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Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture [Hardcover]

T. L. Taylor
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 24, 2006 0262201631 978-0262201636 First Edition

In Play Between Worlds, T. L. Taylor examines multiplayer gaming life as it is lived on the borders, in the gaps--as players slip in and out of complex social networks that cross online and offline space. Taylor questions the common assumption that playing computer games is an isolating and alienating activity indulged in by solitary teenage boys. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), in which thousands of players participate in a virtual game world in real time, are in fact actively designed for sociability. Games like the popular Everquest, she argues, are fundamentally social spaces.Taylor's detailed look at Everquest offers a snapshot of multiplayer culture. Drawing on her own experience as an Everquest player (as a female Gnome Necromancer)--including her attendance at an Everquest Fan Faire, with its blurring of online-and offline life--and extensive research, Taylor not only shows us something about games but raises broader cultural issues. She considers "power gamers," who play in ways that seem closer to work, and examines our underlying notions of what constitutes play--and why play sometimes feels like work and may even be painful, repetitive, and boring. She looks at the women who play Everquest and finds they don't fit the narrow stereotype of women gamers, which may cast into doubt our standardized and preconceived ideas of femininity. And she explores the questions of who owns game space--what happens when emergent player culture confronts the major corporation behind the game.


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Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture + My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft (Technologies of the Imagination: New Media in Everyday Life) + Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Refuting the idea that playing video games is an act of isolation undertaken by teenaged boys in dark basement rooms, Taylor presents the world of online gaming as a thriving social scene where players create friendships that transcend the digital domain. In playing EverQuest, (an MMOG, or massively multiplayer online game), Taylor travels through the digital fantasyland, slays other players, builds up her character's inventory and skills and, most importantly, shows how playing creates a huge network of people, many of whom take an almost job-like approach to gaming. She even meets up with fellow gamers and notes how "Recounting fights is a common topic of conversation among players." Also insightful are her thoughts on women and gaming, an underreported topic to which she dedicates a chapter. Taylor is, however, an academic, and tends to make simple concepts overcomplicated. So, sentences like: "There is no culture, there is no game, without the labor of the players. Whether designers want to acknowledge it fully or not, MMOGs already are participatory spaces (if only partially realized) by their very nature as social and cultural spaces" are far from uncommon. Save the moments of impenetrable jargon, Taylor's immersion into the online gaming world is a fascinating one that proves video games aren't just for the geeky neighbor kid anymore.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"An articulate and thoroughly researched work, Play Between Worlds is an intriguing look behind the curtain of the world's hottest entertainment phenomenon: virtual-world gaming. Unlike other academics who merely play tourist in these games, Taylor spent four years in one world and became part of the community. You get to reap the benefits of her close association with the people who make these worlds exciting: the players." Jessica Mulligan, coauthor of Developing Online Games: An Insider's Guide



"A fascinating peek into the formal and social architecture that undergirds and shapes the cultural phenomena that is EverQuest." Jane C. Park New Media and Society



"Reading Play Between Worlds is anything but grinding. Taylor has long been one of the most nuanced scholars of life in the massively multiplayer game worldsomeone who knows her orc from her dark elves, who understands the complex intertwining of online and offline identities, and who has interesting things to teach us about the ethics of power gaming. At the same time, she is someone who asks big questions about the relationship between work and play, about the debates surrounding gender and games, and about issues of online governance and intellectual property which will shape the future interactions between gamers and game companies. Each of the book's chapters could be read and taught on its own terms; taken as a whole, they add up to a vivid picture of a world where many of us are spending lots of time these days." Henry Jenkins , Director of Comparative Media Studies, MIT



"An articulate and thoroughly researched work, *Play Between Worlds* is an intriguing look behind the curtain of the world's hottest entertainment phenomenon: virtual-world gaming. Unlike other academics who merely play tourist in these games, Taylor spent four years in one world and became part of the community. You get to reap the benefits of her close association with the people who make these worlds exciting: the players."--Jessica Mulligan, coauthor of *Developing Online Games: An Insider's Guide*


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; First Edition edition (February 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262201631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262201636
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,767,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

T.L. Taylor is Associate Professor in Comparative Media Studies at MIT.

She is a qualitative sociologist working in the fields of internet and game studies. Her work focuses on the interrelation between culture, social practice, and technology in online leisure environments.

She has spoken and written on topics such as network play and social life, values in design, intellectual property, co-creative practices, avatars, and gender & gaming.

Her most recent book, Raising the Stakes (MIT Press, 2012), explores the professionalization of computer game play, examining the developing scene of high-end competitive play, spectatorship, and the growing institutionalization of e-sports.

Her current research project is on the world of computer game live-streaming.

Full information about her work can be found at her website - tltaylor.com

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic ethnographic approach to MMORPGs November 6, 2006
Format:Hardcover
In her book on the MMO gaming world, Taylor brings an ethnographic approach to the game Everquest. Through interviews and personal experience, she gives an insight into the gaming world that portrays it for the rich, complex, social world that it is. A gamer herself, Taylor does an excellent job shining new light on the "frowned upon" gaming world. She also goes beyond the gaming world to show how things are connected through the internet and "in real life" to things within the game.

As far as this being too "basic" in covering the genre - this wasn't aimed to be a book only for advanced gamers. For those of the academic world, who have no experience whatsoever with games, the chapters provide sufficient information about the games to allow understanding. The summary/analysis is as comprehensive as it is rich. There are parts that she could have gone further and I do hope she does write a second book (although she does have articles on this topic as well).

All in all, this is an absolutely fantastic book for academics (or just interested people) who want an ethnographic approach to the gaming world that treats it not as a deviant, subersive "alternate" reality. Gamers and academics alike can appreciate it. Think Jenkins' Textual Poachers (written about the fan world) for gamers.

I sincerely hope this is the tip of the iceberg for this serious academic research into the community, social aspects of MMOs.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Author T. L. Taylor is an academic with MUD and MMORPG experience. This is important, because Taylor examines how real life and gaming interact in Play Between Worlds, using EverQuest as her primary source. Through interviews with players and her own experience, Taylor fleshes out what it means to "live" in EverQuest and outside of it, identifying a gaming culture that permeates both membranes. In some cases, there's not much of a membrane at all, as when EverQuest players dress up as their characters at gaming conventions.

Taylor's book is filled with gaming jargon with little explanation. This book is written for people who understand MMORPGs and EverQuest in particular, which unfortunately limits its audience somewhat. That's a shame, because buried in the exposition of gnomes and necromancers are some important revelations.

A large section of the book is devoted to gender issues. Taylor's female gender matters, both in her approach to EverQuest and the roles she chooses to play within it. The hypersexualization of female characters is a real problem in fantasy gaming and it's what led Taylor to pick the unsexy gnome racial archetype.

Taylor also defends "roll-players." She rails against the stereotype of Achiever-style players as incompetent, unintelligent, and aggressive. Taylor takes pains to show how this archetype is unfounded and that achievers are actually highly competent, organized, and bright. What Taylor doesn't address is that this play style is destructive to other play styles. It's not that achievement-oriented players are bad for games - indeed, Taylor stresses that they actually improve games by breaking them - but that other less goal-oriented players are driven away by their dominance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars depends on what you want out of it July 13, 2011
By C. Lee
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For the non-academic: a well-written, detailed accounting of a digital world, giving the reader a strong grasp of the unique culture and sensibilities. Taylor helps illustrate where the real and the virtual connect and where they stay distinct, as well as raising up potential issues while arguing away others.

For the academic: shallow, meandering, without really any big argument - pure ethnography. If you play games, you already know all this and have likely read books/articles that attack the subject better. If you don't, you should probably ask a student or a professor who does and they'll steer you in a better direction.
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