Edward Castronova is an Associate Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University, Bloomington. There, he teaches several courses on the economic and social impact of videogames, while pursuing scholarly research on the same topic. Castronova obtained a BS in International Affairs from Georgetown University in 1985 and a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991, spending a couple of years in between at research institutes in Mannheim, Frankfurt, and Berlin. From 1991 to 2004 he held US university professorships with teaching responsibilities in Public Policy, Political Science, and Economics, while his research interests focused on the cost-benefit analysis of income redistribution programs, an area where the value of various things can be hard to measure. In 2001, he applied some of the valuation theories commonly accepted in cost-benefit analysis to the items and assets that are produced in online games, coming to the startling (but, on reflection, sensible) conclusion that these game economies are more productive, on a per capita basis, than the economies of many real countries. The paper in which these findings were released, "Virtual Worlds," has had over 30,000 downloads at SSRN, the web's primary source for academic papers in law, finance, management, and economics. It currently ranks third all-time in all subjects and first in economics. In 2003 he co-founded Terra Nova, a weblog about virtual worlds. In that year Castronova also wrote "The Right to Play," arguing for special legal treatment of these worlds. Currently, Castronova is preparing a book for the University of Chicago Press with the tentative title Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games - synthetic ("crafted") being a more accurate term than virtual ("unreal"). He also consults regularly on the implications of synthetic worlds with leaders in business, government, education, and software design. Professor Castronova is married and has a son; he was born as Edward Bird and changed his last name at his marriage on December 31, 2000. His hobbies include games of all kinds, and theater.
Universities and the Rebirth of Games
Even as the commercial sector ossifies game development, universities are on the brink of becoming a major source of game design innovation. This talk explains the why and the how and maybe even the when.