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The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World [Kindle Edition]

William Sims Bainbridge
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

World of Warcraft is more than a game. There is no
ultimate goal, no winning hand, no princess to be rescued. WoW is
an immersive virtual world in which characters must cope in a dangerous environment,
assume identities, struggle to understand and communicate, learn to use technology,
and compete for dwindling resources. Beyond the fantasy and science fiction details,
as many have noted, it's not entirely unlike today's world. In The Warcraft
Civilization
, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge goes further, arguing
that WoW can be seen not only as an allegory of today but also as
a virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups
will engage in combat over declining natural resources, build temporary alliances on
the basis of mutual self-interest, and seek a set of values that transcend the need
for war. What makes WoW an especially good place to look for
insights about Western civilization, Bainbridge says, is that it bridges past and
future. It is founded on Western cultural tradition, yet aimed toward the virtual
worlds we could create in times to come.


Product Description

Review

"World of Warcraft will eventually be recognized as a signature artistic, technological, and sociological achievement of our time. Bainbridge provides the best analysis to date of the way WoW and similar new media forms, with their millions and millions of users, are reshaping central aspects of our culture: groups, religion, economy, education, and more." --Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications, Indiana University, author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games

About the Author

William Sims Bainbridge is a prolific and influential sociologist who has worked in both academia and government, currently as Director of the Human-Centered Computing program at the National Science Foundation. He has published three other books about gameworlds: Online Multiplayer Games, The Virtual Future: Science-Fiction Gameworlds, and eGods: Fantasy Versus Faith.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3484 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (29 Jan. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004NY9XZM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,060,842 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let down by details. 17 May 2010
Format:Hardcover
I approached this book from the perspective of a long-term WoW player, rather than a student of sociology (which, with a background in geology and photography, I admit I know little about).

At first I enjoyed this book. I'm about halfway through now, but sadly have very little motivation to continue. There are several glaring errors which WoW enthusiasts will notice. On page 108 the author asserts that only mages are capable of summoning a character, when in fact only the warlock class is able to do so. Bainbridge also states, earlier in the book, in one of his many explanations of WoW mythology and lore, that the Old Gods were responsible for forming Azeroth and appointing the Dragon Aspects, which is utterly incorrect. There is also some confusion with Naaru technology (the Exodar isn't a spaceship as asserted by the book.. it's a dimensional fortress, which travels through the Twisting Nether rather than space), Tauren history (being formerly nomadic, they have only recently settled and do not enjoy the untouched cultural continuity described in the book), and the transmutation of primals (though I believe that this was a mistype rather than a lack of understanding of the process).

This may all seem rather pedantic, especially in a book which otherwise seems good, and whose positive approach to gaming I applaud, but I simply cannot take an academic book seriously when it contains mistakes which would be spotted a mile off by anyone with a passing interest in Warcraft lore. (Added to the occasional dodgy bit of proof-reading, which allowed the incorrect variant of 'their/there/they're' to slip by unnoticed.)

On the other hand, from what I have read, the WoW-errors do not have any noticeable impact on the sociological arguments made by the author, so if you approach this from the sociology student angle, and don't play WoW yourself, I wouldn't worry too much.
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Amazon.com: 0.0 out of 5 stars  0 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How NOT to do Video Game Research 6 Jan. 2012
By Erica M. Ruyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had such high hopes for this book. I heard about it through the hive of the social media universe and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. When I received it from Amazon I dove right in thinking I would devour it's content in just a few sittings; I have been craving a book like this and would devour it's words like a hungry person...or so I thought.

I soon found myself reading in snips and junks because I was drowning in the foolishness of it all. It didn't take long to realize this book was written by someone who doesn't clearly have a firm grasp of video games or what they mean realistically to those who play them. I couldn't help but think I was reading the work of a madman. I kept waiting for the final chapter that said, "Ha! Gotcha! This entire book was a joke... a grand social experiment to see if people would finish it". But alas, that wasn't to happen.

It became more clear as you moved through his book that he just didn't understand the game. A game is made of more than just the AI and backstory. Designers, story, game mechanics and players all work in a strange discordant harmony to produce the final outcome, especially in a fluid game like World of Warcraft. His understanding of the game (holistically) was so limited that he has mad moments of brilliant insight that disappeared as fast as they appeared, like lighting. Don't get me wrong, his observations of the game story was so expansive it was indeed impressive. I learned more about the Warcraft story in his book than the years of playing it since beta came out. He payed attention to certain things with a sharp observant eye. I won't deny him this. What Bainbridge missed though was the players and what this game means with that sort of interaction. Without the players there is no game so unless this was research about design mechanics it needed to have that spark. This book has "social science" in it's title!

World of Warcraft really consists of layers of "game". I have yet to see a researcher give a really detailed account of it from a player perspective especially as it concerns the end game. The game begins as a player goes from level 1 to level 80. But a different game emerges once you hit level 80 and it's like the previous levels were just a warm up to come. Bainbridge was so focused on those early few levels that he really misses the mark of what the game holds later on.

Bianbridge focused far too much on the Role-playing servers. It was like he himself had built an entire world in his mind and then wrote the entire strange story down on paper and called it research. I was disturbed by the dual boxing events and conversations with himself. My mind reasoned that his "research assistants" had to be actual, living, honest to god people but no...they were just more inhabitants of the game world manifest through Bainbridge's play and eventual writing.

You could strip the actual insights down to a nice paper or conference topic. This book should be read with trepidation. If video game scholars want to be viewed seriously then we need to steer clear of this sort of writing. Be warned, if you read it, you're peering into the abysmal maw of one strange mind.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let down by details. 17 May 2010
By Emmeline de Havilland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I approached this book from the perspective of a long-term WoW player, rather than a student of sociology (which, with a background in geology and photography, I admit I know little about).

At first I enjoyed this book. I'm about halfway through now, but sadly have very little motivation to continue. There are several glaring errors which WoW enthusiasts will notice. On page 108 the author asserts that only mages are capable of summoning a character, when in fact only the warlock class is able to do so. Bainbridge also states, earlier in the book, in one of his many explanations of WoW mythology and lore, that the Old Gods were responsible for forming Azeroth and appointing the Dragon Aspects, which is utterly incorrect. There is also some confusion with Naaru technology (the Exodar isn't a spaceship as asserted by the book.. it's a dimensional fortress, which travels through the Twisting Nether rather than space), Tauren history (being formerly nomadic, they have only recently settled and do not enjoy the untouched cultural continuity described in the book), and the transmutation of primals (though I believe that this was a mistype rather than a lack of understanding of the process).

This may all seem rather pedantic, especially in a book which otherwise seems good, and whose positive approach to gaming I applaud, but I simply cannot take an academic book seriously when it contains mistakes which would be spotted a mile off by anyone with a passing interest in Warcraft lore. (Added to the occasional dodgy bit of proof-reading, which allowed the incorrect variant of 'their/there/they're' to slip by unnoticed.)

On the other hand, from what I have read, the WoW-errors do not have any noticeable impact on the sociological arguments made by the author, so if you approach this from the sociology student angle, and don't play WoW yourself, I wouldn't worry too much.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars WoW RP Story 5 Oct. 2010
By K. Nguyen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book was 70% author's RP stories/WoW diary, 20% research/stats/etc., and 5% did-you-know? info. If you want to use this book for research purposes, turn away.

However, if you delight in reading several RP stories, this book is outstanding. I applaud this author's ability to write about his WoW career.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sociologist's Livejournal 20 Nov. 2010
By Heather - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was excited about this book when I read about it on WoW Insider and was delighted when I was able to get it at the library, but then I started reading it and wondered if I'd stumbled into someone's RP journal, as another commenter noted. It was such a strange, sort of "off" book, presented as a sociological examination of the culture of WoW (which I would think was the other players) and ended up an examination of the fictional aspects of WoW (which...could have been another book). But then again, it's great he examined World of Warcraft at all and stuck through it for so long, detailing his whole experience. I was expecting something more along the lines of some of the books I got (also at the library) that delved into Second Life. I think maybe I'm going to pick up My Life as a Night Elf Priest
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mirror 14 Nov. 2012
By Sebastian Alonzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Bainbridge did an amazing job capturing and reflecting the essence of Azaroth in this book, and then mirroring practical references to the real world. While the chapters are lengthy (about 30 pages each) and at times tedious and exhausting, a reader will walk away with a much deeper understanding of not only the virtual world of Azeroth, but bit a deeper understanding of our real world as well.
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