Virtual Worlds Don't Exist: Questioning the Dichotomous Approach in MMO Studies

Game Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2010

Posted: 27 Jun 2010  

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: January 1, 2010

Abstract

I argue that much influential scholarship on massively-multiplayer online games and virtual environments (MMO) is based on a dichotomous “real world vs. virtual world” model. The roots of this dichotomy can be traced to the magic circle concept in game studies and the cyberspace separatism of early Internet thought. The model manifests on a number of dimensions, including space, identity, social relationships, economy and law. I show a number of problems in the use of this model in research, and propose an alternative perspective based on Anselm Strauss’s concept of overlapping social worlds. The world of players does not respect the boundaries of an MMO server, as it frequently flows over to other sites and forums. At the same time, other social worlds, such as families and workplaces, penetrate the site of the MMO and are permanently tangled with the players' world. Research programs that approach MMOs as independent mini-societies are therefore flawed, but there are many other kinds of research that are quite feasible.

Keywords: reseach design, methodology, online games, magic circle, social world perspective, virtual space, identity

Suggested Citation

Lehdonvirta, Vili, Virtual Worlds Don't Exist: Questioning the Dichotomous Approach in MMO Studies (January 1, 2010). Game Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1630376

Vili Lehdonvirta (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

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