Play Money

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Play Money explores a remarkable new phenomenon that's just beginning to enter public consciousness: MMPORGs, or Massively MultiPlayer Online Role-Playing Games, in which hundreds of thousands of players operate fantasy characters in virtual environments the size of continents. With city-sized populations of nearly full-time players, these games generate their own cultures, governments, and social systems and, inevitably, their own economies, which spill over into the real world.

The desire for virtual goods - magic swords, enchanted breastplates, and special, hard-to-get elixirs - has spawned a cottage industry of "virtual loot farmers": people who play the games just to obtain fantasy goods that they can sell in the real world. The best loot farmers can make between six figures a year and six figures a month.

Play Money is an extended walk on the weird side: a vivid snapshot of a subculture whose denizens were once the stuff of mere sociological spectacle but now, with computer gaming poised to eclipse all other entertainments in dollar volume, and with the lines between play and work, virtual and real increasingly blurred, look more and more like the future.

©2006 Julian Dibbell; (P)2007 Gildan Media Corp

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