Parlaying Value: Capital in and Beyond Virtual Worlds

Games and Culture, Forthcoming

28 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2005

See all articles by Thomas M. Malaby

Thomas M. Malaby

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee


By establishing the realness of the economies within synthetic worlds (otherwise known as virtual worlds, MMOGs, or MMORPGs), recent scholarship has made it clear that people within them produce commodities and currencies with real market value. Other work has pointed to the increasing importance of social networks within worlds, between them, and across the boundary which appears to separate them from the rest of users' lives. But to tie these two threads together, and also to account for the use of these environments for the development of expertise and credentials, I propose adding a third form, cultural capital, to the mix, and outline a model for understanding capital in all its manifestations: material, social, and cultural. By enabling researchers to articulate the forms resources take as they are generated within and beyond synthetic worlds, this model will make it possible to explore how actors within them transform, or parlay, these forms from one into the other. Furthermore, it reveals how they do this not only within particular environments, but across all the domains wherein they act, blurring any qualitative distinction between virtual and real worlds.

Keywords: Cultural capital, social capital, virtual worlds, MMOGs, MMORPGs

Suggested Citation

Malaby, Thomas M., Parlaying Value: Capital in and Beyond Virtual Worlds. Games and Culture, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Thomas M. Malaby (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee ( email )

Department of Anthropology
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
414-229-4175 (Phone)
414-229-5848 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics