"Play Money", Julian Dibbell, 2006, 0-465-01535-2, U$24.00/C$32.50
%A Julian Dibbell Julian@...
%C 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
%G 978-0-465-01535-1 0-465-01535-2
%I HarperCollins/Basic Books
%O U$24.00/C$32.50 212-207-7000 800-242-7737 fax: 212-207-7433
%O Audience n Tech 1 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 321 p.
%T "Play Money"
I am sitting in an aircraft, writing this review. In reviewing
Dibbell's book, I am working. Maybe. It is, for example, extremely
unlikely that I will be paid anything for reviewing this book, so I
can't say that this is professional reviewing by the definition that
it is something for which I'm going to be remunerated. (On the other
hand, I'm on the aircraft because I am going to meetings. I will not
be paid anything for attending the meetings, although they have a
relation to work for which I may be paid. So, is this trip work?)
Another definition of work is that it is something that no one wants
to do. I'm enjoying parts of Dibbell's book. (I'm enjoying it more
than the movie the airline is currently showing, and certainly more
than the book I reviewed while waiting for the flight.) I suspect
that a great many of the people who buy and read Dibbell's text will
be reading it for pleasure. So, is my reviewing of the book "work,"
This is the type of question that Dibbell raises, fairly often, in his
publication. He raises a large number of questions. What is the
point, or the psychology, of games? Why do people play, and what
makes some play have value, enough value that people will pay "real"
money for virtual gaming items? (And what makes money more real than
virtual towers?) Is the world's economy turning into a game, when
game-like speculation on the "value" of shares in a company may be
"worth" more than the goods or services produced? Some of the
questions are never answered. Others, such as the issue of companies
that hire workers to play games in order to sell the characters and
items "built" by playing, are answered oddly and belatedly.
As a matter of fact, there are very few answers to any of the
questions that are asked. Sometimes there is a bit of an overview of
some opinions on the concerns. Along the way, we get to see the
operations of gaming, and trading of game items, through Julian's
eyes, and from some other perspectives as well. How interesting this
material is will probably vary according to the reader's own
preoccupation with gaming: personally I found these sections less than
compelling. We are also given some descriptions of online fraud of
different types. (Since certain gamers would say that real money
trading [RMT] of game goods is fraud in itself, and others would say
that theft of game items is part of the game, defining fraud might
start to become problematic ...) The questions become less and less
a part of the book, and Julian Dibbell becomes more and more of the
subject, first through an early interest, then hope, then mixed
setbacks and successes (with increasing levels of anxiety) to final
tragedies which Dibbell, oddly, seems to see as almost incidental to
the gaming and trading activities.
The questions are interesting. The book is generally readable, with
the earlier parts being better than the later. The work says
something about economics and psychology. It touches tenuously on the
types of crime that are using online gaming as sources of revenue and
money laundering. The material doesn't do much to illuminate either
the technology or the lure of online gaming.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKPLYMNY.RVW 20080219
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