…the Ultimatum Game has been tried in a variety of different cultures, and it turns out that selfishness and market forces are indeed correlated. The surprise is that they are correlated in the opposite way you might expect. Markets support generous interactions with strangers rather than undermining them. What this means is that the less integrated market transactions are in a given society, the less generous its members will be to one another in anonymous interactions.
Far from being incompatible with communal sharing, exposure to market logic actually increases our willingness to transact generously with strangers, in part because that’s how markets work. When I am selling something, the economic nature of the transaction actually erodes my interest in how (or whether) I know the buyer. The market acquaints people with the utility of making transactions with people you don’t know and with the idea, however implicit, that those transactions are an appropriate way of interacting with strangers.
— Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus
PvE MMOs, like markets, teach us to value strangers. Even if you think they are tremendous idiots, they are potentially of value to you. They stock the auction house and buy your stuff. They fill out your groups and rarely do so badly that they cause a wipe. You may have had quite a few random dungeon groups where you won without speaking to some of your teammates. It is hard to prey upon strangers, easy to coordinate with them, hard to suffer much at their hands, and very easy to squelch them if they are problematic. Putting your virtual life in strangers’ hands is just something you do on a daily basis. Jerks are notable rather than the assumed default. The closest we get to “nature, red in tooth and claw” is when many people want to click on the same thing at once.
Plato’s Republic is introduced as an argument against the view that justice is helping your friends and hurting your enemies. Markets (and MMOs) have done more for that view than philosopher-kings ever have, promoting a cosmopolitan perspective that strangers are more likely to be potential partners than threats. Once you are used to the view that you trade value for value, and there is no transaction to be had unless you both value trading/working together over what you can do separately, every transaction is a likely mutually beneficial one (otherwise you would not do it). There are MMOs where you kill anyone who is not obviously part of your alliance, but most of us are self-conditioning to view strangers as neutral-at-worst rather than neutral-at-best.