Three Real Futures for Virtual Worlds

Tom Boellstorff


We are at a critical moment in the study of virtual worlds, where there is great need for theoretical work to clarify what research on virtual worlds can offer. In this article I seek to help set our theoretical affairs in order, with regard to the future of virtual worlds (and thus our research on virtual worlds). First, the false opposition between “virtual” and “real” fails to capture the many ways virtual worlds are real (and the many ways that not everything in the physical world is real). Second, virtual worlds are valuable to study regardless of their size; we
should not mistake size for significance, and encourage study of larger and smaller virtual worlds. Third, virtual worlds share features with each other and with other online socialities, but also have specific aspects that differ; studying both these similarities and differences is valuable to comprehensive and comparative research.


Futures, virtual world, real world, think piece

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