Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games

By Edward Castronova | Go to book overview

10
TOPOGRAPHIES OF TERROR

So far, the chapters in part 2 have focused on core questions of political economy—business, markets, governments, law—as these are affected by the unique features of synthetic worlds. One area that has been overlooked so far, and yet that is closely related to the issues of governance that dominated the last chapter, involves violence. In well-governed communities, violence is generally not sanctioned, and it ought to be rare between well-governed communities as well. Unsanctioned violence within a community is crime; violence between communities is warfare. Terrorism occupies a gray area between the two. It turns out that synthetic worlds, because of the way they warp reality and enable real-time communications, provide some rather frightening opportunities for people of bad intent. They also make it more difficult for security forces to respond. This chapter will focus on the use or misuse of synthetic world technology for violent conflicts outside the membrane. The next chapter will focus on violent conflicts that may fall inside the membrane.


Just Another First-Person Shooter Game

A corridor is lit by a single light bulb hanging from a wire. The few doors here are closed and the people in the corridor, two African American men and a Jew, stand here aimlessly, as if they are waiting for something. Indeed, whatever they are waiting for seems to be approaching: around the corner, somewhere in the farthest depths of the building, guns are being fired, and their outbursts are audible here. Over time, the reports get louder. The occupants of this corridor now begin to hear the cries of wounded and dying people; the moment of doom nears them. Yet they do not run, and suddenly all is silent. The sound of footsteps can be

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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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