Video games are often heralded as a means to escape reality. Players often praise a game’s ability to transport them out of their dreary lives and into these fantastical, colorful worlds where anything can happen—all at the control of the player themselves.
That said, the introduction of monetary systems does sort of hinder that escapism inherent in video games. Keeping the rigid rules of a limited wallet, reinforced by a working economy, can be considered a relic of the real world. On the other hand, this reflection of real life—to the point where earning, saving, and spending money is crucial to success—often comes with important lessons for actual money management. Players see how their irresponsible handling of resources results in failure in the game, and they will be more likely to apply these lessons in the real world.
This article will examine some of the most enduring currencies in classic video games, and see the various items and services that in-game money can buy (but just like real money, it still can’t buy you love, though).
1. The Legend of Zelda series – Rupees
The Legend of Zelda is a series renowned for its realistic portrayal of a bildungsroman—or the coming-of-age of a young character. Intrinsic to the journey of a hero’s quest is the rupee, the gems that serve as the currency in the land of Hyrule.
At the beginning of the game, Link, the player character, usually only has a wallet that can hold 99 rupees. Needless to say, despite the relative ubiquity of rupees (they can be picked up piecemeal in the respawning grass, from breakable pots, enemies, and treasure chests, among others), the fact that Link can only hold 99 in his pocket severely limits the purchasing options. These include ammunition and health upgrades.
Later, larger wallets significantly expand the number of rupees that can be carried, which also expands the types of things that can be bought. From bows to life containers to masks, an expanded wallet in any Zelda game is key to victory. The rupee comes in five denominations: Green (1 rupee), Blue (5), Red (20), Silver (100), and Gold (300).
2. The Sims series – Simoleon
The Sims, which was released in 2000, was the first installment in the hugely popular The Sims franchise, taking off from developer Will Wright’s earlier Sim games. The game simulates the comings and goings of a household. While several changes have been introduced throughout its many iterations (the fourth generation of which is slated to release in 2014), one of its constants has been its currency: the Simoleon.
Taken from an old slang term for a basic unit of currency (such as the dollar), the Simoleon in The Sims is used to create and renovate the home, as well as to attend to the needs of the eponymous Sims. These Sims can also work to make more money, which will ensure the continued prosperity of the household.
3. Diablo series – Gold
The Diablo series has long been known as the paragon of the dungeon crawl/loot genre. In these sorts of games, players traverse dungeons, killing enemies in search of better gear, so that they can traverse more difficult dungeons, killing tougher enemies to get even better gear. This is a never-ending cycle, and gold plays a huge part in this process of upgrades.
In Diablo III, the economy changed with the introduction of the Real Money Auction House. Whereas in previous installments, in-game gold was removed from your actual wallet, the third Diablo game dissolved this separation for those who wanted to spend their actual money for in-game gear.
Many sites offer tips on how to earn more Diablo 3 gold via item flipping on the Auction House.
Those are just three of the most prominent games series and the currencies featured in them. Are there any other games where money management was integral to success? Do you have stories where managing your funds in-game proved useful in real life? Let us know in the comments below!