Virtual World, Real ATMs

The one thing about my recent story,

The one thing about my recent story, "Virtual World, Real Money," that still mystifies a lot of people is the idea that virtual money inside an online game can be converted into real cash and vice-versa. But that reality isn't unique to the virtual world I mainly profiled, Second Life. Entropia Universe, known until recently as Project Entropia, has encouraged sales of virtual products with real-money value.

Today, Entropia Universe, the creation of MindArk in Sweden, is taking the idea a big step further. It's debuting real-world ATM cards with which players can convert Project Entropia Dollars into real money and back using Versatel ATM machines. So players will be able, for instance, to sell a virtual item such as a chair or a weapon, then withdraw those proceeds from a Versatel ATM machine, in the form of real money, that same night to buy dinner. A real dinner.

All the more, it exposes the fact that the value of money--virtual or real--is no more, and no less, than what people agree it is. These days, I don't look at those crumpled dollar bills in my wallet quite the same anymore.

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