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Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality Hardcover – November 27, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Edward Castronova has again charted new waters to the virtual worlds emerging as the next frontier. He has proven himself as the oracle of the virtual world revolution.” ―Christian Renaud, Networked Virtual Environments, Cisco

“A book full of insights about our online present and a hopeful look at the future where politics and economics will be increasingly governed by the rules of video games.” ―John Beck, President of The AttentionCompany and co-author of The Kids are Alright

“As virtual worlds rise in popularity, they are bound to have effects on the way we live our real world lives. Dr. Castronova has put together a persuasive case that the real world may begin to model its institutions on games simply because the general populace finds them more fun. It's an eye-opening tour through how virtual worlds are run, and why practical, enjoyable governance is very different from the systems employed today.” ―Raph Koster, virtual world designer

About the Author

Edward Castronova is the author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, he has been featured in such media as 60 Minutes, NPR, and The New York Times. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Telecommunications at Indiana University. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403984123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403984128
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,473,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Redovan on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read and thoroughly enjoyed Castronova's first book on the subject: Synthetic Worlds. And, as in SW, Castronova is at is strongest in Exodus when he explains the "realness" of virtual worlds. The main thesis of Exodus is that because synthetic worlds are more fun, people will increasingly choose to spend time in them over the real world, and that, eventually, the real world must remodel itself, taking cues from virtual worlds; eventually the real world must become more fun. Exodus, though it has a few interesting new contributions, is terribly repetitive book that takes way too long getting to the substantial points. When it finally does, it is shallow in its descriptions and analyses of how, exactly, the exodus to synthetic worlds is going to radically affect the real world.

The biggest flaw (among the several I found in the book) is Castronova's thesis itself - that the real world will eventually have to model itself on synthetic worlds. The flaw is evident in his use of "migration" as the metaphor for what's going on with synthetic worlds. He explains that a family migrates from Old Country to New Country, and then tells its friends back in Old how great New is. Eventually, after hearing how great New is over and again, those that stayed put in Old put pressure on their government to change the country, to make it more like New. Castronova provides no historical examples of this, and I don't know my history well enough to know if this is how it has happened in the past, but the flaw in the metaphor is, and Castronova admits this himself, that the synthetic migration isn't physical, and therefore not permanent. It's super-easy to switch from real to synthetic, or among various synthetic worlds. This undermines not just his metaphor, but his entire argument...
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Format: Hardcover
This book was not what I expected. It is primarily a reflection on lessons learned through development of digital games that could be applied to real life. The author doesn't seem to have any expectation that they will be applied exactly as described and doesn't address the myriad details that would need to be dealt with for that to happen, but the whole concept provides a lot of interesting food for thought.

For example, two general themes that cut through a lot of the lessons are the importance of fun and the idea that people's experiences playing digital games are likely to influence their expectations for how things should work back in the "real world" outside of games. So if the book had been called something like "Real Life Lessons from Digital Games," it would have delivered well on the expectations set by the title.

As it was, I found the title misleading for a couple of reasons. First, while the title refers to "Virtual Worlds" most of the lessons relate specifically to game-based virtual environments. Social worlds such as Second Life are discussed, but the author specifically acknowledges the fact that these are quite different from game-based environments which have clearly defined goals, roles, rules, rewards, etc. Therefore, if your interest relates more to open-ended worlds, such as Second Life, that are used for a variety of purposes and are not focussed on a single unified game, then there may be less in this book for you than you would guess from the title.

Second, the Exodus part of the title made me think that the book would talk more about what will happen within virtual worlds when more of us spend more time in them (e.g., How will it change the ways we work, play, communicate, consume, etc?
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Format: Paperback
In Exodus to the Virtual World, Dr. Edward Castronova explores a possible future wherein participation in virtual worlds and MMOs becomes so widespread that major social effects are felt here in the real world. He suggests that as more people spend more time in virtual worlds, they will come to expect the real world to provide many of the conveniences of those virtual worlds: more fairness, more opportunity, more fun. This, he theorizes, will lead to a conflict over attention between the real and the virtual, with the real world being forced to adopt social policies inspired by game design.

The author frequently suggests that game designers may be better-equipped than most to handle the social policy issues of the 21st century and beyond. As a game designer, I found this rather gratifying, though I remain skeptical whether it's actually true. However, the parallels he draws between social policy design and virtual world design are compelling, and many of the mechanics we find today in virtual worlds and MMOs are in fact elegant solutions to social issues that have yet to even be well-addressed in the real world.

This book is primarily a speculative, futurist work. Many of the author's claims go largely unsubstantiated precisely for that reason: they're speculations into one possible future. I had no problem with this, and the author makes it clear up front what type of book this is. You just have to come into it with the right mindset. That said, he does frequently reference verifiable present-day facts in order to establish trends which inform his projections, making them more educated predictions than wild guesses.
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