This is an explanation for passage 2 of LSAT preptest 71, the December 2013 LSAT – the comparative passage. The passages are about online games. The first passage discusses Edward Castronova’s discovery of online game economies. The second passage is a scholarly article that discusses taxation of online game economies.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- Description of online multiplayer games.
- Edward Castronova notices that games have economies.
- Castronova realized that players auction video game goods on online auction sites.
- Video game players are creating real world wealth.
- Most games ban players from trading game items for money.
- Questions about taxation of video game goods.
- In-game only wealth should be treated like gathering fish: taxed only upon sale.
- We should tax the sale of items earned in game. This prevents virtual tax shelters and is in line with tax policy.
These two passages are completely different in tone, yet many students do not notice the difference. If you struggle with tone and author’s opinion questions, you should go over these passages with a fine toothed comb. Look for every word that indicates emotion or value judgement.
The first passage has a tone of excited discovery. Wow, look! There’s an economy here. This is so cool guys! Oh my god, they’re selling things! For money! Woooooo, economics!!
I’m exaggerating, but this passage is about as enthusiastic as LSAT reading comprehension passages will get. Take a look at lines 17-20: “….Castronova stared…..he realized with a shock what he was looking at.”
Emphasis mine. I’ve never seen the LSAT describe someone as shocked, or experiencing any extreme emotion. This passage is astonishingly high on the LSAT emotional scale.
Notice that Castronova’s article was published in 2004. I was at university in 2004. We had desktop computers, and no one had cellphones. I think I had gotten a high speed internet connection six years prior.
So, massive online games were very new. This article reflects that newness. An economist was only just noticing that these games have economies, and he wasn’t looking for economies within the games. It was a surprise discovery.
The tone of passage B is very different. This article was published in 2007. The world has had three years to catch up to the fact that games have economies. Now the legal system has taken notice of online games. This paper discusses how to tax online game assets.
Tax policy? Bleh, so dull. In 2004 players would have been shocked that the government would take an interest in their games. But now (2014 at the time of writing) it’s obvious that game earnings have real value, and passage B reflects an early version of this understanding.
As for the content of passage B, the argument seems rather sensible. The author argues for a clean division between games as entertainment and games as centers of e-commerce.
This passage is interesting in that five out of seven questions are entirely based on the main point of each passage and the relationship between them. One question (number 8) is partially based on this, and only question 13 is based on specific details.
On every passage, you should ask yourself “why are they telling me this”. It’s a useful question everywhere. But on these passages, it’s essential.
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