Tim Harford’s comments on a bank run in the UK reminds me that we have an extensive body of research that we can apply to gaming. Appropriately, this is game theory. You have probably noticed that most game developers keep trying to rediscover the wheel when dozens of companies have already made all the relevant mistakes. When Jessica Mulligan stopped writing Biting the Hand, she commented along those lines: no one was making new mistakes, just the same ones over and over again.
Mr. Harford’s example is about group versus solo play. Yes, at British banks. Everyone would prefer to be in a good group, but a bad group is worse than solo play. Yes, there is a large body of academic work that revolves around that one sentence.
MMOs are a more tenuous game than the standard stag hunt. Game theory is usually stated in terms of two players; MMO groups have five or more in a group, and let’s not get to raids. In MMO groups, one weak player may not spoil the hunt but a couple will, and one severe idiot will leave you further from the level cap than where you started. Is it any wonder that so many of us are hunting rabbits?
Do we need an extended treatment of this concept? We could delve into economic theory of the firm and how it applies to guilds.