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Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
(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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Castronova's ground breaking book remains at the top-- even after all these years-- as a must read for anyone interested in virtual worlds and the implications and promise they... Read morePublished 17 months ago by machievelli
This is a very long scientific paper of basic observations about new and unknown world of games. Writer is uncomfortable, a stranger in a strange land. Read morePublished on March 15, 2012 by Stella Stark
I feel like this is a good book but wasn't an enjoyable read like I thought it would be. Having played MMO's for the last 7 years it didn't contain much I didn't already know. Read morePublished on November 7, 2011 by Katrina Hilton
Introduction by the Editor: Once again we publish an anonymous contribution purporting to be written by "Iprofess," who presents himself as a cartoon character living in the... Read morePublished on April 26, 2011 by Berglund Center for Internet Studies
The author offers some interesting perspective, but only if you are unfamiliar with online gaming and social media. This book is very out of date now (published in 2004). Read morePublished on February 11, 2010 by C. Maddalena
Quite a bit has been written about virtual worlds recently, primarily by psychologists, sociologists, and other "people-oriented" researchers who dive in fingers- and feet-first... Read morePublished on January 14, 2010 by Michael J. Tresca
Castronova goes beyond the ideas of Virtual Reality equipment to surrender into practical virtual reality, a much more powerful and doable technology. Read morePublished on November 21, 2009 by Raul Santiago Zapata
There are many aspects of Castronova's analysis, specifically his conculusions on the social implications of virtual worlds, that I am unable to entirely rally behind. Read morePublished on September 14, 2009 by Richard Huskey