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Hardcover | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 256 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 32 halftones | January 2010 | ISBN: 9780262013703
Paperback | $4.75 Short | £4.95 | 256 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 32 halftones | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262518062
eBook | $12.95 Short | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262288361
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The Warcraft Civilization

Social Science in a Virtual World


World of Warcraft is more than a game. There is no ultimate goal, no winning hand, no princess to be rescued. WoW is an immersive virtual world in which characters must cope in a dangerous environment, assume identities, struggle to understand and communicate, learn to use technology, and compete for dwindling resources. Beyond the fantasy and science fiction details, as many have noted, it’s not entirely unlike today’s world. In The Warcraft Civilization, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge goes further, arguing that WoW can be seen not only as an allegory of today but also as a virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups will engage in combat over declining natural resources, build temporary alliances on the basis of mutual self-interest, and seek a set of values that transcend the need for war.

What makes WoW an especially good place to look for insights about Western civilization, Bainbridge says, is that it bridges past and future. It is founded on Western cultural tradition, yet aimed toward the virtual worlds we could create in times to come.

About the Author

William Sims Bainbridge is a prolific and influential sociologist who has worked in both academia and government, currently as Director of the Human-Centered Computing program at the National Science Foundation. He has published three other books about gameworlds: Online Multiplayer Games, The Virtual Future: Science-Fiction Gameworlds, and eGods: Fantasy Versus Faith.


“World of Warcraft will eventually be recognized as a signature artistic, technological, and sociological achievement of our time. Bainbridge provides the best analysis to date of the way WoW and similar new media forms, with their millions and millions of users, are reshaping central aspects of our culture: groups, religion, economy, education, and more.”
Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications, Indiana University, author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games