Making Virtual Worlds: Games and the Human for a Digital Age

Thomas Malaby

While the rise of virtual worlds has led to a somewhat unexamined tendency to separate them into “social” worlds and “game” worlds, my research at Linden Lab, makers of Second Life, suggests that game design and game development practice have been essential to Linden Lab’s efforts to make and manage their creation. What is more, how the human is imagined around Linden Lab depends heavily on a particular conception of homo ludens, one that is not only specific to a certain kind of gameplay, but which also stands in implicit contrast to other imaginings of humanity that circulate around Linden Lab. Based on ethnographic research at Linden Lab in 2005, I explore how these treatments of the human mark a set of ideas about creativity which are central to how Lindens imagine their users and themselves, and which connect to a range of increasingly important themes: governance, work, games, and how to architect organizations and worlds for a digital age.