An exploration of cheating in a virtual gaming world

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This article looks at the ‘culture of cheating’ within a specific virtual gaming world, Neopets. It argues that this ‘culture of cheating’, informed by a neo-liberal capitalist discourse, has been embedded in the structure of the world. Thus, Neopets promotes an image of wealth as accumulation and as an expression of individual will and effort. Cheating becomes an instrument for personal achievement in a world where access to resources has been designed as unequal. In the case discussed here, socialization within this world may be interpreted as offering users an experience of neo-liberal capitalism that renders inequality as a ‘natural’ consequence of individual choices. What remains hidden is precisely the interweaving of social processes and technical design in constructing this neo-liberal capitalist experience of the world in the first place.

Keywords: capitalism; cheating; neo-liberalism; social structures; synthetic worlds; virtual games

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Calgary

Publication date: March 29, 2011

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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