DAILY LIFE ON A SYNTHETIC EARTH
This chapter gives uninitiated readers an overview of how one gets into a synthetic world and what one does after arriving. These places, while being physically different from the Earth, are not socially different from it. All the standard patterns of human social, economic, and psychological functioning seem to translate directly into the new space. A glimpse of daily life in a typical synthetic world should illustrate both how strange and how normal these proskenia are: new stages that host age-old human dramas.
Much of the description is informed by the contemporary state of affairs, in which most synthetic worlds are produced by game companies and served to the customer from a single location. This kind of structure is not necessary to manage a world, of course. The world could also exist on a network of computers, unowned by anyone, and be served to newcomers on an ad hoc basis. From the point of view of the new user, however, the process would look about the same.
I suppose the first thing everyone needs to understand is that it is not exactly trivial or easy to get into a synthetic world. A user has to go through a fairly lengthy series of administrative steps before seeing anything fantastic at all. So, let’s say you are wandering through the games section at the store, and you see a piece of software that claims to be a multiplayer fantasy role-playing game. The software costs about the same as any other game on the shelf: perhaps $40 or $50. The box says that using the software requires an Internet connection, a fairly high-end computer, and a credit card.