slightly outlandish concept, it is worth it to note, that it’s been confirmed by Rockstar, that you can purchase in game currency with real world money. In a sense, we’ve already reached the  point where what I’ve described is possible, albeit no where near as nefarious in execution.

Think of it as a new age of budding capitalism in virtual reality.

At least for now, in reference to GTA V, buying car insurance, with real money or not, is an optional choice left up to the consumer. We can only hope gamers will showcase intelligent buying, and find a responsible balance with developers on the merits of DLC.

Knowing the industry at large however, and having previously seen ridiculous escalation in DLC nonsense, the lines of commodity will continue to blur, as our virtual reality inches closer and closer in value to our actual reality. With more and more people finding value in video games, and a ton of companies boasting sheer profit due to selling experience, real world money for virtual reality car insurance may be just the start of a very profitable future in our capitalist gaming lives.

Very profitable.

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