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“Pah! Video games? Who wants to spend all their time doing menial chores in an attempt to increase some arbitrary and entirely imaginary numeric measurement of one's worth as a person? Now, if you'll excuse me I have to get to work. I need to be at my desk by nine if I want to get paid.”
“You're still playing that? Way too easy; I clocked it ages ago. I'm into WoW now.”
“Oh, I know that game! It's a bit like monopoly isn't it?”
“In Soviet Russia, Economy get screwed over by YOU.”
“'Oh, look how good I am! I won TGE! Mneh-mneh-mneh!' What a dick.”
“Finished that report on paradigm data shifts? Good for you! I know someone who's getting paid this week!”
The Global Economy, often referred to as Finance or TGE, is a massively multiplayer role-playing game (MMRPG) created by Wall Street. It is widely recognised as one of the earliest Massively Multiplayer RPGs to be released, predating Internet based, online variations such as World of Warcraft and Second Life. It continues to be the most widely played and successful RPG of its type.
The first expansion set of the game, 'Economy: The Industrial Revolution', was released on January 16, 1818. The second expansion set, 'The Great Depression; Wrath of the Crash', was released on November 13, 1928. The third expansion set, 'Cataclysm; The Second Crash', was released in a surprise move by Wall Street in 2008, taking even the most devoted players by surprise, thanks to the makers of the expansion ensuring that as little about the release be given away as possible. With more than 6 billion (December 2008) monthly subscriptions, The Global Economy is currently the world's most-subscribed MMRPG and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMRPG by subscribers. In April 2008, The Economy was estimated to hold near 100 percent of the massively multiplayer game (MMG) subscription market, in addition to receiving subscriptions from what some commentators believe could be a large proportion of the world's population.
Starting a character or a play session
In more recently developed MMRPGs, players control a character avatar within a game world in third person view (with the option of playing in first person), exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with NPCs or other players. When Economy was first released in open beta, during prehistoric times, however, the technology to construct a separate game world was not available. The Beta itself was extremely limited, and users often bemoaned the lack of opportunity for blind mass-consumerism, and lack of shopping malls at which to buy novelty pens and T-shirts with witty slogans. In addition, the early versions of TGE did not give players the option of forming companies, although the feature had been promised for some time. Infuriated, players attempted to create substitutes, and so tried to form Empires instead. It is widely agreed that this was harder, due to all the fighting, walking places, and other exercise that one had to do, and it was therefore a relief when Wall Street finally introduced the companies feature, making things simpler for everyone.
Due to the technological deficiency present at the time of the game's release (which some might say is an example of how ahead of its time the project was), the makers of TGE were forced to set it in the real world. This has detracted from the level of customisation available in the game, causing some subscribers to complain about the fact that they are unable to alter their appearance and/or gender, or acquire super powers when they "level up". Despite this customer dissatisfaction, member-ship remains extremely high. In common with many other MMRPGs, The Global Economy requires the player to pay for a subscription, either by becoming famous to pay for a limited amount of time, or by labouring tirelessly in a day job to pay on a regular basis.
Professions and ongoing gameplay
As characters become more developed, they gain various "talents" and "skills", requiring the player to further define the abilities of that character. Professions such as Law, Banking and Being Rich can be learned in addition to hundreds of others. The various professions are divided into five "Tiers" which denote how powerful (Or "Stinking-Rich" in player slang) each profession is. In addition, players choose "Classes" as they can in many other MRPGs. These classes are selected during the course of the in-game tutorial, referred to as "Education" (It should be noted that certain Classes can only be selected once a player has spent a certain time in the tutorial). Professions may be selected upon completion of the tutorial, and a player's class affects the professions that they have access to. A few examples of professions of each tier, along with their Class requirements and a brief description is found below;
Tier 1 (Stinking-Richest):
- Billionaire - Class requirement; Business Graduate, CEO, or Dropout.
Widely believed to be the most powerful profession in the game, "Billionaire" is extremely difficult to acquire, as it requires an enormous level of 'Money' (TGE's measurement of worth) to acquire the right to it. Players must also "level up" many times before they are able to even come close to becoming a Billionaire.
- Millionaire - Class requirement; Business Graduate, Dropout, CEO or Celebrity
Essentially a mod of the Billionare profession designed for lower levels. Still extremely hard to acquire.
Tier 2 (Rich enough to eat caviar and feel guilty about not donating to charity, or 'REEC and FGANDC' in player speak):
- Politician - Class requirement; Graduate, Arts Graduate, Business Graduate, or Celebrity.
One of the less popular professions. Not because it's hard to acquire in the fashion of Billionaire or Millionaire, but because all the other players will hate you, and attempt to make you look bad at every opportunity (a practice known colloquially as "Journalism"). Politician is one of the few professions that allows players to choose a "faction". For instance, American players are able to choose between "Democrat" or "Republican". While Wall Street claims that neither of these factions are intended to be viewed as "Good" or "Evil" (much like Blizzard's claim in regards to its WoW factions "Horde" and "Alliance"), everyone knows that, really, the Republicans are the bad guys.
- Professional - Class requirement; Doctor or Lawyer
Again, the "Professional" profession allows players to choose a faction. In this case the faction one belongs to is determined by one's class. Doctors are able to select between "Good" or "Just in it for the money", while Lawyers are only able to select "Pure, soulless evil". These Classes are then able to choose sub-classes such as "Dentist" and "Vet" for Doctor, and "Corporate Pawn" for Lawyer.
- Boss - Class requirement; Business Graduate
Possibly the most powerful tier 2 profession, the time of a Boss is devoted to telling Tier 3 professions - such as Employees - what to do.
Tier 3 (Not Rich):
- Employee - Class requirement; Graduate, or Dropout
One of the most popular professions in the game. Not because it's fun to be an Employee, but because it's easy to acquire the profession. Employees are able to choose a number of sub-professions, including Office Worker, Cube Farmer, Secretary, and The Person Behind The Counter At McDonald's Whose Soul Is Slowly Dying As They Serve You. Employees spend their time working hard in the futile hope that they will eventually "level up", or in game slang "be promoted", and be able to become a Boss.
- Entrepreneur - Class requirement; Graduate, Business Graduate, or Dropout.
Entrepreneurs have all the same skills as Millionaires and Billionaires, but don't have any money. This profession was originally supposed to be a preliminary step in the quest to become "Tier 1", but most Entrepreneurs never get "stinking rich", and continue to make failed business ventures over and over and over again. It is often said that the Entrepreneur profession is essential to the proper functioning of the game, but the people saying it are mostly Entrepreneurs trying to make themselves feel better. Wall Street recommends that other players don't pay them any mind.
Tier 4 (Poor):
- Sweatshop Worker - Class requirement: None.
Wall Street have persisted in claiming that they removed this profession from the game shortly after the release of "Great Depression: Wrath of the Crash", but it's widely known they simply made it unavailable to players in the "World One", or "First World" servers. No one wants to be this class, but they have valuable and desired support skills, such as making shoes for next to nothing, thereby allowing Word 1 players to buy high level equipment at a reduced price.
- Homeless and Trailer Trash - Class requirement: None.
These two professions are what the makers of the game provided as a substitute for Sweatshop Worker in World 1 servers. They're just as poor, if not more, but don't have access to the employment opportunities of the sweat-shop worker.
Tier 5 (Poverty-Stricken):
- The single Tier 5 class is nameless, and is only available to players in World 3, or "The Third World". World 3 is the least desirable server, and players make transfers to World 1 whenever they can. World 1 feels sorry for the players in World 3, but is generally too busy eating caviar to do anything about it.
It should be noted that the above are only a small selection of some of the most popular "professions", there are - according to the game's developers - hundreds, possibly thousands more options for class selection and customisation, allowing for new and original variations on the theme of the basic profession templates "Sewage Worker", for instance, straddles the boundary between a Tier 3 and a Tier 4 profession, providing all the humiliation and drudgery of a Tier 4 profession with the money and dead, soulless apathy of a Tier 3 profession. Other variations include the so called "Artist" profession (Tier 4), and Reality TV Participants (Tier 3).
The three secondary or "criminal" skills, forgery, thuggery, and embezzlement, can also be learned by characters. Characters may also form or work for "companies", allowing "money" to be accumulated more easily by all involved, and enabling Employees to exercise their Profession specific abilities by working in a mind numbing day job that slowly eats away at their soul. The power to form companies is only available to the Entrepreneur profession and its variants, while the ability to "buy" companies is reserved for Tier 1 professions, such as Billionaire. Much of TGE play involves "merchandise". This merchandise, also called "things" or "stuff", is usually available from areas called "shops". Merchandise is acquired by paying money to shops, and usually rewards the player with the brief thrill of possessing some small proof of their material wealth and therefore worth as a person, before the feeling wears off and they are once again plunged into the depths of a hollow depression. It is also through the sale of "Stuff" that a large degree of money is acquired, especially by the Tier 1 professions, who then give back to the game by buying more and bigger "stuff" than anyone else could possibly afford, ever.
Wall Street makes it very clear that it is not possible to win TGE in any technical sense of the word, as the game was designed to be open ended. It is agreed by the general player populace, however, that Bill Gates has almost certainly won the game, having reached Tier 1 and the Billionaire profession in record time. Rumour has it that, bored with TGE's mediocre and unchallenging end-game, Bill Gates has since moved on to play other MMRPGs such as World of Warcraft. Other players notable for having reached endgame and, to all intents and purposes, "won" include Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Donald Trump.
Criticism and Controversy
Following the surprise release of "Cataclysm: The Second Crash" in 2008, Wall Street was criticised widely for not giving players fair warning about the release, and being unimaginative with their content. A high level Politician player, Barack Obama, was one of Wall Street's most outspoken critics. Wall Street has since made changes to the expansion pack that ensure it avoids being quite as doom-and-gloom as "The Great Depression; Wrath of the Crash". Wall Street has also attempted to make amends to its dissatisfied player base by promising a fourth expansion pack, to be released at some time in the next 200 years "Global Economy; Oil Crisis -- ' This time it's gone for good' ".
Wall Street has also been criticised for its handling of the removal of the Sweatshop Worker profession. "It isn't fair that World 2 and 3 players have access to this profession when premium paying World 1 players don't." Said one subscriber during the Sweatshop scandal of 1979, "We demand to be able to work in factories for pittance as well. It's shocking that Wall Street is able to get away with depriving some of its most committed players of such a significant part of the game's content!" Wall Street, however, once again managed to avoid losing too many subscribers as a result of these controversies, and - as always - remained at the top of the MMRPG market.
The Global Economy has been banned in several countries in the past, notably Cuba, the USSR, and Communist China. The ban was lifted in all of these countries, due to leaders wanting "in on the fun", and China is one of the countries whose citizens now enjoy access to the controversial Sweatshop Worker profession. The game continues to be banned in North Korea, although it is believed that Kim Jong Il plays in secret, making great use of all three of the secondary criminal skills.
Several attempts have been made to hack the game. The most recent being Robert Mugabe's frenzied Printing of Money (one of the abilities available to high level politicians), this was little cause for concern however, as his attempt at exploiting his bugged ability simply caused the area of the World 3 server he was in to crash.
"Global Economy; Oil Crisis -- ' This time it's gone for good' " is said to be currently in the preliminary stages of development. Some commentators hold that this could be an enormously exciting release, plunging players into a world of even greater economic crisis than "The Great Depression; Wrath of the Crash" did. Others claim that Wall Street is simply spreading rumours in order to hype this next release, and that it will really be nothing more than a superficial patch, designed to fix bugs that have been caused by a slight incompatability issue between the players and "Cataclysm; Financial Crisis". Wall Street has not yet indulged in making a formal press release, but unofficial sources from inside the development team have referred to the coming expansion as "All new and totally revolutionary". Players look happily forward to seeing what new excitement the expansion will bring.