Maybe it is just that I'm really fond of Patrick O'Brien's novels, A&E's Horatio Hornblower series, and Sid Meier classic Pirates! game, but was overjoyed to see Pirates of the Burning Sea on the horizon. Like Sid Meier's game, this MMORPG allows you to tell yourself you're really just interested in getting familiar with RL geography: "The entire Windward and Leeward island chains, from Puerto Rico down to Grenada, are modeled with dozens of ports, islands, and cays." (No, I'm not playing a game -- I'm learning about the Carribean.) Oh, and the screen shots look nice.
One interesting thing I've always found about games like this, though, is that you normally play the seafaring segments as a boat, not, e.g., as an avatar running around on a boat trying to control the boat. For those of us who are still thinking about Julian's account of the Mr. Bungle story, this raises some interesting questions about identity in VWs. E.g., what if Mr. Bungle's virtual presence was a Schooner? Do avatar boats have rights? Can groups of boats form a government?
Of course, Ted's core findings are still safe: just as real boats are traded on ebay, I'm sure that a player purporting to own a nice virtual frigate or some virtual doubloons will soon be inclined to sell them on ebay as well. But when we venture onto the uncharted seas of virtual society, are there lessons to be learned from avatar embodiments that don't look like this, but like this? For instance, Nick and TL have both written some fascinating pieces about the presentation of gender in virtual worlds. (See here and here.) Even Dr. Castronova has joined in the fun.
I guess boats are female?