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All work and all play… April 9, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in Play Money.

“This is really another world,” Caldwell was saying. “The Internet has really affected the world like nobody has understood yet. There’s gonna be greater impac, people are gonna be spending more time on their computers. TV is gonna go the way of the dinosaurs, eventually. There’s more and more people doing stuff online than ever before. There’s more women coming online. There’s more older people coming online. There’s more poor people coming online” (p. 17).

The world of virtual worlds is foreign to me, so reading Play Money by Julian Dibbell was eye opening. From coworkers, I was only vaguely aware that this subculture of people exsited; never could I have imagined that virtual worlds and virtual money contributed to a multi-million dollar online economy in the trade of virtual goods.

Dibbell provides two reasons for why the use of online roleplaying games (also known as MMORPGs, for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) for monetary purposes has arisen. The first is rooted in psychology. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about a condition he calls flow. Flow is the phenomenon where people get satisfaction out of an action simply for doing the action. This is the reason why many MMORPG players will repeat a task over and over to improve their character, even if the task is repetitive and boring.

The second reason that Dibbell points out is economic. The virtual worlds of these online games operate under scarcity and inequality. There are limited resources, and always others who have more. This fuels a desire to gather more, build more, learn more and achieve more.

Dibbell raises an interesting philosophical question when he notices his daughter playing. Why can’t everyone have the bliss of play? Why does that natural desire to play fade away into, as he puts it “production and reproduction?” I have two issues with this. First, the way he described “play” in the world of professional online gamers, doesn’t seem much like play. It, in fact seems very much like a job. The IM conversation in chapter 21 certainly shows how seriously these games are taken, almost to the point where they don’t seem fun anymore.

Second, I wonder whether the shift from play to work is natural, or chosen. I am reminded of the adage that one can either have a happy life or a meaningful life. It seems that the shift toward work might be from a desire to have an important life and not just a happy one.



1. aditya1411 - February 19, 2010

All great ideas but I would also add another item to it: consider doing a virtual event/meeting. Virtual events and meetings are a great way to stay in front of customers, generate new leads and help close business already in the pipeline. These solutions are being deployed so rapidly by companies that the market is projected to exceed $18 billion by 2015. If you are interested in how you can use virtual environments attend the Virtual Edge Summit Feb. 22-23 (virtually or in-person if you are in/near Silicon Valley). There is no registration fee if you take a short survey.

Virtual Edge Summit 2010 is the only event that focuses exclusively on providing education, training and solutions for planning and producing virtual events, meetings and communities. Over 2 days, 80 experts will share their experience with you, and be available for one-on-ones. The event also offers a rich program for featuring experts from Cisco, Stanford, IBM, Disney SAP, Oracle, Intel as well as top virtual technology and service providers like InXpo, ON24, 6Connex, Stream57, CGS VirtualEvents365, George P. Johnson, Unisfair and Digitell.

When: February 22-23, 2010 8am until 6pm

Where: At the Santa Clara Convention Center in California and virtually in browser based virtual environments offering 2D and 3D experiences.

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