Virtual Worlds Survey Report: A Trans-World Study of Non-Game Virtual Worlds
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This Report presents results of a virtual world (VW) survey conducted in the summer of 2012, and subsequent analysis through summer of 2014. The aim of this study was to enhance our understanding of demographics, attitudes, activities and play preferences across a variety of non-game, social virtual worlds, also referred to as metaverses. The need for this study arose out of our observation that, while multiple surveys have been conducted on these aspects of a variety of different massively multiplayer games (MMOGs), only a few single-world, topical surveys have been conducted of equivalent non-game worlds, such as Second Life and Our past qualitative and mixed-methods research in multiple virtual worlds indicated that there were significant differences in both demographics and play patterns between open-ended worlds and the more studied game-style worlds. The survey included over 800 denizens of 36 different virtual worlds – recruited via Facebook, virtual world forums and blogs, as well as inworld networks – and focused on four key areas:

  • Demographics: including age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital and family status, income and employment status, religion, region of residence, and disability
  • Avatar Presentation: including form, dress, role, use of alts, and cross-gender play
  • Activities and Play Patterns: including amount and times of day spent, favorite activities, and social interactions including dating, sex, and the fluidity of relationships between virtual worlds and real life
  • Creativity and Commerce: including creative activity, real estate ownership, virtual item transactions, virtual currency transactions, and income from virtual world activities

The report also includes a comparative analysis of similar results from game-based surveys to better understand the similarities and differences between these forms of virtual worlds. We conclude with a summary of the findings, a description of a planned supplement dealing with responses to open-ended questions, and suggested topics for further research. This report covers primarily multiple-choice questions across these subject areas, and a summary of responses to open-ended questions. A subsequent supplement will be released with more detailed analysis of open responses.


  • Celia Pearce is a game designer, author, teacher and researcher with expertise in multiplayer games and virtual worlds, as well as independent and art games, and games and gender. This study was conducted while she was an Associate Professor of Digital Media at Georgia Tech; she has recently joined the faculty of Northeastern University as an Associate Professor of Game Design.
  • Bobby R. Blackburn is an independent game designer and research consultant. He began working on the VW Demographic survey while earning a BS in Computational Media from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a focus toward game design and development. He helped research, author, and launch the survey instrument, managed advertising and recruitment, conducted data cataloging and analysis, authored tables and diagrams, and co-authored the final report.
  • Carl Symborski is a Chief Engineer at Leidos, Inc., where he is a program manager and technologist leading science and technology programs, including training games-related research programs. His research interests include serious games, virtual communities, and computer networking.
Download the Final Report Here: Virtual Worlds Survey Report

Meet Me at the Fair: A World’s Fair Reader
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Edited by Laura Hollengreen, Celia Pearce, Rebecca Rouse, and Bobby Schweizer

Free PDF and on-demand print copy.
Available from ETC Press!

Experimental Game Design
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Course taught for Digital Media Graduate and Computational Media Undergraduate students focusing on experimental uses of games in fine art and activist applications.

Course Description

This section will focus on the experimental uses of video games in fine arts and activist applications, exploring how games created in such contexts interrogate traditional assumptions about video games to produce cultural, aesthetic and technical innovation. The course will look at the historical subversive, activist, experimental and avant garde uses of games. Twentieth Century practices of games as fine art and activist media will be explored, and their connection to other related practices, such as scores, performances, tactical media and public interventions, as well as art movements that explicitly included games as part of their oevre, such as Dada and Fluxus. The course will include a series of readings on the history of games in these alternative contexts, as well as a series of art-based studio assignments where students will engage practices of game-making in both analog, digital and hybrid forms. The course itself is experimental, and will include field trips, and innovative indoor and outdoor alternative play and game design exercises.

Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method
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by Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, Celia Pearce and T.L. Taylor

Ethnography and Virtual Worlds is the only book of its kind–a concise, comprehensive, and practical guide for students, teachers, designers, and scholars interested in using ethnographic methods to study online virtual worlds, including both game and nongame environments. Written by leading ethnographers of virtual worlds, and focusing on the key method of participant observation, the book provides invaluable advice, tips, guidelines, and principles to aid researchers through every stage of a project, from choosing an online fieldsite to writing and publishing the results.

  • Provides practical and detailed techniques for ethnographic research customized to reflect the specific issues of online virtual worlds, both game and nongame
  • Draws on research in a range of virtual worlds, including Everquest, Second Life,, and World of Warcraft
  • Provides suggestions for dealing with institutional review boards, human subjects protocols, and ethical issues
  • Guides the reader through the full trajectory of ethnographic research, from research design to data collection, data analysis, and writing up and publishing research results
  • Addresses myths and misunderstandings about ethnographic research, and argues for the scientific value of ethnography

DiGRA 2013 - August 26-29 - Atlanta
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This year’s DiGRA will be hosted in Atlanta at the beautiful, historica Georgian Terrace Hotel Hotel. The conference is co-chaired by Celia Pearce, John Sharp and Helen Kennedy. For more visit the DiGRA 2013 Conference Web Site.

XYZ: Alternative Voices in Game Design - July 14 - September 2, 2013
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The first ever exhibit celebrating the work of women game designers, XYZ: Alternative Voices in Game Design, will take place at the Museum of Design Atlanta July 14-September 2, 2013. For more visit the Museum Web Site, the Exhibition Web Site, or our Facebook Page. This project is a partnership between the Museum of Design Atlanta and Georgia Tech, and curated by Celia Pearce, Akira Thompson, John Sharp, and Cindy Poremba.

PlayStation Home Destinations
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PlayStation Home Destinations
PlayStation Home Destinations

Launched in October of 2011, PlayStation Home Destinations is a total redesign of the public spaces of PlayStation’s virtual world. Celia Pearce worked as a consultant for Sony developing the basic concept, the genre-themes and components for each area, the hub functionality, the questing concept, and the over-arching refocusing of Home as a community for gamers. She then brought in Friends Jay Fisher and Justin Jorgensen, theme park designers extraordinaire, to art direct their very first video game project. Destinations also includes games from Codename, the indie game label I co-founded with partners from IndieCade and Psychic Bunny. PlayStation Home is also an IndieCade sponsor. Check out the promo video here:

Image and Video Copyright 2011 Sony Computer Entertainment

110/110 - 9/11 Paper Monument
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In the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001, I created a conceptual art piece to try and make sense of events. The piece consists of two spreadsheets, each representing one of the two towers, with a field for each individual that died in the attacks. The spreadsheet is formatted such that each spreadsheet can be printed out on an 11×17 sheet of paper and folded into a tower. The idea for the piece was that people could download it, print it out and make their own 9/11 paper monument. Because they are made of paper, the two towers are very fragile and easily knocked over.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11, a friend suggested I repost the piece for people to download:

AbTeC Skins: First Paper Published
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I’m pleased to announce that the first paper has been published about the AbTeC project, which I worked on with Skawennati Fragnito and Jason Lewis. The paper can be found here. (I’m not listed as a co-author which is fine, I was only involved in the initial ideation of the project.)

IndieCade 2010
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IndieCade 2010 took place October 8-10 in Downtown Culver City. For more in the festival finalists, awards and other events, visit the IndieCade Website.