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Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games Hardcover – November 13, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226096261 ISBN-10: 0226096262

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226096262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226096261
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Synthetic Worlds is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they are real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations.”--Tim Harford, Chronicle of Higher Education
(Tim Harford Chronicle of Higher Education)

About the Author

Edward Castronova is associate professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, where he specializes in the economic and social impact of multiplayer online video games.

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Customer Reviews

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I think anyone interested in sociology or technology will find this book worthwhile.
Robert E. Murena Jr.
For instance, he doesn't suggest that any interaction, social or otherwise, if conducted online might well be considered as having occurred in a virtual world.
Bob
In most of the book the author is a little superficial in his analysis,he could go deeper.
Rodrigo Abdo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sean G on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I expected something a little more "rigorous" from Dr. Ed. I believe though that he takes an excellent first swipe at virtual worlds.

For people already playing these games the first 50 or so pages are boring. But he obviously covers this material so that even lay people can quickly be brought up to speed on his other topics. He sometimes slips back into these rudimentary explanations but I believe it is an effort to help the larger market.

He covers a wide variety of topics in this book. Discussions of property rights within VR worlds, violence within VR worlds, and the actual value of VR money and items. The variety of topics leads to a slight rambling feel in the book and some thiness on the arguements. However, I thought everything was adequately covered. I was looking for something of a "truer" economic discussion of synthetic worlds but he teased me. He does write an explanation, and defense, of synthetic economies and problems within them. For me though, I thought this was going to be all 300 or so pages when it was just about 75.

If there were more books like this published I would have given him 3 stars but since this is going to be the start in a long, long, long series of books I will give him 4 for breaking ground. He probably should have milked the material for two books. :)

If you have play these games and have and a tidbit of economics in you then buy the book and enjoy. I am going to read his papers now in an effort to get that fix.

Sean
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Murena Jr. on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I first came across DR. Castranova after reading a paper he had written on the cost variance between male and female Avatars (characters) sold on Ebay for the game "Everquest". As a recovering ex-gamer I found this material interesting. Anyone who has ever played a game that is within a synthetic world should understand exactly how engrossing they are.

(A Synthetic World is a gaming landscape that is always running in which gamers can interact with each other and play within a virtual reality that has loose rules and the characters can nearly do whatever they want)

Dr. Castranova's book "Synthetic Worlds" explores the new technology of role playing games set within these virtual realities and what they mean to the players and to society at large. It all started in the later 90's when the video game classic Ultima was created as "Ultima Online". From then on there have been more and increasingly complex virtual world games including "Everquest" and "World of Warcraft". Gamers who want to have good characters in these games can play for many hours and build their warriors, mages etc into powerful players OR they can buy them on Ebay. This is one way in which the game world has real world implications. But on a deeper note it seems that gamers many of whom put in many hours a day within these synthetic worlds, often seem to care more for their synthetic life than their actual one. There are several problems with this and while the majority of people can cope with the separation of synthetic and actual worlds there are a few that cannot. Either way these synthetic worlds have become a great new form of escapism that lets the user do things they could never do in a very real feeling way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Maverynthia on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
it's good for what it is, though the author writes it as a term paper for college "This is what the chapter is about..." exactly like that. Lots of dryness there, lots of facts. It's also mostly focused on the Economy of and existing in MMO, not so much the culture people are thinking of (dating, avatars selection, gender bending, etc.) or how MMO's are ran as a buisness.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter McCluskey on October 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Castranova is one of the first intellectuals to notice the importance of new societies that are being created in cyberspace. Much of this book is devoted to (sometimes redundant) explanations of why they are more than just games.

Around the middle of the book, he switches from describing a typical world for the benefit of those who doubt the importance of virtual worlds to describing how to design good worlds. This is where I started to find the book interesting and the questions thought-provoking, but the answers often unconvincing.

His most important discussion is about the near-anarchy that prevails in most virtual societies. He attributes this partly to the "Customer Service State" of for-profit world builders who are too cheap to pay for as much government as he assumes citizens want. But he seems to believe this is too inevitable to be worth much analysis. His more interesting question is why don't the world's citizens organize a government of their own? His answer is that citizens don't have enough power over each other to enforce laws they might create. But he doesn't convince me this is true (are boycotts useless? is repeatedly killing an outlaw not punishment?), nor does he explain why the designer face little pressure to change the design of the world to make it easier to enforce laws (what would happen if the world were designed to enable one person to effectively banish a person she doesn't like from her view of the world?). I suspect part of the answer is that there's less demand for government than he expects. I see some hints that his desire for government in cyberspace is a simple reflection of his desire for government in the real world.
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