The Rich Get Richer
This commonly heard catchphrase, often heard in criticisms of capitalism, describes the phenomenon Karl Marx called “the law of increasing poverty” (Lee, 1973). The phrase suggests that in economic systems of free trade it is inevitable that as the wealthy become increasingly more wealthy, the poor as a result become less wealthy. In this way the phrase poses the inverse relationship of wealth between the rich and the poor. Without digressing into the specifics of this equation, which can be read about here, I would like make the claim that this same equation applies fittingly to the economics of DayZ and to a detrimental extent. In conclusion to my argument for this claim I will suggest one key way to remedy what amounts to in some cases unjust and unsatisfying game play.
There is no money in DayZ but valuable things do exist and so as a result does wealth. In this way, in DayZ, like in the real world, there are those who can be considered rich and those who can be considered poor.
In DayZ one’s wealth -generally speaking- is directly relative to one’s continued survival. This is because one’s wealth in the form not of money but of survival equipment aids one’s continued existence. This point is illustrated aptly by a survivor’s possession of a can of beans. As one of the earliest and most common items of survival a can of beans prevents starvation and extends one’s life. Wealth results in sustenance.
Sustenance, being alive, increases both ones opportunity for further wealth and one’s chances of death. Because death is inevitable it can be said that sustenance results in further wealth to the point at which you die. This is because the longer one is alive the more time is spent bettering one’s survival skills and collecting survival equipment (wealth). Sustenance results in further wealth.
Therefore wealth in DayZ results in further wealth. This is complicated, as mentioned, by the event of ones death. Typically this is where the whole process starts over, with fun derived from accumulating wealth while suspending death for as long as possible. According to this model the rich get richer until they die at which point they join the ranks of the poor in a competition to again become rich. This model in a way then is not true to what the phrase “the rich get richer” suggests, for, as apposed to the commonly heard phrase, this model incorporates the inevitability of death and a definite end to the progression of becoming richer.
In DayZ, specifically of late, I have observed that this end to the progression of rich becoming richer has all but disappeared completely. Consider the following: Tents buy survivors the ability to store supplies. This allows a survivor extra room for things he or she may not need presently, as well as something stationary that a survivor might call home. Much more useful than these uses however, a tent gives its owner the ability to remain wealthy after death. How this works is, a survivor stows excess valuables in a hidden tent somewhere in Chernarus and upon inevitable death and fresh rebirth is able to return to his or her tent and regain any saved wealth. This is a fundamentally important aspect of DayZ’s design because it makes an end to the progression of getting richer far less likely. Players are able to remain rich after death resulting in only further opportunity of becoming richer. Hence my initial claim of the applicability of the phrase “the rich get richer” to DayZ. Without a severing of the rich from their wealth, wealth can only result in more wealth.
The removal of the ability to continue ones wealth would undoubtedly shift game play tremendously, but my aim here is not to argue for or against this element of design. Instead, for the moment, I am satisfied just with drawing attention to this element of design as something that is fundamental to players’ experience of DayZ. It is at this point that I would like to shift my attention to one additional factor of current game play which further favors the rich as well as illustrate how this factor in turn comes to affect the poor.
Currently, not only do tents store the wealth of the rich, but as discussed here, can also function to multiply the savings of the rich. Through a not much understood bug in the game tents save the items stowed within them eternally. As reported in many cases, players can extract things from tents only to return after server resets and find copies of extracted supplies multiplied and again accessible. This process can be repeated infinitely to generate an infinite supply of savings. This circumstance results in an exaggeration of the already discussed equation of rich becoming richer. Now, not only do rich grow richer but any possibility of rich becoming poor (say through depletion or destruction of owned supplies) becomes an impossibility.
This is devastating to the appeal of the game for the following reason. The fun of DayZ is fundamentally derived from collecting wealth in the face of impending death and resultant loss of wealth. If tents automatically generate wealth there exists little to no risk of death during the accumulation of wealth and as a result no challenge nor fun.
Without this challenge, in game fun is sought elsewhere. This is one predominant reason I think the game has changed into what sometimes resembles a death match. The challenge of the game becomes to hunt and murder other players. Not necessarily for what wealth other players might possess but more for the small satisfaction gained from proving oneself, in the language of dominance, superior to the players one might kill.
This leads me finally to the relationship between the poor and the rich in DayZ and my conclusion. As the rich become richer (infinitely), the poor, who are often at the brunt of murder, are forced to remain poor. This polarizes the economic classes of survivors into categories of either rich or poor and makes transition between classes something increasingly less possible. In order to restore the maximum appeal of DayZ changes need to be made to re-establish the challenge of collecting wealth. By re-establishing this challenge players would not turn so completely towards killing other players as an only means of fun. My concluding assertion is that to re-establish the challenge and fun in collecting wealth, the current ability of tents to generate duplicate savings needs remedy.
Work Cited: Sang Hun Lee (1973). “Communism: A New Critique And Counterproposal”. Freedom Leadership Foundation.