The Grand Diversion: Play, Work and Virtual Worlds

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Melissa Cefkin Susan U Stucky Wendy Ark


Enterprises, including corporations, use virtual worlds for such purposes as marketing, training, and recruitment and, increasingly, meetings. As researchers whose primary focus has been on the nature of “work” and the sites and institutions that mediate contemporary experiences of work, the authors reflect on the implications of play as a constitutive feature of virtual worlds through consideration of institutional uses of virtual worlds. Evidence for the claim that play has emerged as the paradigmatic metaphor for interpreting and designing virtual worlds is presented. A case from the authors’ company’s application of virtual worlds to work and learning environments is unpacked to explore how notions of play and game drove particular ways of proceeding and not others and the implications of this thinking for the resulting solution. Questions are raised concerning what such a rethinking may entail and the opportunities it may hold for opening up new opportunities and understandings of virtual worlds.

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