Serious fun: Why games are turning to classic works for inspiration

Usually it is only actors that play Shakespeare but now gamers are getting the chance to go adventuring in a virtual world built around the Bard's plays.

Called Arden, the virtual world is the creation of Professor Edward Castronova and colleagues in the Synthetic Worlds Institute at the University of Indiana.

An economist by training, Prof Castronova has led attempts to quantify the economic activity and impact of virtual worlds - be that in the games themselves or in the real world when people pay cold cash for virtual goods.

Arden, said Prof Castronova, was an attempt to go much further than this after the fact analysis. It will give social scientists an entire populated world on which to perform experiments - something always lacking in the real world.

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