Play Money

Julian Dibbell's "primary source of income is the sale of imaginary goods." He is also a deep thinker and widely-read cyberculture pundit.

In this article from his weblog, he shares some thoughtworthy insights about the evolution of the play-money connection:

"I began my involvement with Ultima Online as a player, and I took up this enterprise wondering if it might not lead me to an El Dorado I have looked for all my adult life: a place where work is play.

"It didn't, of course. Not exactly. It took work to make Play Money, and the work was hard, and more to the point, the work did not fit any definition of play handed down to us by tradition. It was not simply a diversion from the path of life; it was the path itself, for a time, and just as fraught with existential care as that path ever is.

"The funny thing is, though, that more and more nowadays this curious confusion of entertainment and existence is the definition of play. The games we choose for our amusement are becoming so complex, so involving, that the line between gameplay and career, between gameworld and society, begins to blur. In the course of this project, I met many players of UO who were just as much laborers in the UO economy, even if they wouldn't have said so themselves. I also encountered ethical dilemmas, questions of economic justice even, that would never have troubled me as they did if the economy in question were merely a game.

"What this says about the culture we are building, and about the strange promise of the technologies that increasingly shape that culture, I'm not quite certain. But you can rest assured that if the book Play Money ever gets written, these will be its central questions."


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