- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (July 10, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465015352
- ISBN-13: 978-0465015351
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,680,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot Hardcover – July 10, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Something had to give in author Dibbell's life: either his day job freelancing for such magazines as Wired, or his 20 hour-a-week online gaming habit. Dibbell chose the latter, making it his business to exploit "the radical confusion of production and pretend" that massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMOs), such as EverQuest and Ultima Online, have instilled in their millions of users. In this cultural analysis-part memoir, part history, part economic investigation-Dibbell chronicles his attempts to get a piece of the estimated $880 million market in virtual goods, commodities such as armor, currency and even houses that exist only in the gaming world-but which people are willing to pay very real money for. Funny and uncommonly thoughtful, Dibbell takes us into the computer fantasyland, introducing us to real-world game players, virtual economies and the places they interact, such as a legendary office in Tijuana where unskilled workers make $19 a day to play online, "harvesting the resources of imaginary worlds." Dibbel disects the history of computers and games and tackles a number of issues legal, ethical and esoteric, including the IRS perspective on profits from dreamed-up merchandise, the difference or lack thereof between "real" and "virtual" currency, and the knotty question behind all the time, energy and cash spent on so much mouse-clicking: "Why would anyone enjoy it?" An unusual narrative, careful scholarship and real passion drive this circuitous (pun intended) study of a new American pastime.
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About the Author
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Dibbell used to write for Wired, and he's a fluent story-teller. Some of the book drags a bit, but the biographical part -- and the sheer strangeness of the intellectual property rights being discussed -- makes it a fascinating read overall.
Dibbell wrote this book during and about the wild west of virtual items. He decided to buy and sell virtual loot in Ultima Online, and make a living at it. He joined a virtual gold rush in a sense - dabbling with some of the shadiest gold farmers and loot hoarders out there.
Like many cutting edge books, this one found it audience, then seemed to fade into obscurity. I decided to go back and read it again - just to see how much fun it was. And, I have to say that the review still stands at 5 stars after all these years. To this day I strongly recommend this book. It is light, funny - and still provides numerous insights into a world that continues.
If you are a fan of video games - or have ever found yourself paying even a buck for virtual stuff (power ups, etc) - this one is worth a buy.
Bear in mind it's a snapshot of a particular period in time, so if you are looking for a writeup of people's experience with today's video games you will be disappointed. But for those of us who lived through those heady early days, it's an accurate reflection -- and a page turner.
But he's not just looking for gold here, real or virtual. He's after answers to big questions. What makes something valuable? What is a market? What is an economy? What kinds of abstractions are we exchanging when we buy a material object, or a service, or a ticket to a movie, and put it on a credit card? In a world where the price of something as simultaneously abstract and material as "pork belly futures" is announced on the radio (in the Midwest, at least), is it really all that odd to put up a virtual store in a fictional place called Brittania, where you sell virtual swords? Is that store any more fictional or real than e-Bay, or than the one Dibbell puts up outside the game world, where he charges real money for these imaginary items?
"Play Money" ponders these big questions, but it isn't all Marx and Baudrillard. It's a gripping and funny and sometimes even poignant story, told in a conversational style that's a breeze to read. Dibbell is a great guide through this world, for a newbie like me, because he stops to explain the way things work--the intricacies of the games, of course, but also the arcana of economics and the complexities of computer science--in ways that are clear without ever seeming dumbed down. I've never learned so much from such a page-turner.