Virtual Worlds

I’ve put online a paper I wrote last year, and have delivered at two conferences, reflecting on virtual worlds, or MMOs (massively multiplayer online games or worlds), through the lens of Julian Dibbell‘s two fine books on the subject:

“Money for Nothing: Virtual Worlds and Virtual Economies”

One Response to “Virtual Worlds”

  1. This is a great follow-up to your earlier work on virtual worlds and games.

    The doubly-virtual economics of games are often shadowed by a narrative of scarcity; I will literally build mining units before my soldiers in a game, and wonder how best the apparatus can be weighted to avoid the disaster of competitive forces.

    What I’ve been seeking from Dibbel and other researchers in the area, however, is a more materialist approach, as the numbers represented by GDP figures such as the ones quoted are based on some assumptions (namely market worth = wealth), which is a true enough fantasy here but virtuality demands a coefficient of non-participation, the asymmetrical care factor if you like. Not everybody is buying and selling, therefore the value of product is grossly overestimated. You can see the shape of this when stocks collapse in game or there is a run.

    Another thread might be the factors by which the cost of contemporary gaming increases to the point of becoming the dandy’s jewel-encrusted tortoise. Class activity in games (namely in places like Africa, South America and the goldfarms of China) alights a more obviously port of call; the economics of the industry of games, unequal power relationships (in manufacturing) underwriting unequal power relationships (in distribution) underwriting unequal power relationships (in consumption). Add to that the fact that games such as Ultima, World of Warcraft make no bones about their propensity to train players in microstatecraft, the mores of hypercapitalistic desire – training in not what but how to Want, and we can make a case for studying all ‘signs of capitalism’ through games. Its where the fakeness of the fake is most real.

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