Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality

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Virtual worlds have exploded out of online game culture and now capture the attention of millions of ordinary people: husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, workers, retirees. Devoting dozens of hours each week to massively multiplayer virtual reality environments (like World of Warcraft and Second Life), these millions are the start of an exodus into the refuge of fantasy, where they experience life under a new social, political, and economic order built around fun. Given the choice between a fantasy world and the real world, how many of us would choose reality? Exodus to the Virtual World explains the growing migration into virtual reality, and how it will change the way we live—both in fantasy worlds and in the real one.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The migration of millions of people to the virtual worlds of massive multiplayer games will lead to public-policy changes in the real world. So predicts Castronova (Telecommunications/Indiana Univ.; Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, 2005), an enthusiastic guide to the "transformative technology" of digital games. His clear explanation makes the experience understandable even to readers who have never participated in Second Life or EverQuest. The games are attractive, he argues, because designers have learned how "to make people happy through manipulation of the social order." The experience of happiness in virtual worlds will lead to "increasing dissatisfaction with real-world governments," which will be forced "to become more fun." Castronova draws intriguing parallels between game design and such economic and political issues as employment, equality of opportunity, wages and social insurance, but he overstates the inevitability of change. It's misleading to compare game designers-who have the luxury of iterative testing in a controlled environment and the responsibility to deliver a discrete set of features-with public policymakers, who face more serious challenges with greater political and economic constraints. The father of two young children, Castronova acknowledges worrying about the impact of the fun society on parenting, a job that requires a sustained work ethic but "little moment-to-moment happiness." (There are, he notes, no children in virtual worlds.) Otherwise, he admits to being "pollyannish" about the future we can expect when the insights of hedonistic psychology flow from virtual to real life. He completely ignores the public and personalconsequences of millions of people choosing to leave reality, including the inevitable further weakening of already fragile community and social networks and organizations. No game designer, however skilled, can redress the emotional impoverishment and isolation of people who choose to invest themselves in virtual rather than in flesh-and-blood relationships. Fails to consider the possibility that the fun society may turn out to be a dystopia. Agent: Andrew Stuart/Stuart Agency
From the Publisher
"Edward Castronova has again charted new waters to the virtual worlds emerging as the next frontier. He has proven himself as the oracle of the virtual world revolution."—Christian Renaud, Networked Virtual Environments, Cisco


"A book full of insights about our online present and a hopeful look at the future where politics and economics will be increasingly governed by the rules of video games."—John Beck, President of The AttentionCompany and co-author of The Kids are Alright


"As virtual worlds rise in popularity, they are bound to have effects on the way we live our real world lives. Dr. Castronova has put together a persuasive case that the real world may begin to model its institutions on games simply because the general populace finds them more fun. It's an eye-opening tour through how virtual worlds are run, and why practical, enjoyable governance is very different from the systems employed today."—Raph Koster, virtual world designer


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403984128
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/27/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Castronova is the author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, he has been featured in such media as 60 Minutes, NPR, and The New York Times. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Telecommunications at Indiana University. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Preface     xiii
New Found Land
Dreams Fashioned in Silicon     3
Game Societies     21
Worlds of the Future     45
Migration     63
A Policy Analysis of Game Design
In Search of an Understanding of Fun and Games     81
A Theory of Fun     91
Virtual-World Design as Public Policy     109
How the Exodus Affects the Real World
The Fun Economy     137
The Fun Society     159
The Fun Revolution: Ending the Politics of Misery     187
Epilogue     209
Notes     223
Index     231
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