Serious Play: MMO Gaming, Real Money, and Social Worlds

San Diego, February 8, 2007  -- A leading author, a top game designer, and two graduate students affiliated with the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) offered alternate views at Calit2 in San Diego of the future of gaming in cyberspace, and the talks are now available for on-demand viewing.

Play Money
A new view of game studies.

Featured Speaker:

Julian Dibbell
(author of Play Money and My Tiny Life)
”Play Money: Gold Farms, Polar Bear Rugs, and the World-Historical Relevance of Game Studies”
webcast archive

Julian Dibbell, author of My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World and Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot, argues for a game studies that goes beyond traditional cultural and media theories — into the realms of political economy, social history, and computer science — in search of the emerging significance of computer games. Drawing on examples from his own experience in the “real-money trading” markets and other provocative social phenomena found in and around World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, and other massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), Dibbell leans hard on the best contemporary and historical thinking about games to urge game studies toward the broadest vision possible of its subject.

Graduate Research Presenters:

William Huber (Visual Arts Department)
“Complicit Play in Virtual Worlds”
webcast archive

William Huber, PhD candidate in Art and Media History, researches videogames and software as well as aesthetic theory, human-computer interface and Japanese visual culture. His work identifies MMORPGs as cultural artifacts, as texts, and as aesthetic spaces. He also sees both sides of the production/consumption divide: how MMORPGs are designed and developed (usually collectively and iteratively), and how they are played, perceived, navigated, documented, discussed, and re-interpreted by the player-audience. Huber uses the structural elements of the game Final Fantasy XI, the categories of player experiences and the player typologies that have emerged since the release. Huber worked in the software and information technology sector before entering the UCSD PhD program.

Ge Jin, aka Jingle (Communication Department)
”Chinese Gold Farmers: a feature length documentary on real money traders in MMORPGs”
webcast archive

Ge Jin, PhD candidate in Communication, is researching areas of the computer gaming culture in China, real money trade in online games and documentary filmmaking. In China, a new kind of factory hires people to play online games like World of Warcraft and Lineage and produce in-game currency, equipment, high-level characters and other virtual goods. Affluent gamers from Korea, Europe and America pay real money for these virtual goods to quickly raise their status in games. Jin’s research takes a close look at how these factories, commonly known as “gold farms”, organize the production and distribution of virtual goods.

Guest Respondent:
Raph Koster
, President, Areae; Former Chief Creative Officer, Sony Online Entertainment; Lead designer for Star Wars Galaxies (SOE) and Ultima Online (EA)  webcast archive

Raph got started in virtual worlds back in the days of the text MUDs in the early 90s, working on LegendMUD. He was creative lead on the original Ultima Online and lead designer for UO Live and Ultima Online: The Second Age while working for ORIGIN and Electronic Arts. He then went on to be creative director for Sony Online Entertainment. From 2003 to 2006 he served as Chief Creative Officer at Sony Online. He’s also the author of the acclaimed book A Theory of Fun for Game Design, and somehow finds the time to write constantly on his popular blog.

The event was presented by Calit2, CRCA, and the Sanford Berman Chair of Language, Thought, & Communication.

Related Links
Center for Research in Computing and the Arts