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The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us—And How They Don't Hardcover – January 7, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300190999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300190991
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Nick Yee is responsible for the most thoughtful work on the psychology of avatars and gaming in the past 15 years. He also has a rare gift for writing compelling prose."—Jeremy Bailenson, author of Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution
(Jeremy Bailenson 2013-03-19)

“Yee's breathtaking look at the psychology underpinning virtual worlds is packed with warnings, hopes, dreams, and dangers, all supported by original research. An astonishing tour de force.”—Richard A. Bartle, author of Designing Virtual Worlds
(Richard A. Bartle 2013-07-30)

"This fascinating book proves virtual worlds are excellent laboratories for discovering truths about superstition and ethnic prejudice, love and friendship amidst conflict, and the quest for freedom in an unequal society."—William Sims Bainbridge, author of The Warcraft Civilization and eGods
(William Sims Bainbridge 2013-08-20)

“Our avatars are not exactly ourselves, but we do import an awful lot of the real world into our virtual worlds. Yee has mapped the boundaries of our virtual selves for years. With this book, he’s gathered that research into a lucid and informative package. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever spent time as an online persona.”—Raph Koster, lead designer Ultima Online and author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design
(Raph Koster 2013-08-20)

“Yee practically invented the study of online player psychology. With his lively wit and rigorous methodologies, he has once again made the complex understandable, the bizarre normal, and the scientific fun.”—Dmitri Williams, University of Southern California and CEO Ninja Metrics
(Dmitri Williams 2013-08-23)

"With clarity, insight, and above all hard experimental data, Yee has written what may be the last word on the tantalizing promise of virtual worlds. A must-read for social theorists and game designers alike."—Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot
(Julian Dibbell 2013-09-03)

“Based on surveys, experiments, and observations of thousands of players, Yee’s work offers compelling evidence that digital experiences shape us—and not always as we might expect or hope. If you want to know more about the consequences of spending time in a virtual world, you need to read this thought-provoking book.”—Mia Consalvo, author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames
(Mia Consalvo 2013-09-03)

"This is a terrific read based on solid research, logic and inferences--a must for anyone interested in our growing digital universe and culture."—Jim Blascovich, author of Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution
(Jim Blascovich 2013-09-16)

“Nick Yee’s fascinating new book on the human relationship to online games uses years of exhaustive studies to calmly debunk some of the persistent myths about online games.”—Leigh Alexander, The Columbia Journalism Review (Leigh Alexander Columbia Journalism Review)

“It is often difficult to find a textbook suitable for undergraduates wanting to know more about video games and virtual worlds. Some texts are scientifically rigorous but lead the readers through a labyrinth of difficult prose, whereas some texts are ‘soft’ and easy to follow but lack the scientific rigor. Yee's book is a perfect balance of both. Based on over a decade's expertise in video games and how they influence players' attitudes and behaviors, Yee presents a multifaceted, up-to-date discussion of how game players think and why they are motivated to invest so many hours immersed in virtual worlds.”—Sun Joo Ahn, Grady College, University of Georgia
(Sun Joo Ahn 2014-06-12)

“It is the most important, challenging, and accessible study yet conducted on the rich, sprawling culture the players have built. It is also a fine way for nonplayers to learn what gamers actually do.”—Reason Magazine
(Reason Magazine)

About the Author

Nick Yee is currently a senior research scientist at Ubisoft, where he studies gamer behavior. He lives in Mountain View, CA.

More About the Author

Nick Yee has explored online games and virtual worlds with a variety of research methods and tools for over a decade. He is widely known for the Daedalus Project, an extensive survey study of online gamers, and for his original research at Stanford University on the Proteus Effect, which describes how our avatars change the way we behave online and off. Formerly a researcher at the Palo Alto Research Center, he is currently a senior research scientist at Ubisoft, where he studies gamer behavior. In his free time, he enjoys painting miniatures, polishing amber, video games, and photography. He lives in Mountain View, California.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
I read a lot of tech books.
Jesse Fox
It presents Yee's findings in a completely scientific and interesting manner and it tells a compelling story.
Kenneth D. Vandenberghe
Dr. Yee has studied online games and virtual worlds for more than a decade.
Dr. J of The Social Network Show

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth D. Vandenberghe on December 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a gamer who frequently participated in Yee's studies at the Daedalus Project and PARC Play On through highschool and college. I'd heard about some guy at some college doing some studies on gamers and thought that I might as well try to add my input. A few years back I remember getting a mass email from Yee saying that the PARC Play On group was finished collecting data. I was a bit sad that my outlet for my gaming world was over but I moved on. Then, yesterday I got another email from Yee; he'd now published a book. I was so excited to see how all of his work had come together and Yee did not disappoint.

Before I get into the specifics about the book, let me say that all my life I've been a gamer and I've battled constant criticism and outright hatred for my passion. People love having a group to hate. I've been called an addict, a loser, and much much worse. While Yee touches on all of this he goes so much deeper into the whole mentality and workings of the MMO society. This is a fantastic study of a much talked about yet little understood group of people. Yee's analysis borders on genius.

All that said, this book is not a for-gamers-only type of deal. It presents Yee's findings in a completely scientific and interesting manner and it tells a compelling story. My personal stories may not have been used by Yee in this book but even so looking back I feel I contributed to the work of a very smart man doing some very cool things. It was definitely a worthwhile pursuit and this book is definitely something any gamers, parents of gamers, sociologists, psychologists, people who are interested in those things, friends of those people, dogs, cats, birds...everyone. Everyone should read. Nick, if you find yourself perusing the reviews for your book: Thank you for saying so many great things so well. I'm happy to have bought the book and I'm more than happy to recommend it to my friends and family. Great work!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn on December 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Even if you're not a gamer (perhaps, specifically if you're not a gamer!), I would recommend this book and Nick's research. The way we use avatars (in games and other virtual communities like Facebook, etc.) can profoundly affect how we be have in the physical world. Amazing research, incredibly interesting book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bayfia on January 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
And I believe Dr. Yee has proved that to be so. I've been a gamer for 10 years now - in my case, the MMO I've stayed with for that long has been, and is, Everquest II by Sony Online. I have participated in 2 of Nick Yee's research projects, and I've been waiting with baited breath to see the results of his research.

I am a female gamer - and I am not a young one. I am one of those who actually started online gaming after a full career doing other things on computers. Because I have been around computers for most of my adult life, and because I can type very well, I thought perhaps I might enjoy playing an online game. I discovered that some of the situations I got into in game, the relationships that I became part of, the exchanges of ideas, emotions, ideas, even some of the insults, the retributions, the rituals that I participated in with other people on line, around the world, were both like a real community in my home town, and totally unlike any kind of community I could ever expect to find in my real world. In some respects, the virtual world of Norrath and Azeroth, the Rift world ... the Star Wars Universe .. these virtual spaces became as real (sometimes MORE real) to me than my own real life sometimes is. I believe that Nick Yee saw this kind of psychological and emotional development blooming in the games he was examining (and playing?). I believe there is an enormous potential for the development of better communication skills, and better social relations for people who participate in virtual gaming worlds. Furthermore, I believe he has a good common sense approach to the phenomena, and an awareness of both the potential benefits and the potential pitfalls of participating in a virtual world, of making a commitment to "live" in a virtual world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Big Bad John on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Lots of people have lots of opinions about 'Violent Video Games' -- Nick Yee is important because he also has lots of DATA. To give an example, he was part of a team that used World of Warcraft's Armory database to look at over a thousand players (averaging three avatars) yielding 3500 data points per avatar per day for six months.

What he found may surprise you: who plays and how much and what it feels like. He documents the potential for positive life transformations in the realms of family formation, learning to manage group dynamics, liberation for the physically mediocre, and expansion of social outlets for closeted GLBT folks.

Besides being a dedicated researcher, Yee has a substantial history of online gaming. This combination makes him able to write with authenticity and understanding.

Gaming culture is likely to shape the world's future. If you want to really understand it, read this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J of The Social Network Show on June 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It is hard, if not impossible, to get away from ourselves. That is the takeaway from Nick Yee's research. For whatever reason, who we are in this life seems to inevitably follow us into the virtual realm. No matter how limitless the possibilities in the creation of new worlds, the intangibles, at least, of this worldly existence seem to rear their familiar heads. That is The Proteus Paradox. The Proteus Effect was described earlier in the Daedalus Project, whose study participants were more confident in f2f interactions after having been given a tall avatar within an online game. I didn't realize being tall conveyed that much of an advantage in f2f life, but then, tall individuals do spend most of their time `looking down on' those around them.

Dr. Yee has studied online games and virtual worlds for more than a decade. He earned a doctorate in Communications at Stanford University. For his dissertation study (the Daedalus Project mentioned above) he surveyed over 50,000 online gamers and examined who the gamers are and why they play these games. Then continuing at the Palo Alto Research Center, he ran psychology experiments and analyzed large amounts of data to explore how our virtual selves and offline selves are related.

The Proteus Paradox is thus based on research evidence, not just a rambling proposal of what might be the case. The resulting image strikes a non-gamer such as me as more than a little bizarre. There are rules to be learned, moves to be executed, playing (living) according to social norms of the online world of choice. One can accomplish things, earn points, and advance to new levels. Not terribly different from many social/service clubs in the f2f world. Actually, not too different from work, as it turns out!
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