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My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World Paperback – January 20, 1999
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This is the story of one user's experience at a virtual-reality community called LambdaMOO. A MOO--short for multiuser dungeon, object oriented--is a virtual place where participants can construct human-like graphical representations of themselves to interact in a simulated world. Author Julian Dibbell begins by relating the facts surrounding the case of Mr. Bungle, a character who committed the crime of "virtual rape" in this fantastic electronic world, shocking LambdaMOO's members. However, the thread of discussion about this case is minimal and the book ultimately becomes Dibbell's diary of his "research" of this virtual world, which grows gradually more obsessive, and how it affects his RL (real life).
Dibbell offers glimpses of his RL between rich, colorful, and entertaining chapters describing the online community's gossip, his interactions and relationships with the other members, and his first experience with cybersex. What is interesting is that the brief snatches of RL are bland and boring, written in a kind of script format with little more than stage directions for descriptions. This device, plus Dibbell's discussions of his dreams about the MOO, show the reader how deeply involved Dibbell becomes in this community. The turning point comes when Dibbell's membership at LambdaMOO threatens to ruin one of his closest RL relationships. --Cristina Vaamonde
From Publishers Weekly
It is a world that inhabitants dub "tiny," but its role in their lives is large. In the online community of LambdaMoo, Netizens occupy virtual living rooms and hot tubs, form close friendships and make mortal enemies, trade witticisms and discuss their lives for as many as 70 hours per week. Dibbell's account of this group is similarly large and ambitious. He eschews cliche and, in rich and active prose, frames a world that raises new questions by blurring the line not only between cyberspace and real space but between speech and action, intimacy and distance. What, for example, is the proper punishment for a virtual rapist, who wields only words as his weapon and sits hundreds of miles from his victim? Yet, for all its sociology, Dibbell's book never wanders too far from the personal. In its most compelling passages, the author contemplates fumbling toward virtual ecstasy and its impact on his real-space relationship. In a tone oscillating between invested and detached, Dibbell has written a sprawling, dazzling book, accessible to the least initiated and full of insights for the most wizened. If a complaint can be leveled, it's that he limits our view of the actual goings-on in Lambda, sacrificing the chaotic charm the book might have had without this filtering. Still, Dibbell's insight, intelligence and emotional depth make his interpretation one to behold and savor. Agent, Mark Kelley.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Dibbell's approach towards writing about his experiences in Lambda MOO is interesting in and of itself- he separates each section into a different discussion on various questions raised as he played the game. There is a section on history, politics, sex, etc. -all within the framework of LamdaMOO. His writing style is both practical and thoughtful at the same time, lending to some memorable anecdotes while not being bogged down as being simply a memoir of his activities. While "A Rape in Cyberspace" is noticeably unchanged since its publication online, other chapters include thoughts on the nature of online communities, games, and virtual reality itself.
That being said, this book has passed the 10 year mark. With the MMORPG market enlarging and expanding from its beginnings in Ultima Online and Everquest to approx. 11.5 million WoW players, I'm forced to almost question where someone can find any contemporary relevance in what Dibbell writes. While Text-Based RPGs might have matched Ultima Online in players in 1999, I'd be hard-pressed to argue that MUD or MOO players are today anything more than a small percentage rather than an example of the online gaming community as a whole. This makes the arguments and discussions in this book hard to apply to any contemporary study of online cultures.
In some final comments, I will say that Dibbell is an absolute must-have for someone studying online communities, if only as a snapshot into what these communities looked like in the late 1990s. Dibbell's book also shows us that video games, at the very least, can be worth looking into from an academic standpoint, and offers an example of approaches that one might take if they were to attempt a foray into Ludology.
I found it to be a page-turner well after the narration of the motivating event was finished.
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