Primer: Amateur-to-Amateur Business Models

Virtual worlds act as catalysts for so-called “gift economies” – that is, structures where creators give things to individuals or the community for no direct, or even sometimes indirect, reward. Such structures, also known as Amateur-to-Amateur (A2A), can be very similar and indeed an extension of the OpenSource community model.  This section of the Primer identifies the specific ways these gift economies emerge in virtual worlds.

Interface Mods

A number of virtual worlds leave elements of their application open to modification (modding) by users. This facilitates a community of ‘Modders’ around the game. World of Warcraft is an example of this. Users can modify the World of Warcraft user interface and this has resulted in thousand of “mods” to do everything from help with maps to track game statistics. So established is this culture that some guilds require players to use particular mods, and over time popular mods are often made part of the core interface by the virtual world publisher.

FAQs / Help / Mod Sites

A common aspect of computer game culture is the online guide to how to play a game. These guides are often in the form of ‘walkthroughs’, Tips ‘n tricks etc.  The advent of YouTube has seen the rise of the video guide to add to the range of online help. This culture also exists in the virtual world space. Given the size of virtual worlds there has been a rise in the use of databases e.g. Thottbot  for World of Warcraft.

Here we also see a merging with commercial culture. Sites such as Alakazam  and curse , host free-to-use player generated which drives traffic eventually resulting in advertising revenues.


As mentioned above, recording of in-world movies is a growing aspect of computer game and virtual world culture. Creating films within a video game or virtual world is called Machinima (Machine-Cinema  ). This is a growing culture in its own right, including videos used as part of help guilds, short comedy sketches, music videos (often involving dancing), and highly complex movies.

Traditional Business Models

There are, of course, more traditional business models at play in virtual worlds. We examine thes in detail in other sections of this Primer.

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