Social Histories

After noting Ted's post on The Alpahville Herald, I had a look at their mission statement. Very interesting, especially (at least for me) inasmuch as they're doing something very different from us here: they're documenting the social history of one world and indeed one shard of that world. In years to come social historians, theorists, statisticians, economists, etc etc etc will all give thanks for resources such as these: deeply embedded accounts of what actually happens in-world. As Ted has noted elsewhere, it's really really hard to do research in these worlds, because they're so opaque to non-participant inveestigation.

Which leads me to ask whether there are other local histories or social accounts of various worlds. Where does one go to find out, for example, about the economic system of AC2, the social stratification of AO, the politics of There? My off-the-top-of-the-head list would include accounts of lambdamoo (and not forgetting Julian), EQ (though there are a number in this category), UO, Second Life, and now TSO. And there are the various gameboards like IGN or Stratics that are helpful but involve a lot of wading (not to mention pushing up the gain on the l33t-filters)

So where else is the social history of these worlds being written?

Comments on Social Histories:

Greg Lastowka says:

Derivative of the main post:

In writing and talking about virtual worlds lately, I've found that it is often very hard to make generalizations -- initially you find a genre schism between MUD1-breed competitive worlds and LambdaMOO-style social worlds, but that distinction is only quasi-tenable, and even within those two sets, it is still hard to generalize about, e.g., There/TSO/ATITD as somehow more "social" than UO/DAoC/EQ.

I guess this maps onto the study of poetics vs. the study of poems?

There's certainly much to be learned by focusing on a particular game history and not trying to cover a field... E.g., I think that TL and Nick, by concentrating on EQ (though not exclusively), have done more interesting work than if they had always tried to have each piece of writing encompass all the thousands of VWs out there... which, in some ways, would be impossible.

Posted Nov 4, 2003 3:59:51 PM | link

James Grosbach says:

While not generally intended as such, per se, the web forums for guilds participating in many of the various games can offer insight into the online cultures they are a part of and how those cultures intersect with the meatspace lives of the guilds' members.

Posted Nov 4, 2003 5:30:25 PM | link

Scott Moore says:

The WorldsAway world called Dreamscape (aka Kymer) has had management independent newspapers since it's opening in 1995. Since I was part of the world management team from 1995-1998 and kept in touch with how the inworld society was doing via these papers, I can vouch for the fact that they are not mouthpieces of the companies that own the hardware.

Originally, there was an text based weekly called "The Kymer Clairon". It shutdown around 1997 and has reopened in various incarnations. Currently it is on the Web at:

(Archives are not publicly available, but I am willing to bet that the current Editor would be willing to offer up archives to researchers.)

During 1997 - 1999 (2000?) "The Bridge of Dreams" reported on inworld happenings including an OpEd section. Also, management independent. Unfortunately, I don't think archives are available for this period.

Starting in 1999, "The Virtual Planet" picked up about where the previous newspaper left off and has continued the tradition of independent news for a specific virtual world.

While the journalism may not be world-class and the world itself may be considered passe and unglamorous compared to the current round of VWs, it is still a living space with a dedicated community involved in it.

Posted Nov 5, 2003 4:39:50 PM | link

TL says:

Really great to see you post here Scott :) You have some terrific experience in world design/management that is of serious interest to those of us doing work on MMOGs I think. And yesyes, good to note the history of this type of thing in past VEs like the Dreamscape. If I recall correctly ActiveWorlds and the Palace both had similar ventures though I don't know if either got to the point of WA which at one time had those competing news outlets. As one more plug for history lessons, WA (under the VZones management) was one of the first worlds I know of that let people buy avatar parts for offline cash and made it a cental component of the space. This, it should also be noted, after a long in-world history of people buying and selling heads for WA tokens.

Posted Nov 11, 2003 9:30:52 AM | link