Below are some recent mainstream media stories on virtual worlds for those who might have missed them. Thoughts, comments, and links to other things welcome, as always.
Before that, though, if you should happen to be in Santa Clara County on Friday (the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, specifically), I'll be there as part of a panel talking about how trademark law should work in virtual worlds. See this page. Much more interesting, though, are the other folks who will be speaking, such as Richard Stallman, Alex Kozinski, Marty Roberts (GC of Linden Lab), Chris Kelly (Chief Privacy officer of Facebook), Zahavah Levine (Chief Counsel of YouTube), and a whole bunch of other people rather fancier than myself. Apparently, you can attend for free, although they encourage you to donate $10 to pay for cheese and such.
Now onto the news...
"When virtual environments first started, they were viewed as libertarian dreams with no interference," says Behnam Dayanim, a lawyer who specializes in Internet law at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP in Washington. "As companies that sponsor these environments become more accountable to investors or regulators, they are starting to encounter real-world limitations."
Club Penguin, where members pay $5.95 a month to dress and groom penguin characters and play games with them, attracts seven times more traffic than Second Life. In one sign of the times, Electric Sheep, a software developer that helps companies market their brands in virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com, last week laid off 22 people, about a third of its staff.
Proponents of online research counter with figures that the audience for today's "massively multiplayer" games mirror the general public far more closely than most other video games. And in hopes of quelling the skeptics, several studies are attempting to see if reality shines through in the online worlds of pixels and pixies.
A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from "rooms" in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.
(And click here for a similar hacking/virtual property story from Japan.)
Pwnage, zerging, phat lewts — online gaming has birthed a rich lexicon. But none, perhaps, deserves our attention as much as the notion of the griefer. Broadly speaking, a griefer is an online version of the spoilsport — someone who takes pleasure in shattering the world of play itself.