Is this "game over" for human decency?
People often say that “the dystopia is here; we’re already living in it,” and while that’s often an overdramatic response to a badly worded tweet, it could be the reality for people in the near future. At least, that will be the case if the company WolvesDAO gets its way.
With a company name that sounds like someone trying their hardest to capture the douchebaggery of The Wolf Of Wall Street, the metaverse tech company appears to have plans for the gaming world that would make even Belfort blush.
Mikhai Kossar, a chartered accountant and member of WolvesDAO, has come out in support of the use of real people to populate your game world as NPCs. He says, “With the cheap labor of a developing country, you could use people in the Philippines as NPCs (non-playable characters), real-life NPCs in your game.”
During an interview with Rest of World, Kossar was also quoted as saying that players in these developing countries could “just populate the world—maybe do a random job or just walk back and forth, fishing, telling stories, a shopkeeper, anything is really possible.”
While I can’t speak for everyone, I can’t imagine that it would be many people’s dream to grow up and become an NPC in another much richer and more privileged player’s video game. This quote has understandably caused an outcry from the gaming community, with many people denouncing Kossar’s comments.
Ideas like this only seek to further the divide between the haves and the have-nots, and the racial undertones of having the only purpose of people from developing countries be to serve the whims of the more privileged are clear to see. While exploitation like this is unfortunately common throughout history, the dystopian manner of this iteration takes it to a whole new level.
This kind of dystopian future is common in science fiction and is a topic that’s deeply explored in shows like HBO’s Westworld. However, if you were to ask the average person on the street whether they would consider employment as an NPC, you can’t imagine many people would be interested. For one thing, the wages likely wouldn’t be enough to cover the therapy needed after their inevitable existential breakdown.
While people may argue that roleplaying as an NPC isn’t necessarily dystopian and that we all are NPCs in each other’s lives from a certain point of view, it’s the exploitation of the under-privileged for something as frivolous as a video game character that sets the stomach churning. It’s one thing if another person volunteers to be part of a game that someone else is playing; it’s another thing if that person relies on the game and the whims of its player for their livelihood.
The metaverse isn’t going away anytime soon, and as it’s developed further, we can expect to see a lot more stories like this in the future. Let’s hope the plugs aren’t too uncomfortable.