inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #0 of 62: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 15 Sep 06 11:43
    
It gives us great pleasure to welcome to the Inkwell Julian Dibbell.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #1 of 62: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 15 Sep 06 11:47
    

Julian Dibbell has, in the course of over a decade of writing and
publishing, established himself as one of digital culture's most thoughtful
and accessible observers. He is the author of two books on virtual worlds,
My Tiny Life (Henry Holt, 1999) and Play Money (Basic, 2006), and has
written essays and articles on hackers, computer viruses, online
communities, encryption technologies, music pirates, and the heady cultural,
political, and philosophical questions that tie these and other digital-age
phenomena together. Currently a contributing editor for Wired magazine, he
lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Leading the conversation with Julian, is the Well's own Jamais Cascio, a San
Francisco-based foresight specialist looking at the intersection of emerging
technologies and cultural transformation. Cascio has consulted for numerous
commercial and non-profit groups, and has written for a variety of print and
online publications. He has advised several science fiction TV and film
projects, and designed multiple acclaimed game settings.

In 2003, he co-founded WorldChanging.com, an award-winning website dedicated
to highlighting ideas for building a better future.  He currently blogs at
his own site, OpenTheFuture.com, and speaks on issues of sustainability,
collaboration and technology. He is a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and
Emerging Technologies, and is an affiliate at the Institute for the Future.
In early 2006, he joined the Metaverse Roadmap Project, looking at the
future of online immersive communities.

Welcome, you two!
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #2 of 62: Jamais Cascio, World-Builder (cascio) Sat 16 Sep 06 22:53
    
Thanks, Bruce! 

I'm really looking forward to this conversation. I've followed
Julian's work for a few years. Folks who have been online for awhile
may recall his essay "A Rape in Cyberspace" in the Village Voice in
1993 (still readable at this link:

http://www.ludd.luth.se/mud/aber/articles/village_voice.html

...and an important enough essay to warrant its own Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Rape_in_Cyberspace )

His new book, Play Money, follows his effort to see if he could make a
living selling virtual goods.

Julian, what prompted you to give this a try?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #3 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sat 16 Sep 06 22:57
    
(Just noticed that Julian has a copy of the the 1993 essay at his own
site:

http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle_vv.html

...sorry, Julian.)
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #4 of 62: Julian Dibbell (juliandibbell) Mon 18 Sep 06 11:08
    
Thanks for the nice welcome. It's good to be back after all these
years. Those of you who remember the Rape in Cyberspace article may
also remember the long, smoldering thread it sparked here on the Well
when it first came out. I wonder if that thread is still tucked away
somewhere on the site? And I wonder how it's aged. So much has changed
about our ideas and fantasies of the virtual since then, though maybe
not as much as might seem.

This question, actually, goes a long way toward answering yours,
Jamais: What prompted me to try my hand at the virtual-goods trade was
at bottom an urge to explore the big, defining difference between the
virtual worlds of ten or fifteen years ago and those of today, which to
my mind is the robust virtual economies that have emerged. 

I spent much of the 90s thinking about LambdaMOO and other virtual
worlds, and by the turn of the millennium I had pretty much had my
fill. But then, in early 2002, I saw the economist Edward Castronova's
famous essay calculating the GDP of EverQuest (extrapolating from the
values of EverQuest items on eBay), and soon after that I heard about a
bizarre-sounding lawsuit in which a plucky little enterprise called
Blacksnow Interactive challenged a game company's right to control its
sales of virtual items from the company's game. Effectively, Blacksnow
seemed to be claiming, these items were the property of the players who
acquired them, not the company that created them.

Both these sets of claims -- Castronova's and Blacksnow's -- made it
clear to me that something new was going on in the realm of virtual
worlds, something that complicated their relationship to the real world
in very interesting ways. So I snagged an assignment from Wired
magazine to write about virtual economies and did so. 

It was a fascinating piece to research, but the most fascinating bit
of investigation I did never made it into the article. That was the
three days I spent in Tijuana hoping for a first-hand glimpse of a
phenomenon we hear more about these days but even now can't always get
past its head-spinning, through-the-looking-glass effect on the
imagination: the virtual sweatshop, a/k/a the offshore gold farm, where
unskilled workers in a low-wage country sit harvesting loot from
online games for cash. 

The Tijuana operation was Blacksnow's, and I never did get to see it.
The Blacksnow boys got cold feet, and just as well -- news of the
factory wouldn't have helped their lawsuit a bit, which fell apart
unresolved in any case. 

But just thinking about the Blacksnow gold farm put a million
questions about contemporary material life into my head -- about the
blurring of lines between play and work, about the increasing
evanescence of the things we value, about the curious synergies between
games, digital technologies, and the logic of late capitalism -- and
I've been trying to unravel them all ever since.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #5 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 18 Sep 06 11:22
    
As you well know, people quite often spend more hours per week playing
World of Warcraft or EverQuest or Ultima Online (or... or... or...)
than they do working their nominal professions. The immersive quality
is not connected to graphics, at least not totally: we saw similar
obsession back in the days of text-only MUDs. But with World of
Warcraft now claiming over 7 million subscribers world-wide, and the
overall combined metaverse population coming in at around 13 million
(see http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart4.html for the growth curve), it's
no surprise that complex social interactions (such as emergent
economies) have formed.

What makes these games -- these virtual worlds -- so compelling? 
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #6 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 20 Sep 06 09:01
    
And while we wait for Julian to get a chance to reply, a larger question:
what does the evolution of virtual world economies have to tell us about the
potential future of our "real" world economy?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #7 of 62: Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Thu 21 Sep 06 03:02
    
Is there any relationship to imaginative living down through the
years?  I'm thinking of various religions where the devotees spend
large amounts of time in observances, trances, worship, reading,
whirling, flagellation, etc.. A lot of money and property has been
conveyed for this purpose over the years,

Is there any relationship to romantic love where the smitten live in a
world of their own?  How about being on drugs, etc.?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #8 of 62: Julian Dibbell (juliandibbell) Thu 21 Sep 06 07:29
    
What do virtual economies say about the future of the "real" one? A
big question, yes, and a good one. 

Let's start with a small example, a hypothetical business model
proposed by psychologist and virtual-world scholar <a>Nick Yee</a
href="http://www.nickyee.com/";>. Yee considers an existing
Internet-driven business case -- the digital offshoring of x-ray
diagnosis -- and suggests a further transformation. Instead of
transmitting digital x-ray images from Western hospitals to low-cost
Indian radiology shops, Yee asks, why not port them into a sci-fi
massively multiplayer game in which the usual range of crafting
professions (Weapon Engineer, Armor Manufacturer, etc.) is supplemented
by something along the lines of Pattern-Recognition Analyst? Instead
of advancing by endless production of virtual doo-dads, players in this
profession would pick out and click on endless anomalies in an endless
sequence of varyingly complex images, eventually skilling up to a
level at which some of those images would be the x-rays sent in for
diagnosis. Give the same x-ray to x number of players, pass the results
back through some kind of wisdom-of-crowds-extracting algorithm, and
voila: You get the job done by workers who aren’t just cheaper than the
average well-trained Indian but may actually pay you for the
privilege.

A wacky proposition, to be sure, but a much less outlandish
application of the same basic logic is already widespread. The
open-source software “industry,” after all, is powered entirely by
laborers who work for no money at all, motivated to some degree by
their beliefs in the political virtues or technical quality of free
software but to a **much larger degree** by the playful thrills of
hacking code and of competing with other hackers for recognition.
Outside analysts have called the open-source business a gift economy,
mistaking unpaid work for altruism. Insiders know better: It’s a play
economy.

And so it grows. From MMOs to open source, the vanguard sectors of
what I call ludocapitalism are expanding rapidly. Eventually to
overtake all other forms of production? It’s hard to imagine, but no
harder, I suspect, than today’s no-longer fundamentally agricultural
economy would have been to an 18th century landowner. Ultimately we can
only guess how virtual economies will affect real ones, but I’m not
ruling out the possibility that play—an age-old motive force whose
economic potential is just beginning to be recognized—will be to the
21st century what steam was to the 19th.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #9 of 62: Julian Dibbell (juliandibbell) Thu 21 Sep 06 07:32
    
Ah, so the Well remains an HTML-free zone, I see. Nice to know some
things never change. Anyway, yeah, what I meant to say of course was
"psychologist and virtual-world scholar Nick Yee
(http://www.nickyee.com/).
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #10 of 62: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 21 Sep 06 07:35
    
<grin>

There are ways of HTML-izng your posts, and users coming in with the Web
interface will get HTML-ized posts, but users coming in with the text
interface will get HTML. Squicky, that.


And users who are not members of the Well -- who *are* using the Web
interface -- are welcome to join in the discussion here. All they gotta do
is send e-mail to inkwell@well.com and we can post for 'em.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #11 of 62: Vince Houmes (unclevinny) Thu 21 Sep 06 10:12
    
Hi Julian!

As someone currently spending a crazy amount of his free time playing
World of Warcraft, I have taken a lot of joy in reading your book. I'm
about two-thirds of the way through, so there's still anticipation in
the air... which partnerships will boom and bust? Will you ever see
Radny again? Etc. No spoilers from me, of course.

One of the things I'm noticing is how much I laugh out loud at this
book. Virtual worlds are obviously compelling, exciting and funny to
play at in person, but reading about the funny twists and turns that
people take in these corridors is hilarious, too.  The relationships I
build online are the top thing keeping me coming back, and the "flow"
you discuss is in second place. Gathering real world money is in a
distant -- I dunno -- 34th place? I've been successful in WoW by my own
standards; I have enough cash to buy the things I need to keep my
characters playing the game, and give new characters the head-start
they need to survive. But I've never seriously considered buying or
selling any goods for real money.

A big part of the reason must be that the "Farmers' Market" in WoW is
allegedly pretty well covered by automatons, and any human wishing to
actually make US dollars in the game had better get to work on some
sophisticated robots if he/she wants to make serious money. I'm
disinclined to spend my time coding farmer bots, so I'm happy living in
an economy where other people are playing Ben Bernanke.

However, I certainly spent a lot of time studying the auction house
looking for openings, especially when my characters were poor and I was
trying to learn about the world. Choosing and maintaining professions
that would keep me in the black was difficult at first, and the few
gold pieces came very slowly.

One thing that strikes me so far about the book is how complicated the
non-WoW virtual worlds seem. World of Warcraft is the first video game
I've played in years, and so the complexity of the economy and the
game seemed unbelievable at first. But now it seems quite manageable,
especially compared to your descriptions of what's possible in UO and
Everquest. Does this strike you as a fair statement? I would assume
that a very complex game provides more loopholes and corners of the
world for an entrepreneur to look for profit, does this ring true in
your experience?

I look forward to finishing the book, and will chat more in a jiffy.
Thanks, though, for the funny and informative read so far!
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #12 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 21 Sep 06 12:07
    
Vince, not to step on Julian's answer, but just from my own experience
playing EverQuest for quite a few years, and now having played WoW from its
launch: the WoW economy is more streamlined than that of previous games, but
that's part of the overall effort to make World of Warcraft more accessible
to new gamers. The WoW designers were able to study the choices and mistakes
of earlier games, and built WoW -- including its internal economy -- in a
way that consciously avoided the stumbling blocks and loopholes that dogged
EQ, Ultima and others.

It's not the first to do so, either: Star Wars Galaxies (aka Star Wars:
Shopkeeper) had an entirely player-run economy, with no computer-controlled
vendors. Every transaction you made was with another player. This allowed
people who wanted to focus on resource gathering or product crafting the
ability to construct elaborate storefronts and make major deals, but was
problematic for casual players who just wanted to make a little in-game
money by selling off "junk."

Julian, building on Vince's question, how do you see the in-game economies
evolving?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #13 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 21 Sep 06 12:10
    
BTW, I love the term "ludocapitalism." For folks who are unfamiliar with
the term, "ludology" is the academic study of games as systems of play, in
contrast with the "narratology" approach of games as storytelling
mechanisms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludology
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #14 of 62: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Thu 21 Sep 06 12:29
    
Thanks for that pointer, Jamais. I was just about to ask what that
word meant.

I loved my Master Architect in Star Wars, and I loved running my shop.
It was the best crafting system I've seen in any game today, but so
complex that it was much like having a full time job, so in the end I
didn't have time to keep up withit. I've also played EQ for years, and
even there I found my primary enjoyment in crafting and trading. 

One day I looked at how I was spending my playtime and realized I
ought to go back into business. So I did the opposite of Julian
(welcome, Julian!) and started a small real-world retail business,
which I am enjoying immensely. Earlier in my life I had worked in an
assortment of retail and wholesale cooperative businesses, but over
time I drifted away from that. Games made me realize how much I'd
enjoyed it, and missed it.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #15 of 62: Julian Dibbell (juliandibbell) Fri 22 Sep 06 09:46
    
“Is there any relationship to imaginative living down through the
years?  I'm thinking of various religions… romantic love… being on
drugs…”

Another great question, and yes, we could talk a lot about the
similarities between virtual worlds and these other kinds of imaginary
spaces. But I prefer to emphasize above all the connection to the
imaginary worlds of *play* — and the *differences* between those worlds
and the other types you mention.

What strikes me first off in your list of imaginative states is how
little room for ironic distance they allow, relative to play. To
believe in God, or to be in love, demands a certain commitment to the
*authenticity* of your fervor — to the truth, more or less, of the
propositions your imagination is tossing up. You know: “God is great.”
“Without you I’m nothing.” With drugs the effect may be more transient,
more conditional, but it’s much the same: You sit there thinking,
“Gosh, the world is so much safer, warmer, more fascinating than I
knew,” and even though you know on some level it’s just the
[coke/X/pot] talking, in that moment you’re powerless to deny the
emotional authenticity of your belief.

Whereas with games — OK, I grant you there was this one guy in my
World of Warcraft guild who really did believe, and tried very hard to
convince us, that “The Horde is evil” is as universally, nonfictionally
true as “2+2=4.” But the fact that we all thought he’d lost his mind
just shows the difference between the playful imagination and the more
transcendent varieties you invoke. 

I think we could easily map the difference onto a distinction between
the postmodernist worldview and its various antagonists, and certainly
it’s no coincidence that postmodern theorists resort to metaphors of
play and gaming as often as they do. But for the purposes of what I’m
trying to figure out, the important distinctions are not so much
philosophical as economic. 

Simply put: You’re right, on the one hand, to note that people have
poured a lot of money over the years into their religious, amorous, and
pharmaceutical obsessions. But it’s a lot harder to extract value from
these spaces — to turn them into spaces of productive labor — than to
pour it in. As Max Weber points out in “The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism,” religion succeeded famously, but only once, when
it turned profit-seeking into a kind of sacred practice at the
beginning of the Calvinist revolution. And the end result was modern
capitalism, which soon kicked away its religious supports as an
irrational, inefficient framing device, leaving us trapped, Weber
argues, in an “iron cage” of economic rules. Without the spiritual
motivations of the Puritans to drive us, he says, the only honest
motivation we can have for participating in this system is the
universal urge to play games. 

And maybe it’s for this very reason that games themselves are so much
easier to turn into functioning economies than those imaginary spaces
that thrive on the pursuit of transcendence. Just a theory.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #16 of 62: Julian Dibbell (juliandibbell) Fri 22 Sep 06 10:21
    
Jamais, thanks for pointing to the Great Ludology/Narratology Debate.
I think it's helpful to look at how that argument has played out when
we try to sort out how to think about virtual economies.

See, speaking broadly, there are two kinds of people who can be
bothered to think about virtual worlds at all: those who stomp their
little feet in protest at the notion that virtual worlds are games, and
those who stomp their little feet in protest at the notion that they
are anything but. The fans and producers of Second Life, for instance,
tend to fall in the first camp; the fans and producers of World of
Warcraft, as a rule, belong to the latter.

Is it a productive dichotomy? Yes, to the extent that it generates a
meaningful argument between the two. But given that the two sides have
so far had a hard time even agreeing on a single name for the
phenomenon they're talking about -- SL is a virtual world, WoW is an
MMO, and woe to the n00b who misidentifies either in the presence of a
true believer -- that's a tall order. 

I suspect the most productive thing the argument can do, in the end,
is prove its own futility. Just as the ludologists and narratologists
eventually did, the two sides of this debate are going to have to
realize that neither can fully explain what they're talking about
without resorting to the key concepts of the other. The hardcore
Metaversalists are deluded if they think there will ever be a
successful virtual world that doesn't have some kind of game at its
core. The hardcore MMOers are deluded if they think it's gaming alone
that makes their worlds successful.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #17 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 22 Sep 06 11:26
    
Just as an amusing reinforcement of Julian's point, here's a brief story
about a World of Warcraft guild that meets in Second Life to discuss raid
preparations:

http://azeroth.metblogs.com/archives/2006/09/at_last_something_useful_to_do.ph
tml

As the range of questions asked so far demonstrate, there's a great deal
that can be said about this subject. But we're here as a result of Julian's
book, so perhaps it would be good grounding for the readers for Julian to
give us the fifty cent summary of what PLAY MONEY is all about.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #18 of 62: Cogito, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Fri 22 Sep 06 16:30
    
Reference to Weber is huge!!!  Any possibility for turning his ideas
into a role-playing game?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #19 of 62: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 22 Sep 06 16:48
    
[resisting the temptation to write up a "Monster Manual"-style entry
for Weber, Marx, et al...]
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #20 of 62: Jim Thomas (jthomas) Fri 22 Sep 06 22:22
    
I've just finished Play Money, and need a day or two to think about it
before responding with anything directly substantive. Here are some
preliminary thoughts:

So many issues, subtext, and themes to tease out, so little time and space....

I read PM through several lenses.  One, but not primary, lens was that of a 
non-gaming lay person who's never seen a MMPORG and only popped in on a 
MuD/MOO in the early '90s to see what they were. But, the core of PM seems
less about MMPORGs than about the creation of alternate realities by
obsessive compulsive fantasizers and the transition of virtual economies
into those more substantial. On this level, it's a fascinating description
both of process and outcome.

The posts so far have been useful in helping frame some of the more
arcane issues of virtual gaming, and they offer some insights that are
thought-provoking, but in my ignorance of it all, I find a but confusing.

Just a few random responses for now:

Julian writes:

  "Is there any relationship to imaginative living down through the
  years?  I'm thinking of various religions, romantic love, being on
  drugs..."

We could also add other obsessive hobbies: Golf, bowling, stamp collecting,
and wine tasting. One (imperfect) analogy that struck me from Julian's 
comment is cybersex. Role-playing, stakes of both virtual and substantive
capital for players and entrepreneurs, and intense emotional investment.
I'm not yet convinced that what's occuring in MMPORGs is really all that
much different, structurally, from many other forms of obsessive game 
playing, other than the medium.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #21 of 62: Jim Thomas (jthomas) Fri 22 Sep 06 22:50
    
Julian writes:

> As Max Weber points out in "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of 
> Capitalism," religion succeeded famously, but only once, when
> it turned profit-seeking into a kind of sacred practice at the
> beginning of the Calvinist revolution. And the end result was modern
> capitalism, which soon kicked away its religious supports as an
> irrational, inefficient framing device, leaving us trapped, Weber
> argues, in an "iron cage" of economic rules. Without the spiritual
> motivations of the Puritans to drive us, he says, the only honest
> motivation we can have for participating in this system is the
> universal urge to play games. 
 
Somebody might clarify the Weberian connection for me.
I'm not sure what's meant by "religion succeeded famously, but only
once..." -- succeeded at what? Is there a cite for this? It doesn't
seem to be what he's saying either in PE&SoC or in his Sociology of
Religion. Weber saw an interplay between some forms of Protestantism,
especially Calvinism, and capitalism, not a causal relationship.
Other religions (e.g., Islam, Judaism) succeeded by accomodating in ways 
unlike Protestantism.

Weber would likely argue that the motivation to participate in the
system is no longer asceticism or "calling," but the desire for more
worldly pleasures that result from obtaining resources. I'm not convinced
that Weber's analysis as all that relevant.

In some ways, MMPORG real-world economic entrepreneurs remind me a bit of
a chain letter - a few people rise to the top selling resources to others
who may leverage them to others at the bottom until the pool of buyers runs 
dry.  In the Marxian sense, MMPORG economy seems more like a service
industry than a value-producing system. In some ways, not much different
than term paper mills for students who upload one paper for three, and
then some sell them on whatever e-outlet provides the best market.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #22 of 62: Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Sat 23 Sep 06 06:32
    
>Weber would likely argue that the motivation to participate in the
system is no longer asceticism or "calling," but the desire for more
worldly pleasures that result from obtaining resources. I'm not
convinced that Weber's analysis as all that relevant.<

IMHO, Weber was one of those that dealt honestly with unintended
consequences and didn't try to impress an intellectual order on history
as has been done by some others. The world is only piece-wise linear
at best.
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #23 of 62: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sat 23 Sep 06 16:59
    
As someone interested in business, and also committed to both games
and virtual worlds, I'm curious about how the interfaces for
real-world/virtual-world commerce will evolve. eBay is a very poor
place for inter-world commerce, though obviously lots of people take
advantage of it since it's all they have. But the chances for various
forms of scams and rip-offs are obvious, and from what I observe and
what the book describes most people are not making much cash overall.

I have to say that I hope these worlds evolve over time to allow small
crafters and farmers to sell their wares, but I'm very much against
the sort of wholesale bot-farming that Julian describes in the book. I
have no idea what can be done about it, except to note that most game
companies skimp far too much on customer service and in-world support.

As the Chinese gold farms have become common in games, and even show
up in video on YouTube, it does seem to me that even without computer
bots farming may become so organized and massive that small scale
crafters are already antiques. But again I'm not sure what can be done
about that. Perhaps the coding problems can be solved with more coding.

One 
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #24 of 62: Jim Thomas (jthomas) Sun 24 Sep 06 16:59
    
>...Weber was one of those that dealt honestly with unintended
>consequences and didn't try to impress an intellectual order on history
> as has been done by some others. The world is only piece-wise linear
> at best.

Yep. He makes this repeatedly clear in PESC (along with his other works).
He's also an encylopedic theorest, not mired to any given mindset or
ideology.

Have most people posting here read Play Money? It makes a diff, I guess,
in how we talk about it - I'm still sorting through the various levels
and subtexts.

My first encounter with Julian's work was the Mr. Bungle episode in '93.
I like that piece for the same reason I like PM: It's deceptively simple,
entertaining, and seemingly just a timely story. We read it, walk away
saying, "Hey, neat stuff," and it sticks with us. (yawn) - so do lots
of others stories. What sets his work above most others is the deeply
layered nuances that provide insights while also pointing to windows that
we can open, look through, and see another round of nuances.    

There's lots to unpack in PM:
  -MMOs themselves
  -Internet culture
  -Economic shifts
  -Subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) socio-political theory
  -Changing legal issues
  -Psychology of games

To read PM as just a story misses most of this, but trying to tie it
together in short posts that make sense and doesn't sound disgustingly
academic is a challenge.

Maybe a simple question for Juilian: What primary master trope ties your
Cyberworks together? Do you operate from some systematic intent/attempt
to pull a fairly eclectic set of diverse threads into a fairly coherent
mosaic? You seem to leave much work for the reader (a good thing) without
fleshing out the implications. If that's intentional, what was your
organizing theme for PM?
  
inkwell.vue.282 : Julian Dibbell, "Play Money"
permalink #25 of 62: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 25 Sep 06 04:41
    
The socio-political theory is what first drew me to all this, I know that.
Those aspects turn up in different ways in the Rape and Cyberspace essay
(and in My Tiny Life) and in Play Money. In the former, they're on the
surface, in a way, or in the foreground, but primarily as issues about
governance *within* cyberspace. In Play Money, the foreground story is more
Julian's Quest, but the socio-political issues are RL ones.
  

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