As an example of why I'm enjoying Printculture, have a look at my friend and colleague Eric's piece today on playing the online role-playing game EverQuest, which takes place in an imaginary world called Norrath. He considers why people -- mostly men, as he points out -- who play the game tend to withdraw so dramatically from the "real world" and what that withdrawal says about our society:
Thinking of online gamers as “addicted” or even “dead” is not going to solve the problem, because those concepts cannot confront the full import of virtual worlds: given a choice more social than hermitage and more compelling than mysticism, people are moving out of the world. As Castronova points out, the question is at some fundamental level economic: if reality can't compete with Norrath, that may well be reality's fault.
One of the things we might then be prompted to do is to wonder what's wrong with reality, or rather, to wonder what about Norrath deploys and makes actionable an alternative to that reality, and why that alternative is so compelling (especially for men). And once we have those answers, we can ask: How could we change reality to entice these people to move back “home”? And what's more, should anyone even try?
As someone who spends a good deal of time in the partially imaginary world of the blogosphere, I found Eric piece's as moving as it was thought-provoking.