Tweet of the Day: Birth of Another Idea
This is a old and well worn trope. If a future society has a system of currency, it is usually expressed in credits. Credits can be both electronic or a form of hard currency but they are, by enlarge, accepted everywhere the future protagonist goes. But why do authors rely on this trope? Like other common sci-fi tropes it has become part of the so called, “conventions of science fiction”, those elements or tropes that serve as short hand for the reader and ease immersion, such as Faster Than Light Travel, universal translators, and super-luminal communications.
Attempts to use other terms in place of credits can sound like funny money. Super-Dollars or Crazy Pesos simply will not do. You also run the risk of having time make a fool out of you. Such was the case with many a book set in the far future of the 1980s. Back then the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy and the certain rise of the Japanese Juggernaut seemed inevitable. While the U.S. economy has waxed and waned of the years, so has the Japanese economy without a major turn over in the global markets. Similar situation with the Euro. Some author thought that it would become the new global currency.
Other authors chose to use the the credit in a somewhat more realistic sense. Local political entities have their own currency and the credit simply serves as a standard to measure the exchange rate of different currencies, much like the dollar standard today. Of course, who ever issues that currency wields significant economic power in a setting.
In tabletop and computer RPGs the credit serves a shorthand for money. In fantasy themed games gold serves as the median currency, regardless of where the hero travels to, all prices are expressed in gold coins or derivative coinage, such as copper or silver for cheaper items and more expensive items sold for electrum or platinum pieces. The irony is that some due to microtransactions in games (where you can buy in game items with real money or exchange real money with in-game money) the in-game transactions of some games have actual real life values, although they have do not have the same reach outside of the game as they do inside of the virtual world(s). New forms of private electronic currency like BitCoin are attempting to become the credit standard but without government backing they are more of a commodity than an actual currency.