Ian and Roo are both IBM Metaverse guys, as you'll can see from their bios:
Ian and Roo are both IBM Metaverse guys, as you'll can see from their bios:
Next week I am going to be moderating a panel called "From the Laboratory to the Virtual World" at the annual meeting of the American Accounting Association, which brings together over 3000 accounting professors from the US. I figure that over the three days of the conference, I will be asked 300 times "What in G-d's name is a virtual world??"
What would you say to a business academic with no prior knowledge of virtual worlds—and only limited knowledge of video games? 100 words or less!
Linden Lab has recently changed their policy about gambling in Second Life, effectively banning it (find a clutch of news reports here). The specific demands, in terms of policy and regulation, that gambling and other significant-stakes gaming make on virtual worlds have drawn my attention on TN before. Here I'd like to ask TN-at-large the following: What do you think the effects of this policy are likely to be on SL? On virtual worlds in general (if any)?
The New York Times reports that CBS will broadcast footage from the World Series of Video Games on 7/29/07 at noon. There are, of course, other cable channels that cover games, but they're decidedly niche. And as frequent game reporter Seth Schiesel notes, it'll be a first to have some guy channel surfing for a golf match suddenly come upon Guitar Hero II and WoW on the tube. With the shrinking impact of any one TV outlet, I don't know if this qualifies as a watershed moment, but it's still a major network covering gaming (and an MMO, to boot), so it sounds like at least a minor milestone.
I'll be watching just to hear the announcers explain to America why a mage would iceblock (because ice mages are irresponsible aggro-pullers on boss fights).
Well, my foray into SL has made for an interesting July. It only took 10 days from the time of my Panel Discussion on Second Life Financial Markets for a major scandal to erupt.
Why do we let contracts govern virtual communities? Contracts are private law. Communities need public law. Contracts are about helping two (or a few) people negotiate their preferences. Communities are large numbers of people, who shift in and out of the community, and really don't have time for all that negotiation. For communities to really thrive, as Greg Lastowka remarked to me recently, "we need to get beyond the EULA." So I wrote an article about it.
I wanted to write about this last week, but I was afraid. Like many fans, I was waiting for the final Harry Potter book to be released, so that I could see how J. K. Rowling's series ended, hopefully answering questions such as where Snape's real loyalties lay, and what, of course, would happen to Harry in the final pages. And perhaps responding to such common fears, a few days before the book was released, curious messages started appearing on game chat boards around the Internet, warning users about posting spoilers, such as this message on the Allakhazam boards for FFXI: "depending on the severity of your spoiler, your post count, and account status, posting a spoiler on this board will result in a punishment ranging from a 72 hour mute to a complete banning from the site". What we appeared to have was the incursion of one virtual world and its secrets, into the realm of another, or many others. Or maybe it was an acknowledgment that our various worlds, realms, etc, are hopeless intermixed and confused these days. So much for magic circles?
Continuing the theme of asking Terra Nova readers questions that journalists ask me, recently I was interviewed by the Guardian's game blog and asked this:
If you could take over control of one major MMORPG - which would you choose and what would you do with it?
My answer didn't exactly endear me to 8.5m World of Warcraft players, but never mind what I would do, what would you do?
I've just updated our Conference List. As there is so much virtual world related event goodness in the second half of this year I thought I would do a quick and very personal round up of where the hot spots are for the global conference jet set. Also, like Dan's post, there's some shameless pluggin' gwan down.
People log in and go to a place in cyberspace for a reason. Recent posts suggest that this place doesn't have to exist before they go there (and it could disappear when they leave). Each place, though will have a tone or atmosphere to it. To some extent this is the result of the software developers' intent, but many systems allow the user varying degrees of control over this atmosphere. I remember when it was a big deal that AW had implemented fog. Not a computer game fan myself, I didn't understand why this would move people. In retrospect, I think they wanted the worlds to look like their favorite games and they recognized that implementing fog can make for more intimate spaces, and I think they just wanted more control.
1996 was the year that saw Diablo I (D1). 2001 witnessed the sequel, Diablo II (D2). These computer games in (arguably) most ways were polished but unoriginal (RPG-hack-slash, "gee, I have seen this before", etc). Given this view, why the splash? D1 especially, seemed to have been a preoccupation for many (including yours truly) back then. The difference, I think, was the internet play service Blizzard provided - Battlenet.
Cooperative and high-adrenalin dungeon crawling was never so easy.
Fast forward a bit to 2007. D2 on Battlenet is still here. I still jump in on rare occasions for a bit of nostalgia. Yes, MMORPGs are much more sophisticated places than Diablo/Battlenet ever pretended to be. Yet the world of D2, I think is a lot more nuanced than one might at first think. The funny thing about networked environments, even simple ones, is that some will find a way to flourish. Consider the Battlenet ladder system.
This is in the nature of a Shameless Plug (tm):
I'm one of the organizers of the next State of Play Conference which is running in Singapore August 19-22. The conference program is looking pretty nifty (if I do say so myself), and we're about to announce a day of workshops on topics including "Managing identities in virtual worlds", "Educational applications of virtual worlds" and "Commercial applications of virtual worlds". Registration is open now, the food will be fabulous, the hotel is gorgeous and cheap, Singapore is a great place, and you get to spend some time with the best people on these topics in the world.
You should attend. You'd be crazy not to.
WoW is depressing me, and the end of this post has a guess about why. But first, some science:
Last year, Nick posted about new work coming out of Stanford, related to his excellent dissertation. The gist of the study was that our offline rules of social distance extend in online spaces, i.e. avatars stand apart from each other just like people do offline. Since then, Nick, Jeremy Bailenson and Byron Reeves (all at Stanford) have continued to plow ahead in this area. The work keeps pointing to our offline tendencies working similarly online. It turns out that millenia of evolution might be a hard habit to kick.
It gets odder below the fold...
As reported today by the Wall Street Journal (and covered by various other sites), Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello has come to the conclusion that "we're boring people to death... For the most part, the industry has been rinse-and-repeat. There's been lots of product that looked like last year's product, that looked a lot like the year before."
This will come as no great surprise to anyone who has looked at, played, pitched, or developed computer/video games in the past several years. For an industry that runs on creativity, we've done pretty well at limiting its scope whenever possible. The exceptions (Katamari, the Wii) are more notable for their rarity than for their flashes of inspiration. And from EA, there's been astonishingly little original work at all.
So does Riccitiello's epiphany really mean anything? More below the fold.
I lecture in a Fine Arts course that was first called "Telepresence," then "Playing with Space and Time," and is now more soberly referred to as "Studio in Space and Time" as it moves toward a more permanent place on the course roster. Space and place; this is one of the tensions we try and explore. Places occur in spaces, but what are they? Sometimes I have to go back to the dictionary to get this kind of simple fact worked out in my head.
Although as a fringe academic, I occasionally think of concepts like the origin of zero as a placeholder in number systems (we have a Mayan pyramid maze to teach the Mayan number system and it early origin of this approach), most Westerners at least seem to think of places in geographic terms. Wikipedia and Webster confirmed this. We seem to need places to go in Cyberspace, whether its a Web page, Facebook or a 3D MOG. URLs are locators. Tagging is connecting. I suppose that you could visualize a tagged 2.0 site and that everyone would start at a different place.
If Context is King (which I think I agree with), then what is the kingdom? Is this a fluid concept?
Maybe place is taking on an association with something crafted for a purpose by a person or group of people? and Tone was mentioned. Yes, virtual worlds can be used artfully to set the tone for your encounter with digital information. This can be very powerful.
This Friday, I will be moderating a panel discussion in Second Life (as my alter-ego Beyers Sellers). The goal of the panel is to allow the panelists to describe the current state of the markets, and what they would like and expect to see in the future (particularly regarding regulatory and non-regulatory ways to strengthen investor confidence).
I will be asking questions on my own behalf, and also on behalf of audience members and any others who cannot attend. So Terra Novans, what questions would you like to ask this august panel?
As a scientist, science communicator, and artist, I got into virtual worlds as a means of communicating scientific data; I got to play in the first CAVE installation at Supercomputing in the 90s, put VRML data worlds online in ‘95 (no one could see them, of course). Now I am most to see how teens and tweens create their own places (from homes to playgrounds to knowledge spaces and games) and how teachers and other educators adjust to seeing this new medium as a tool for more traditional learning—is this changing? I think so, truly. But the question remains: Where’s the Beef?
Next Generation (and several other online outlets) reported today that publisher NCSoft will be shutting down their MMO Auto Assault at the end of August. Citing low subscriber numbers-- "down to only one server"-- the game will close less than a year after its release in April 2006.
I've never played the game, and apparently none of you have either. I ask: if you did play, why do you think it failed to achieve decent subscriber numbers? And whether you did or did not, do you think that fantasy and sci-fi will continue to dominate the MMO market, at least for the foreseeable future?
Imho, a nice milestone for virtual world studies in academia. Here's the link.
Unfortunately, it's a subscription-only article, but if you have access or can find it on the IntarWeb, it's a nice write-up of Ted's career, the Ludium, and virtual world scholarship. TN is also mentioned: "On the blog Terra Nova, Mr. Castronova and his colleagues in academe and industry regularly sound off on many of the same issues debated at Ludium II. Mr. Castronova helped found the blog, in 2003, in order to build on the idea that virtual worlds can be more than mindless fun."
So, hey, let's all keep building on that idea: virtual worlds can be more than mindless fun! :-)