Book Review — Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot

playmoneyThis book probably wouldn’t have shown up on my radar had it not been for the fact that the author, Julian Dibbell, made it available as a virtual book inside Second Life. I bought the virtual edition for the equivalent of about US$2.50 — using in-game currency I had acquired simply by joining and having an account for several months — then I proceeded to read it within the virtual environment. There is a hardcover edition available if you like that sort of thing.

The book is about the real world business within virtual environments. It’s not about the business of games like Ultima Online, Everquest or World of Warcraft, it’s about the people and companies doing business inside these environments. Most WoW players would know them as “gold farmers”, though that doesn’t do justice to the range of commercial activities currently pursued.

The events in the book centre on one man’s quest to make virtual item trading his primary source of income. As such, they take place over the course of a single financial year, more or less. During this time Julian kept a blog. This blog forms the core of the book, with much of the rest of the content a sort of commentary on the blog entries, as well as a number of interviews (both traditional and basic chat logs).

I’m not sure if I enjoyed the content of the book as much as I enjoyed actually reading a whole book rendered within a virtual world — it’s hard to separate the two parts of the experience. As far as the core of the story goes, the book only reinforces the idea that you can only make significant amounts of money in a virtual world by breaking the rules, partially because of the economic effects of those who are willing to break the rules. There’s also some discussion on the nature of work and play, which I can’t say I warmed to greatly. However, the nature of the book itself, available in a virtual edition and based on blog entries, gives you some hope for the future of both publishing and commerce.

You can join Second Life here. If you want to buy the book in-game, you’ll need a credit card (or possibly PayPal, ick), you’ll need to purchase 750 Linden Dollars (less than US$3), and you’ll need to go to the shop referenced in the New World Notes article.

You can read a log from the author’s virtual book signing and discussion that was held in Second Life in the July ’06 archive of my Second Life weblog.

1 Comment so far

  1. Ravven (unregistered) on August 8th, 2006 @ 12:49 am

    I’d read about this. The line between “real” and “virtual” is becoming finer and finer, and I find that fascinating. How real is my virtual self, having grown over years and years of blogs and gaming and zines? It’s an extremely real facet of myself. Virtual property can be bought and sold, and can be earned via hours of hard work, just as in the real world. Regarding gold farming, as a player I’ve reported quite a few, because it damages my game experience. As a concept though, the fact that someone can make a real-world living within a virtual environment is interesting.

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