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Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games Hardcover

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: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,192 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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This book is very out of date now (published in 2004).
C. Maddalena
Castronova goes beyond the ideas of Virtual Reality equipment to surrender into practical virtual reality, a much more powerful and doable technology.
Raul Santiago Zapata
This is one way in which the game world has real world implications.
Robert E. Murena Jr.

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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Q. Dombrowski on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Were this book explicitly a marketing tool for virtual worlds, I would say job well done. But as a work of scholarship, it is downright embarrassing. The only thing I have to say for it is that the economic analysis in part II does not seem patently ridiculous, but the same cannot be said about the political analysis, and both are predicated on the validity of part I's predictions of the growth and impact of virtual worlds. His logic explaining this predicted growth can only be referred to as spurious.

Published in 2006, this book is already dated, and in ways relevant to the author's predictions. His prediction that passive TV watching will decline in favor of virtual worlds is only half-true: instead, we have a flourishing YouTube where people interact with passive media by creating more passive media. The niche of on-line communication medium has been filled by social networking sites. The author predicts that people who grow up with technology will be drawn to virtual worlds, but this has not been the case. The adoption rate of virtual worlds among teenagers pales in comparison to the use of text messaging, social network sites, and other available technologies. This comes as a surprise given how inherently compelling he portrays these virtual worlds.

Castronova does not seem to take into consideration the reality of differing preferences. He claims the "natural" place for getting together is cyberspace, and there's no reason to type when you can talk. This kind of thinking permeates his discussion of the future growth of synthetic worlds. Because they can offer, for a certain value of "offer", interaction with a potentially more pleasant world, this does not mean that everyone down on their luck will flock to them-- regardless of how realistic the worlds may get.
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