Economics In Gaming #2 3

Make Yourself Scarce… That Was Fast

Scarcity is probably one of the most misunderstood economic concepts. Scarcity is central to all economic disciplines. It is the reason why we have to make decisions. It’s basically the reason why there is such thing as trade, desire and poverty.

The word “scarce” is used colloquially to mean “deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand” [1]. However, from an economic standpoint, this definition is reminiscent of what “shortage” means. In economics, when demand for a good is much higher than the supply of the good, this is considered a shortage. On the other end of the spectrum, there are “surpluses” where supply is much higher than demand. For example, in Team Fortress 2, there is almost always a shortage of medics and surplus of snipers and spies. People usually prefer to go for headshots or backstabs rather than heal the team, so people are usually crying out for medical assistance while at the same time condemning failspy #4.

Enough is enough. [2]

However, nowhere in this scenario have spies or snipers become “post-scarce.” Surpluses are still limited in their capacity. Even an entire team of spies would fall under the economic definition of scarce. This is because scarcity refers to the limitations of matter and its inability to be in more than one place at a time. Scarcity means that the plastic in your keyboard exists only as the plastic in your keyboard and not also as the plastic in your mouse or on the moon or in all of the infinite other possible places for plastic to be. As a rule of thumb, if it’s possible to count, then it’s scarce. Because a team of 12 spies can only be in 12 places at a time, they are still limited.

One is a surplus of whatever the hell this thing is. [3]

One particularly mind-boggling concept of scarcity is even if you have an infinite supply of something, it is still scarce.

Yup. Still scarce. They only exist very far away from me, thankfully.  [4]

To better understand this concept, let’s look at what a “post-scarce” thing would really be like. In order for something to not be scarce, it would have to permeate all of existence. This means that even the engineer’s dispenser’s ammo and metal stores are scarce, despite being seemingly infinite. Because ammo and metal in the TF2 universe are in very specific locations, they are clearly scarce. If ammo or metal were not scarce, then there would never be a need to reload. In fact, there would never even be a need to fire a weapon. Every single shot would simultaneously exist in every possible configuration at every possible point in the game world. Obviously, this is impossible. Even on a 24/7 2Fort server.

Still scarce, just stupid.  [5]

So what does this mean for most people? This means that you have to know how to conserve and ration goods efficiently. Just because something is in a high supply does not mean that it is in infinite supply or that it is possible to utilize it in every possible configuration in the universe at the exact same time. With the impossibility of post-scarcity, economics will always be a necessity in understanding how the world works.

Pictured: “post scarce” farming techniques. [6]

In short, scarcity is a binary aspect of the universe. No amount of technological or economic advancement can defeat it. We might enjoy huge supplies of certain things, but scarcity will always rear its ugly head ready to limit us from fully utilizing every atom. This forces us to make decisions. Even the scarcity of time forces our hand. Therefore, it’s helpful for us to appreciate and respect the limitations that the universe has in order to avoid mass extermination.








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