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Synthetic Worlds

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  201 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews

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

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Published September 15th 2008 by University of Chicago Press (first published 2005)
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Jan 07, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Synthetic worlds, virtual worlds, online worlds, whatever your term of choice, these are all the same thing.

Some synthetic worlds exist for the sake of being synthetic worlds. Second Life is a good example.

Others are game-based, such as World of Warcraft.

The conventional wisdom was that we'd need immersive 3D graphics, preferably with a Virtual Reality-type setup for people to become immersed. The conventional wisdom was wrong; simple 2D graphics are, quite often, enough for people to get immers
Brilliant! I expected this book to be interesting, and I thought it might be fun. I didn't anticipate it being so thoughtful, so broad-ranging, and such a genuinely important book.
It's an in-depth multi-faceted study of MMORPGs, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, of all genres and around the world. The author deliberately chose the term 'synthetic world', among other reasons because he intended to avoid the phrase 'virtual reality' - his thesis on that is that the over-hyped techno
In many ways this book came as a relief. It is written by someone who actually has lengthy experience with the subject, and it applies an uncommonly deep level of examination to the problem of how MMORPGs interact with our daily lives. There is quite a bit of quality material here, anchored by detailed but readable economic analysis.

On the bad side, Castronova's writing style is unpleasant to read: a lot of failed humor, and far more personal anecdote than is desired. The structure of the book i
May 24, 2009 Rick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am a game designer that is currently working on small MMOs and even though I do not belong to his stated target audience I picked up the book in hopes to learn something about the economies in MMOs. I have to admit I am quite disappointed with this book and not just because it barely dealt with the issue of MMO economies. I can easily forgive many of his misinformation since he had never worked on developing a game directly but most of this seems more like over hyped optimism with very little ...more
Oct 28, 2007 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students, gamers, economists, the curious
Shelves: what-i-study
My perception of this book might be a little biased as Castranova came to speak to one of my classes. I found his arguments about the synthetic economy intersecting with the real economy compelling. Although I am not sure that gaming is going to be our refuge from the modern condition, I think it is an interesting thought experiment and useful for analyzing gaming's popularity.

This book is easy to read yet very informative. You don't have to posses a deep background in economics to understand t
Apr 12, 2008 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of this book seems to fall into two sections. The first discusses the current state of synthetic worlds, and most of the author's claims are either obviously factual or almost self-evident. The second portion, however, is more conjectural, and here Castronova seems to completely overreach on the topic. His ideas on the projection of force into or out of synthetic worlds are nonsensical, and his thoughts on 'toxic immersion' seem equally fantastic. I think the book would have benefited if he ...more
May 15, 2008 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes a really interesting look at virtual worlds, although at times Castronova gets a little too gushy about how great they are. (To be fair, I may be biased--I have never played a MMORPG and my first attempts to get into Second Life have been exceedingly frustrating.) The economic and governance aspects of virtual worlds are really interesting and eye-opening, especially the discussion of "what makes an economy fun?"
Thoroughly enjoyable book on the social and economic structures of MMORPGs. The first part of the book is a little pedantic for those who already have a familiarity with how MMORPGs work, but once the stage is set, Castronova makes an excellent case for the genre to be an area of study for those interested in economics, politics, and sociology. I am looking forwards to reading more from him.
Aug 24, 2007 vivian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-finish
castronova is cool and on point but econ bores me. especially when its pixel pushing in an mmorpg.

if you can swing real benjamins from virtual worlds, all the more power to you. but if you feel compelled to put real dollars to buy virtual currency to buy that epic boe? i question your reality.
Feb 07, 2010 Jim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
They say economics is the 'dismal science' and this book proves that is true. A look into the emerging area of on-line communities becomes a tepid review of economic theory. Written like a textbook, it removes all the joy and wonder from this movement.
Sep 08, 2013 Norbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In alcune parti molto interessante: in altre meno.

mi aspettavo una maggiore anttenzione ai problemi della 'esistenza' dentro i mondi virtuali. Invece l'autore si concetra molto di più tra interazioni ed effetti fra mondo reale e virtuale
Gabrielle Provaas
A stunning read on the growing online game communities and what it might mean in the near future. Written by an economist, but with humor and clear examples. Fascinating and very insightful!
Oct 24, 2007 Victor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have any interest in MMOs or virtual worlds, consider this your bible. Castronova is a genius and I really can't recommend this book highly enough.
May 11, 2010 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: videogames
Lots of rich information. I didn't have time to get through it in 1 week for my class! I will definitely finish it up this summer when I have more time to read!
I bet it's a trip to be Castronova's research assistant - he combines two things I love and explores them both seriously and in an entertaining way.
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