Castronova, Edward 1963(?)- (Edward J. Bird)

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Castronova, Edward 1963(?)- (Edward J. Bird)


Born Edward J. Bird, c. 1963; married, December 31, 2000; took wife's last name; children: two. Education: Georgetown University, B.S., 1985; University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D., 1991.


Office—Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University, 1229 E. 7th St., Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail—[email protected].


Political scientist, economist, educator, consultant, and writer. University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, assistant professor, 1991-97, associate professor of public policy and political science, 1997-2000; California State University, Fullerton, associate professor of economics; Indiana University, Bloomington, associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications, 2004—, and member of Cognitive Science Program Faculty. Also fellow at the Center for Governance, University of California, Los Angeles; and research fellow at CESifo, University of Munich, Munich Germany.


International Communications Association, Digital Games Research Association, American Economic Association, International Game Developer's Association, National Communications Association.


Recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including a German Institute for Economic Research fellowship, 1992, 2000; Drouillard Scholars Award, California State University Fullerton College of Business and Economics, 2002; and MacArthur Foundation Grant, 2006-07, for online game "Arden: The World of Shakespeare."


Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of working papers, essays, and policy reports. Contributor to books, including Lebenslagen im Wandel: Zur Einkommensdynamik in Deutschland seit 1984, edited by Ulrich Rendtel and Gert Wagner, Campus Verlag, 1991; Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level, edited by Friederich von Borries, Steffen Walz, and Matthias Böttger, Birkhäuser, 2007. Contributor to professional journals and periodicals, including Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Review of Income and Wealth, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Comparative Economics, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Rationality and Society, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Journal of Public Economics, International Migration Review, Schmoller's Jahrbuch/Journal of Applied Social Science Studies, Game Studies, Journal of Bio-Economics, Journal of Human Resources, Economic Inquiry, Journal of Game Development, New York Law School Law Review, Harvard Business Review, and Info. Contributor of book reviews for journals, including Journal of Risk and Insurance, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Journal of Economic Literature, and Journal of Political Ecology. Owner, cofounder, and also author of the blog Terra Nova; member of the editorial board of Game Studies.


Edward Castronova was born Edward J. Bird but took his wife's last name after getting married in December of 2000. Publications by the author prior to that date are attributed to Edward J. Bird while all subsequent publications are attributed to Edward Castronova. The author began his career by focusing on social policy issues, political science, and economics but eventually shifted his focus to society as an evolving game. The author took up the study of online social games in 2001 and examined them as a newly evolving frontier in economics and society.

Castronova's current areas of research interest include synthetic worlds, the video game industry, Internet and society, inequality, and public policy. Writing on his home page, the author notes that his study of synthetic worlds, in which thousands to a million people participate in what are considered alternate realities, appears to him to be more than an entertainment but also a viable reality that provides an alternative to ordinary day-to-day life. The author writes that "as such they pose a significant challenge to business-as-usual in ordinary society: markets, public policy, politics, law, romance." Castronova is also the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant to develop his own online role-playing game titled "Arden: The World of Shakespeare," which the author hopes will help teach people about Shakespeare and provide a method for him to conduct groundbreaking social-science research.

Castronova's first book, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, grew from a paper he wrote about the economics of online games. In an article about the author on the BusinessWeek Web site, a contributor noted that the author's first paper on the subject was written "mostly as a joke," adding: "But even by then, he realized that in online virtual-world games such as Sony Entertainment's EverQuest, people were creating new economies that were as good as real to millions of participants."

In Synthetic Worlds, the author provides an exhaustive analysis of online role-playing games and how these games have grown from a world of escapism for a few computer "geeks" to a lucrative component of the entertainment industry. Specifically, the author's primary interest is in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Writing in the book's introduction, the author comments: "Three years ago I was an ordinary economist pursuing generally ordinary economics research. Now, however, I am pushing deeper and deeper into a realm of experience that grows faster than I can examine it, a fantastic cosmos of dragons and rayguns and beautifully crafted human bodies. It is also a universe that hosts massive flows of real human intercourse—information, commerce, war, politics, society and culture."

According to the author, people who plays these games have created virtual societies complete with their own governments and economies. In addition, the currencies in these games are also traded against the dollar on Internet sites such as eBay. The author explores the implications of these games for culture and business. He profiles several games, focusing on their day-to-day lives and examines the choices they make in their virtual worlds. He goes on to provide an in-depth look at the economies of these gaming worlds and to discuss their possible impact on real-world economics.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Hugo Lindgren commented that the author believes "that such electronic experiences are not merely a hedge against boredom but a profound indicator of where the entire world is heading." Lindgren added: "Online, offline; reality, fantasy— these distinctions will cease to matter as more and more of us pass our time in virtual environments. Economies will evolve as we pay real money for virtual goods and vice versa. Conflicts that begin online will spill into the real world and back. Laws will be written to protect our newfound interests." Washington Monthly contributor Chris Suellentrop wrote that the author's "main point that virtual worlds exist as more than lines of code is not … easily dismissed," adding: "Even if the numbers of people who emigrate to virtual worlds is too small to provoke a national crisis, these games are still a permanent and growing part of the online frontier, and they will continue to have effects that bleed into the offline world."

In his 2006 book, Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality, Castronova continues his investigation into the impact of massive multiplayer games on society. Discussing large games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, the author analyzes this exodus from the real world by not only the youth but also mothers, fathers, workers, and even retirees, who have found that these fantasy worlds are, for many, a refuge from day-to-day life.

In an interview on the University of Chicago Press Web site, the author noted that he "can see a forest of unruly and unstoppable little worlds that breed in peer-to-peer environments, hundreds if not thousands of alternative spaces, each one with a slightly different take on what ‘fantasy’ means, all of them collectively creating a powerful condemnation of the social and economic and political and relational assumptions of the ‘real’ world." Castronova adds: "Because sometimes when people go off into cyberspace, the problem is with them, but other times it is with us, with the games we have made out here, games that some people, perhaps many, perceive as boring or stupid or unfair."

In his book, the author takes readers on an in-depth tour of the world of massive online games and examines how they affect players, who, in turn, affect societies. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author "draws intriguing parallels between game design and such economic and political issues as employment, equality of opportunity, wages and social insurance." Ultimately, the author takes a positive outlook toward a future in which more and more people become involved in virtual reality role playing games. Raymond Hutchins, writing a review of Exodus to the Virtual World for, noted: "Castronova has ‘gone where no man has gone before’ and is asking some very stimulating questions. It may be too soon to agree on all the answers, but he has certainly taken the time and effort to frame the right questions, and there's no doubt about it—for anyone involved in video gaming, this book is an intriguing peek into the future."



Castronova, Edward, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.


Choice, September, 2006, R.C. Adams, review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 102; June, 2007, R.C. Adams, review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 1669.

Chronicle of Higher Education, July 6, 2007, Andrea L. Foster, "Virtual Worlds as Social-Science Labs."

Economist, December 17, 2005, "Worlds without End; Online Gaming," review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 81.

Futurist, July-August, 2006, review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 63; July-August, 2007, Kimberly Harris Fatten, "Welcome to Arden: The World of William Shakespeare: Online Gaming, with Its Worlds of Fantasy, Has Become a Refuge for Many. A Gaming Expert Explains One Lab's Newest Foray into the Expanding Online Frontier."

Guardian (London, England), John Sutherland, "The Ideas Interview," author interview.

Harvard Business Review, December, 2007, John T. Landry, review of Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Exodus to the Virtual World.

Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2002, David Colker, "EverQuest's Place in the Economy; Professor Says Value of Role-playing Game's Transactions Put It Just below Russia in GNP," interview with author, p. 5.

New Scientist, October 21, 2006, Alison George, "Striking Out for the New Territory," interview with author, p. 56.

New York Times, February 21, 2002, Lynn Harris, "Economist Finds Value and Fixed Books in Online World," p. 3 September 4, 2003, "In Gaming as in Life, the Undersold Female," p. 3; December 18, 2005, Hugo Lindgren, "Generation Xbox," includes review of Synthetic Worlds.

Times Higher Education Supplement, June 9, 2006, Harold Thimbleby, "How You Can Make a Real Killing in Virtual Universe," review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 35.

Washington Monthly, June, 2006, Chris Suellentrop, "Video Game Theory: Why the Newest U.N. Member May Be Norrath," review of Synthetic Worlds, p. 44.


BusinessWeek Online, (August 28, 2008), "Online Extra: Virtual Worlds, Virtual Economies," interview with author.

CNET, (August 28, 2008), Daniel Terdiman, "A Midsummer Night's Virtual World."

Edward Castronova Home Page, (August 28, 2008).

Game Career Guide Web site, (August 28, 2008), Raymond Hutchins, review of Exodus to the Virtual World.

GLS Conference Web site, (August 28, 2008), brief biography of author.

IU Newsroom, Indiana University Web site, (August 28, 2008), author profile.

Massively, (August 28, 2008), Akela Talamasca, "Edward Castronova Reveals Lessons Learned from Arden."

Social Science Research Council Web site, (August 28, 2008), author profile.

University of Chicago Press Web site, (August 28, 2008), "An Interview with Edward Castronova."