Virtual Leisure

Authored by: Garry Crawford

Routledge Handbook of Leisure Studies

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415697170
eBook ISBN: 9780203140505
Adobe ISBN: 9781136495595


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Over recent decades the word ‘virtual’ has been a common prefix, placed in front of many activities to suggest that computers, or other information communication technologies, are involved in mediating a particular experience. However, this has undoubtedly been most commonly seen in relation to leisure practices, such as where playing sport-related video games becomes commonly labelled as ‘virtual sports’ (e.g. Leonard, 2009), online gambling as ‘virtual gaming’ (e.g., or online social networking sites and persistent worlds (e.g. Second Life) as providing links to our ‘virtual friends’ (e.g. Merchant, 2001). This chapter provides an introduction to key debates and literatures on the role of the ‘virtual’ within contemporary leisure practices. It begins with a brief consideration of the origins of the prefix ‘virtual’ and, in particular, its derivation from the concept of ‘virtual reality’, and the development of associated leisure technologies, such as the Internet and video games. The chapter then considers key debates that highlight the impact that information communication technologies have had on the nature of society, and both the benefits and dangers that these potentially bring. Finally, the chapter questions the validity of technologically deterministic accounts that seek to either praise or question the impact of technology, and suggests instead that a more profitable way forward is to consider the role of these (increasingly mundane) technologies as embedded within the patterns of everyday life.

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