'World of Warcraft' holds lessons for central bankers: Haldane

LONDON (Reuters) - Central bankers can learn from the computer gaming industry as they try to communicate with a public that often has little idea what they do, the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane said.

Central banks around the world have played a key role since the global financial began nearly 10 years ago, cutting interest rates to zero or below and buying trillions of dollars in bonds to keep their economies afloat.

But many people do not understand the role of institutions such as the U.S. Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, Haldane said in a speech on Friday.

“Given the policy weight these days being placed on central banks’ shoulders, and the changing social and technological landscape facing them, it is probably as good a time as any to begin exploring these new frontiers of central bank engagement,” he told a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Haldane said central bankers needed to communicate in simpler language, find ways of personalising their message and use new technologies to better understand the views and behaviors of wider society.

“For central banks, this is a brave new world,” he said.

The use of gaming technology -- which allows millions of people to play interactive games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life -- could help central banks communicate with younger people who have proven hard to reach.

“Globally, around half of young adults aged 18-24 play games online. It might be time for central banks to start playing them at their own game,” Haldane said.

He said an early version of the board game Monopoly was created more than 100 years ago to help people understand the risks of rising income inequality and wealth concentration.

“Monopoly remains as popular today as it was in the latter half of the 20th century,” Haldane said.

“Were it virtual rather than physical, its multi-players measured in millions rather than fingers, its money from an interactive central banker rather than an inanimate piggy-banker, if people swapped stories as well as properties, perhaps this game could help address the 21st century’s problems too.”

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Richard Lough