While video games are in the habit of taking players away from real-world issues, there are times when players need to buy things in-game. Naturally, this means that rather than trade or barter, there has to be some sort of currency in the world to spend. To most players, this currency tends to look like junk.
But sometimes players are in a society of scrappers on the far edges of the galaxy, and junk is the most valuable commodity available. Video game currencies reveal so much about the worlds they exist within, being an indicator of what people lack, or what people covet most. These games use their currency in surprising ways, turning what could have been a simple mechanic into a tool for world-building.
In a world where consumer capitalism has cemented itself within every possible sector, and the largest titans grouping as the Halcyon Holdings Board of Directors, there isn’t much room for competition in the Halcyon system.
This integration is central to understanding the Universe of The Outer Worlds as well as the main storyline of the game. Currency has all but been reduced to a universal tender of cartridges containing a digital footprint of value called Bits, encouraging the sense that any room for individuality has been eradicated in this comedic dystopia.
Growing up, people are taught that money doesn’t grow on trees, but players of Animal Crossing will say otherwise, knowing that a simple shake of a tree can drop golden coins aplenty. These coins, called Bells, can even be planted and grown into literal money trees.
In a game that inducts many younger players into the harsh world that is property management, bells are the be-all and end-all of daily life in Animal Crossing. The cute name and iconography associated with the currency is a mere distraction from the fact that this currency functions closer to that of the real world than most video games dare.
Ratchet’s main weapon is a giant spanner in Ratchet and Clank, so what else could be the currency of his Universe than Bolts? Fitting neatly in with the aesthetic of a clunky sci-fi Universe, the bolts that Ratchet can extract from an object with a firm whack are available almost anywhere.
The bolts are visually made up of shapes including a mix of nuts, gears, and bolts, which makes considerably more sense as the components propping up the world. In a game where even the titular characters are named with mechanics-based puns, the currency in this game is a firmly fitting thematic device.
Oddly, one of the strangest-sounding currencies on this list is the one that can be used as slang for a dollar. Unfortunately, this is not a testament to the reach of The Sims’ cultural impact, as it seems to stem from 19th-century slang.
Still, it would be more common to hear talk of Simoleons as a reference to the sandbox game series, The Sims. As a kind of life simulation game, Simoleons are acquired and utilized in very much the same way as a typical person would use real currency. Of course, that’s how The Sims is supposed to be played, but many players know that putting in the infamous ‘Motherlode’ cheat to source infinite Simoleons is a better break from real life than the sometimes punishingly authentic Sims experience.
The twisted, gothic universe of the Dark Souls games sees a player controlling a character that shifts between plains of both alive and dead. With reaping souls oftentimes the main directive of a player, it would make sense that souls would be the actual currency of such a world. A game still unarguably important even 10 years after its release, everything in its twisted world fits together.
Used to trade with vendors, it encourages the bleak sense that everyone met on a player’s journey in this game is a tormented being happy to come into possession of something they shouldn’t rightly have. The currency can be used to progress your character, or usually more usefully, to purchase items that unlock parts of the map. The concept of a soul’s potential mutability is essential to the protagonists of Souls games, and thus its function as currency is a fantastic choice for this sprawling series.
The addition of currency into Minecraft was a ground-breaking update to the world’s most popular game, creating newfound systems of trade and civilization within the previously quiet, blocky universe. Naturally, it didn’t take long for players to turn their peaceful farms into bustling factories that exploited every natural resource.
Still, Emeralds have enhanced the gaming experience greatly, and the choice of making the currency a naturally occurring ore within the game maintained the spirit of the game’s mining roots. They’re very hard to find though, especially since developers keep changing the best place to find emeralds.
It’d be a beautiful world if every fragment of the material plain was composed of money, and fortunately, that’s the world of the Lego games series. Allowing players to purchase new characters, upgrades, and unlockable extras, Studs are an important commodity beyond the satisfying noise they make when collected.
The fact that Lego games move between some of the most popular film franchises of all time whilst still holding studs as their primary currency is a testament to how iconic the studs are.
A Kafka-esque nightmare where Jesse Faden, the sole playable character in Control, becomes director of a company she knows nothing about. The position, appointed to her by a supernatural force called ‘The Board’, never even gives her a paycheque. Unbelievable.
Instead, the currency of Control is Source, presumably an element of the ‘source’ of supernatural energy that seems to transcend across all collective plains of reality. ‘Source’ is mind-boggling to understand, but the implementation of it couldn’t be easier. Recovered through defeating enemies or breaking down mods, it can be used to create alternative mods or modify levels themselves. Source, and its ambiguous, well, source, is aptly representative of the open-ended narrative style of Control as a whole. The style has proved successful as a Control sequel is in the works.
Military Grade Rounds
Present in both the books and games of the Metro series, Military Grade Rounds are a special kind of ammunition that have no way of being reproduced down in the Russian metro tunnels where the last of humanity inhabits.
The fact that ‘MGRs’ is the most valuable commodity in this dystopian world makes perfect sense, where guns appear like tattered pipes with steam bursting from the seams, and rusted handguns fire anything from ball-bearings to dirty rounds. With heavy themes of militant society, and a persistent mutant problem demanding ammunition, the finest rounds available fit perfectly as the currency for these games. Only the desperation of Metro could have players frantically forced to fire their well-earnt cash at an ambushing enemy.
With all of civilization in nuclear ruin, frankly, anything could have been convincing as the legal tender adopted by the few survivors left. Bottle caps make a surprising amount of sense though, with a finite amount in existence and the advertisements printed upon them making them difficult to counterfeit.
Caps take on a few forms across the Fallout series, with some brands denoting a special kind of value – like the coveted sunset sarsaparilla starred bottle cap. In some entries, there are even competing currencies, and fans could potentially see an alternative introduced in a possible Fallout 5. But unless they can also be pocketed directly into a player’s inventory after pounding a Nuka-Cola, where’s the fun?
New Pokémon Legends: Arceus Trailer Confirms Ruin Exploration
About The Author