- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 13, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226096262
- ISBN-13: 978-0226096261
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,177,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games
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If you already have a rough idea of what's going on (you don't need to be an active "citizen" in any of these worlds for that), then the book doesn't have all that much to offer, though there is a great chapter on economics that discusses strategies for avoiding inflation ("MUDflation"), and the chapter on politics may stimulate some thoughts.
The book could have been more interesting if the author had been able to go into more detail and compare different online economies, and get an insider's perspective on why it is that things are the way the are (incl. failed experiments etc). I'd also have liked to see a less shallow discussion of the psychology behind all of this -- is the reason people kill each other online when they can just because that's the nature of humans, and is the reason South Koreans are way ahead online simply down to bandwidth rather than cultural differences?
The book is also (inevitably) a bit outdated. The author frequently mentions how virtual items are traded on Ebay; Ebay prohibited sales of items from World of Warcraft and EverQuest beginning of 2007. There is no mention of the "farming" phenomenon. And I was surprised that the book didn't mention Second Life (which I'd imagine should be more interesting than most fantasy worlds from an economist's point of view) much except in passing.
While "dated" in the larger scheme of publications, Castronova's masterpiece remains relevant to this day. A difficult feat in the world of technology but a testament to how far ahead of his time he was.
One of the most important chapters, worth reading and reading again if you are into designing a highly interactive virtual world, is no doubt Chapter 8 (The economics of fun), where Mr. Castronova uses all of is formal economics knowledge and mixes it with the dynamics of virtual worlds, landing into a concise list of things to have in mind for your virtual world economy.
It certainly did not help that I did not choose to read this, but rather read it to fulfill a class requirement. However, being an avid user of social media for both business and personal use and a player of online games I felt this book was terribly dated and would have only been useful to people who knew very little about the book's topic in 2004. Today this book would not educate anyone very well.
If you are looking for the big picture view of the industry and the brave foresight into the future of game world and it's effects of social structure of society - read the second book by the author "Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality." One can question the predictions, but admire the courage to recognize the changes to come.
But, if you are doing an academic research you may find lots of detailed and structured information on the game design elements and factors.