Tuesday, April 20, 2010

T.L. Taylor's Guide to MMO Culture

The next book in our economy series focuses on MMO culture and how various parts of the design affect different people. Since players are the labor pool of an MMO whose work and shared interests create the value in the synthetic economy, studying how design changes culture is essential. Without people, you've got nothing.

Taylor's perspective was interesting because she was a veteran of MUDs and forums, 3-D games were very new to her and she admits to motion sickness when first trying Everquest. As a result she knew what to look for while at the same time seeing things with fresh eyes. The first third of the book is her discussing how design affects culture, which pans out in a lot of fascinating ways. The second third is on gender and race issues that arise from design limitations like how your avatar looks or where it starts. The final bit she casts her net wide and talks about a lot of things but not in as much detail.

An interesting part of the last third was a criticism she made of Castronova's text. The book was written several years ago so I'm going to modernize her point just a tad. Castronova presumes that people behave rationally in an MMO in regards to the economy. You can go turn on your TV or drop off a job resume if you want to know how that can pan out. The rational market is just as unreliable a presumption in the real world as it is in virtual ones. Taylor doesn't quote Huizinga but she makes the same point, people are here for the competition. Money is just a way of showing how much better you are than someone else. Players will keep accumulating money, or throwing it away heedlessly, for reasons that have nothing to do with economic interests.

Sometimes people just do it for the lulz.

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