Game Worlds Get Real
How Who We Are Online Became Who We Are Offline
by Zek Valkyrie
July 2017, 246pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5128-5
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5129-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

How did the virtual worlds that online gamers frequented for creative social experimentation and identity exploration become inflexible social spaces where virtual benefits are now the objectives?

This book explores how after 20 years of existence, virtual world games have evolved: the social landscapes within digital worlds have become rigid and commodified, and "play" and "fun" have become rational and mechanical products.

Twenty million people worldwide play Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). Online role-playing gaming is no longer an activity of a tiny niche community. World of Warcraft—the most popular game within the genre—is more than a decade old. As technology has advanced and MMORPGs became exponentially more popular, gaming culture has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. Game Worlds Get Real: How Who We Are Online Became Who We Are Offline presents a compelling insider’s examination of how adventuring through virtual worlds has transformed the meaning of play for millions of gamers.

The book provides a historical review of earlier incarnations of virtual world games and culture in the late 1990s, covering the early years of popular games like EverQuest, to the soaring popularity of World of Warcraft, to the current era of the genre and its more general gaming climate. Author Zek Valkyrie—a researcher in the areas of gaming culture, digital communities, gender, sexualities, and visual sociology as well as an avid gamer himself—explores the evolution of the meaning of “play” in the virtual game world, explains how changes in game design have reduced opportunities for social experimentation, and identifies how player types such as the gender switcher, the cybersexual, the explorer, and the trial-and-error player have been left behind in the interest of social and informational transparency.


  • Explains how social rigidity in digital communities often robs these spaces of experimentation and identity play
  • Suggests that new technologies such as virtual reality are unlikely to revolutionize the media or cause dramatic social change
Zek Valkyrie, PhD, is an instructor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). He is as well known for his use of game mechanics in the classroom (magic, map, and mastery systems) and for his narrative-driven teaching style as his academic research on video games. Valkyrie has won several local awards, including Instructor of the Year and the Innovations in Teaching with Technology award at UCCS, and he received the Outstanding New Scholar award from the Western Social Science Association.
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