Bonnie Nardi wasn’t a gamer, and she couldn’t understand how her son and students could spend hours of their lives sitting in front of screens. But after one of her anthropology students did a presentation on World of Warcraft, her interest was piqued. As someone who studied social life on the internet, she thought she could learn something from it. So she decided to give the massively popular role-playing game a try … you know, for research.

It didn’t take long for Nardi to get what all the buzz was about. “Once I got over my initial disorientation in the game,” she writes in My Life as Night Elf Priest, “I developed a strong sensation that I had woken up inside an animated fairy tale.”1 She was hooked. ...

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