From Crystal comes an online gaming article (online game = games like Everquest, Ultima Online, There.com etc.) It's based on some research conducted by economist Edward Castronova. What fascinated me are some of the results Mr. (Dr.?) Castronova discovered by studying 616 "player auctions" -- eBay (real world) auctions for Everquest (virtual world) items. The article states:
"...the EverQuest platinum piece was worth about one cent U.S. - higher than the Japanese yen or the Italian lira. With that information, he could figure out how fast the EverQuest economy was growing. Since players were killing monsters or skinning bunnies every day, they were, in effect, creating wealth. Crunching more numbers, Castronova found that the average player was generating 319 platinum pieces each hour he or she was in the game - the equivalent of $3.42 (U.S.) per hour. 'That's higher than the minimum wage in most countries,' he marvelled."
"... The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game... turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia."
"It was the seventy-seventh richest country in the world. And it didn't even exist."
I've deliberately stayed away from online games because they can be such a time sink. Plus I figure it's probably more productive spending time improving my real life than my virtual one!