Catalogue

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Synthetic worlds : the business and culture of online games /
Edward Castronova.
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2005.
description
xi, 332 p.
ISBN
0226096262 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2005.
isbn
0226096262 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5626734
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2006-09-01:
Most people are oblivious to them, but synthetic worlds are everywhere and most likely populated by people one knows but would never suspect. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) account annually for hundreds of millions of dollars in software purchases, monthly subscriptions, secondary sales, and related goods--all on the player side of consumption. Add in the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on game development, advertising, and distribution of online games and one begins to understand the enormous, worldwide economic impact of this rapidly growing industry. Castronova (economics, California State Univ., Fullerton) makes an excellent contribution to the growing literature on video games and video game culture. He skillfully educates readers about online gamers and places them contextually within the industry, which feeds their desires to populate, govern, and control economic structures of fantasy worlds. Castronova understands that online gaming is more than distraction or entertainment, and he also explores some of the adverse affects on the millions of people who spend countless hours on online gaming. Castronova is no stranger to MMORPGs and his personal experiences with online gaming contribute significantly to this study and recommend it as part of any core collection on the cultural and economic impact of video games. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. R. C. Adams Kansas State University
Reviews
Review Quotes
""Synthetic Worlds" is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they "are" real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations."
"Synthetic Worldsis a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, theyarereal economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations."--Tim Harford,Chronicle of Higher Education
" Synthetic Worlds is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they are real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations."--Tim Harford, Chronicle of Higher Education
This item was reviewed in:
New York Times Book Review, December 2005
Wall Street Journal, July 2006
Choice, September 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Edward Castronova offers a look at the online game industry and explores its implications for both business and culture. He begins by looking at the players and examines the economies inside the games worlds, before exploring the long-term social consequences of online games. Can the real world compete with a synthetic one?
Long Description
From "EverQuest" to "World of Warcraft," online games have evolved from the exclusive domain of computer geeks into an extraordinarily lucrative staple of the entertainment industry. People of all ages and from all walks of life now spend thousands of hours--and dollars--partaking in this popular new brand of escapism. But the line between fantasy and reality is starting to blur. Players have created virtual societies with governments and economies of their own whose currencies now trade against the dollar on eBay at rates higher than the yen. And the players who inhabit these synthetic worlds are starting to spend more time online than at their day jobs. In "Synthetic Worlds," Edward Castronova offers the first comprehensive look at the online game industry, exploring its implications for business and culture alike. He starts with the players, giving us a revealing look into the everyday lives of the gamers--outlining what they do in their synthetic worlds and why. He then describes the economies inside these worlds to show how they might dramatically affect real world financial systems, from potential disruptions of markets to new business horizons. Ultimately, he explores the long-term social consequences of online games: If players can inhabit worlds that are more alluring and gratifying than reality, then how can the real world ever compete? Will a day ever come when we spend more time in these synthetic worlds than in our own? Or even more startling, will a day ever come when such questions no longer sound alarmist but instead seem obsolete? With more than ten million active players worldwide--and with Microsoft and Sony pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into videogame development--online games have become too big to ignore. "Synthetic Worlds" spearheads our efforts to come to terms with this virtual reality and its concrete effects. "Illuminating. . . . Castronova's analysis of the economics of fun is intriguing. Virtual-world economies are designed to make the resulting game interesting and enjoyable for their inhabitants. Many games follow a rags-to-riches storyline, for example. But how can all the players end up in the top 10%? Simple: the upwardly mobile human players need only be a subset of the world's population. An underclass of computer-controlled 'bot' citizens, meanwhile, stays poor forever. Mr. Castronova explains all this with clarity, wit, and a merciful lack of academic jargon."--"The Economist" " " ""Synthetic Worlds" is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they "are" real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations."--Tim Harford, "Chronicle of Higher Education "
Main Description
From EverQuest to World of Warcraft , online games have evolved from the exclusive domain of computer geeks into an extraordinarily lucrative staple of the entertainment industry. People of all ages and from all walks of life now spend thousands of hoursand dollarspartaking in this popular new brand of escapism. But the line between fantasy and reality is starting to blur. Players have created virtual societies with governments and economies of their own whose currencies now trade against the dollar on eBay at rates higher than the yen. And the players who inhabit these synthetic worlds are starting to spend more time online than at their day jobs. In Synthetic Worlds , Edward Castronova offers the first comprehensive look at the online game industry, exploring its implications for business and culture alike. He starts with the players, giving us a revealing look into the everyday lives of the gamersoutlining what they do in their synthetic worlds and why. He then describes the economies inside these worlds to show how they might dramatically affect real world financial systems, from potential disruptions of markets to new business horizons. Ultimately, he explores the long-term social consequences of online games: If players can inhabit worlds that are more alluring and gratifying than reality, then how can the real world ever compete? Will a day ever come when we spend more time in these synthetic worlds than in our own? Or even more startling, will a day ever come when such questions no longer sound alarmist but instead seem obsolete? With more than ten million active players worldwideand with Microsoft and Sony pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into video game developmentonline games have become too big to ignore. Synthetic Worlds spearheads our efforts to come to terms with this virtual reality and its concrete effects. "Illuminating. . . . Castronova's analysis of the economics of fun is intriguing. Virtual-world economies are designed to make the resulting game interesting and enjoyable for their inhabitants. Many games follow a rags-to-riches storyline, for example. But how can all the players end up in the top 10%? Simple: the upwardly mobile human players need only be a subset of the world's population. An underclass of computer-controlled 'bot' citizens, meanwhile, stays poor forever. Mr. Castronova explains all this with clarity, wit, and a merciful lack of academic jargon." The Economist " Synthetic Worlds is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they are real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations."Tim Harford, Chronicle of Higher Education
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Changing Meaning of Play
The Synthetic World: A Tour
Daily Life on a Synthetic Earth
The User
The Mechanics of World-Making
Emergent Culture: Institutions within Synthetic Reality
The Business of World-Making
When Boundaries Fade
The Almost-Magic Circle
Free Commerce
The Economics of Fun: Behavior and Design
Governance
Topographies of Terror
Toxic Immersion and Internal Security
Threats and Opportunities
Implications and Policies
Into the Age of Wonder
Appendix: A Digression on Virtual Reality
Notes
References
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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