Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games

By Edward Castronova | Go to book overview

7
FREE COMMERCE

Throughout part 2 we are pointing our attention to the effects of the synthetic world on our world, which occurs mostly through the blurring of lines between the two. In the last chapter we had a quick look at three avenues by which this blurring occurs: markets, political pressures, and legal opinion. These avenues and others are responsible for putting the synthetic world inside an almost-magic circle rather than a truly magic one, and the consequence seems to be that those who travel back and forth seem to gradually stop reminding themselves that the events in the synthetic world are supposed to be some kind of fantasy. In chapter 2I argued that, at some deep level, those events are no more fantasy than the fantasy of daily life, but the point I am driving at here is that the fantasy in the synthetic world is supposed to be a different fantasy, one that proceeds according to different rules than the rules we have here on the outside. The porosity of the membrane, however, means that the rules of play inside and outside influence one another, with unpredictable results for both.

The remaining chapters of part 2 are going to focus on specific phenomena, a topic-by-topic review of some of the more noteworthy consequences of having a porous membrane in place rather than a solid one. There are many more consequences than can be addressed here, but I hope to discuss effects that are of more than passing significance. In this chapter we begin with a discussion of business—specifically, the fact that people have already begun to set up businesses inside synthetic worlds, businesses that capitalize on an intimate knowledge of daily life there in order to earn sizeable real-world incomes.

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Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction: The Changing Meaning of Play 1
  • Part I - The Synthetic World: a Tour 27
  • 1: Daily Life on a Synthetic Earth 29
  • 2: The User 51
  • 3: The Mechanics of World-Making 79
  • 4: Emergent Culture: Institutions Within Synthetic Reality 100
  • 5: The Business of World-Making 126
  • Part II - When Boundaries Fade 145
  • 6: The Almost-Magic Circle 147
  • 7: Free Commerce 161
  • 8: The Economics of Fun: Behavior and Design 170
  • 9: Governance 205
  • 10: Topographies of Terror 227
  • 11: Toxic Immersion and Internal Security 236
  • Part III - Threats and Opportunities 247
  • 12: Implications and Policies 249
  • 13: Into the Age of Wonder 267
  • Appendix: A Digression on Virtual Reality 285
  • Notes 295
  • References 311
  • Index 319
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