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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Julian Dibbell certainly opened my eyes to a whole new world in “Play Money.” I have never played or participated in an MMO and so this book definitely peaked my curiousity. In my opinion, “Play Money” started off interesting but then became sidetracked in details. I wasn’t able to follow the point that Dibbell was trying to make once he got into reciting the online conversations between players and the intricacies of buying and selling fictional goods.

I also thought the cheating and trickery that went on within the games made them rather sinister and less appealing as an entertainment venue. Basically, I thought this book was kind of exposing the dirty underworld of gaming. So, I still don’t understand why people spend real money on this sort of thing. Is it for entertainment or is it a compulsion? Even Dibbell asks the question “Why would anyone enjoy it?” I still don’t know why. He didn’t even seem to enjoy it but rather to be obsessed or addicted to it.

Another aspect of the MMOs that I found interesting was the virtual materialism that motivated so many of the participants including the author. Early on in the book Dibbell discusses the confused priorities of most people today who have forgotten to play. However, I think spending such an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources trying to accumulate virtual loot to impress strangers on the internet is equally confusing.

The MMOs also seem to be taking over many of the player’s lives. In the way it is explained in “Play Money,” MMOs seem like a form of escapism with many players withdrawing from reality. To me, this appears to be reminiscent of a gambling addiction with an addict trying to rationalize their habit. Dibbell even says, “It will surely just get easier to fall into the habit of accepting our digital “other worlds” and “second lives” as functional equivalents of the originals.”

Finally, I think MMO virtual loot trading seems like an unstable way to support a family.

On a different note, “Play Money” peaked my curiosity about Second Life, since it is the only MMO that I had heard of prior to reading this book. I did some searching and found that there is a Second Life especially for teens ages 13-17. I was glad to see that there was a protected way for young people to participate with others their own age rather than having them co-mingle with adults the way that Dibbell was with Radny.

Teen Second Life

In my searching I also found that subscription fees for premium memberships with Second Life can be as much as $125/month. This makes my analogy to gambling addiction even more relevant. You can see a link to subscription costs below.

Second Life also hasn’t missed the corporate blog effort as discussed by Scoble and Israel in “Naked Conversations.” Obviously, it makes a lot of sense for Second Life to have a blog since 100 percent of their audience is online. However, I was surprised by the corporate tone of the blog. It really appears to be a one-way conversation rather than a discussion.

Official Second Life blog

I also wondered how many people are actually participating in Second Life. According to their usage statisics, on Sunday, December 2, they hit another concurrency high of 76,946 and log-ins for the previous 60 days crossed the 1.4 million mark. Apparently, MMO community is strong and is continuing to grow. Here is a link to the usage statistics:

Back to Dibbell’s new vocation, I wanted to know how many people are actually making a living through MMOs such as Second Life. I had difficulty ascertaining this information. However, I did find an article in Wired Magazine profiling one success story. But, it remains to be seen how many people are having this same experience.

Article from Wired Magazine: Making a Living In Second Life

p.s. The graphics in Second Life are amazing!