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Chapter 3. Players > Community

Community

So far in this chapter, I've been talking about players as individuals, at a “psychological” level. Now it's time to look at collections of individuals, at a “sociological” level. The object of study increases in size from individual to group to community to society. In virtual worlds, it's most important to understand individuals and community first; groups have elements of both in them, and society implies large numbers of diverse but interdependent communities that just don't exist in virtual worlds (yet).

Beginnings

When the Internet hit the headlines in the mid-1990s, there was much talk about how important “community” was. Community meant retention: If you had community, people would keep coming back. I attended numerous conferences where “community” was hailed as if it were an amazing new discovery. Big name executives of games companies' newly formed online divisions drummed in the idea that community was IMPORTANT. They didn't know anything else about it, of course, but they knew it was IMPORTANT.


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