March 2008 |
| May 2008
As has been reported in several places starting with the EA-Land blog (to which the EA-Land site now points), EA will be shutting down EA-Land in August. EA-Land was the do-over of The Sims Online, which at one time in its heady pre-release days was the presumptive heir to the "first million user virtual world" crown. A virtual world/game from EA and built using the biggest, most successful and accessible game IP ever?
What could possibly go wrong?
This is a question that has been asked innumerable times in view of
TSO's lack of commercial success, and which deserves some real
consideration. The inability of TSO to attract even 100,000 users gave many virtual world watchers significant pause -- could this whole thing be just a big fad after all? We've since discovered that the market for virtual worlds is orders of magnitude larger than TSO's numbers might indicate, but still this is a nagging question. The Sims Online seemed to have everything going for it: the best
possible IP, the biggest publisher, and a huge team. So what
happened? Why didn't this game crest a million happy, Simmy users as new players flooded online?
There are a lot of thoughts and a lot of theories: Was it the removal of The Sims' charming internal motivations, leaving them as only empty avatars? Was it the lack of significant gameplay (aside from making gnomes, jam, and pizza)? Was the game in effect too social and in the wrong ways? Was it even the fact that EA has seen huge success with single-player console and PC games, but was ill-equipped to take on the design of an MMO? Or something else? I have my thoughts and opinions (full disclosure: I was on the TSO team early in its life, and my opinions are informed by that time), but I'm interested to hear what others who have followed it and played it think.
One last thing for now: it's important to note, as Luc Barthelet said in his 'thank you' post on the
EA-Land blog, that "virtual worlds are still in their infancy." This is
certainly true, and we should expect some big failures -- but hopefully
ones that, as Clay Shirky recently wrote, will fail informatively. We've seen a number of failures in MMOs (including several from EA), despite the overall large number of commercial successes, and will no doubt see more as time goes on.
What can we learn from the redo of TSO and now the shuttering of EA-Land, and what does this tell us about the future (in terms of design, production, and commercial success) of MMOs and virtual worlds?
Ah, the sounds of spring: classes ending, birds chirping, and one Englishman going apeshit on his countrymen. Witness the awesome power of this fully operational Bartle-station in the Guardian.
I've made the same demographic argument in a book chapter before, and tied it to social and cultural trends, but perhaps not quite as color(hmm, make that "colour")fully as Richard's just done.
Still, I think old attitudes die hard on each side of the pond, and I expect the release of GTA IV to lurch our culture wars back into prominence, just in time for elections. Academics, prepare to be quoted! I said no to an interview today because I haven't actually played the dang thing yet--not that that will stop the usual interviewees we'll see over the next few weeks. OK, I'm off to play it!
Earlier this month, Linden Lab released a demo of a hands-free interface for movement within Second Life. While they were careful to explain that this project is still in the early stages of development, the interface as it stands would allow players to walk and fly through the world using only the positions of their bodies. Apparently inspired by the controls on Segway scooters, a 3D camera would capture players' movements as they stand a number of feet in front of their computer screens--or, as in the case of the demo, conveniently ginormos televisions. Linden also claims that the technology in development can sense facial movement and expressions.
While other bloggers are seeing a potentially ground-breaking new way to interact in a world whose current user interface is a giant pain in the butt, I'm wondering: what will going hands free do for sex in Second Life?
Obviously, having free hands facilitates easier masturbation.
However, the demo only showed hands-free movement--and most Second Life
residents don't fly or walk while having sex. Still, if we think ahead
to an entirely mouse-less, keyboard-less virtual world, one in which
our avatars can match our movements one for one, the possibilities are
endless. We could not only "touch" ourselves (i.e. I touch my breast,
and my avatar touches hers), we could reach out and touch each other.
Silly as it may seems, we could even enact mutual sex acts, each on our
separate ends of the screen.
Of course, hands-free online sex as a reality may be a long ways
off, but one thing is for sure: it would definitely change the way we
interact sexually in virtual worlds... Thoughts?
In a week when Sony has announced yet more delays
(another in a longer series of gaffes that has spawned endless humiliation)
in the development of their much hyped virtual space, Home, and when even the roar from
WoW’s success seems to be fading into an echo, a reminder about the incredible success of
a little game that could... Like All in the Family or this year's indie darling Once (or the Aeron chair, for that matter), it almost never got made 'cause people making decisions about such things didn't believe Will Wright (who doesn't believe Will Wright?!) when he said it would be the best thing ever. Cause after all, who the heck would want to play in a virtual dollhouse?
The Sims franchise has now
sold 100 million copies (in 22 languages and 60 countries) since 2000. From a recent NYTimes article
sent to us by Tripp Robbins (who also notes how strange it is that videogame
articles appear in the television category):
All told, the franchise has
generated about $4 billion in sales or an average of $500 million every year
for the last eight years, placing the Sims in the rarefied financial company of
other giants of popular culture like “American Idol,” “Star Wars” and “Harry
I’m in love with Will Wright,
I am going to confess (though there’s no chance for me as his fiancée is way
more beautiful than even my best avatars). I saw
him speak at the Game Developer’s conference a couple of years ago: not about games, nor game design very specifically,
but rather an exploration of his intensely nerdy passions for astrophysics and
exo-biology and how they relate to game design (Spore, of
course). He’s a game designer that gets
underneath the covers, really thinking about what makes the game experience
unique from other media experiences, and how he can design games that provoke
and inspire. Pride, accomplishment and guilt, for instance, are emotions that videogames have the power to evoke in
spades (I had to stop playing Age of Empires because I felt guilty for burning
the little digital peasants out of their houses), but that are rarely present
in other media (except perhaps if you’re watching An Inconvenient Truth, I suppose). As a relatively new medium still struggling
to find ‘its language’, reminders like this are important… in the game designer’s
rant at GDC this year, for instance, several of the talks explored the idea
that there is still so much more to be done with videogames in terms of
engendering emotions that are positive (as Clint Hocking said, why isn’t Medal of Honor about honor, or Call of Duty about duty?), and fostering experiences that are a step beyond the videogame equivalent of B-movies and T-and-A fests.
Now as much as I like to talk about videogames being more
meaningful, I know that Terra Nova is a
blog about virtual worlds. And I believe in the social power of virtual worlds. I have often
pronounced to audiences that gaming has
traditionally been a social activity, and once computer networks evolved sufficiently people
gravitated towards playing with one another in a variety of time-tested
ways (do you know people who still play Solitaire once they have an Internet connection?). I have even ventured to say that
once people have the experience of gaming socially, they are less inclined to
go back (I backed this up with the assertion that people even play single
player games socially, as I did with all my single player games back in the day).
But maybe I’m wrong. What is it about the experience of the single-player Sims game that surpasses all else?
Is it just the allure to demographics outside the core gaming audience? Or some sort of mysterious je ne sais quois that is unlikely to ever be replicated? This quote from the Times article got me thinking...
“What we’ve discovered is that the
Sims is a very private experience for a lot of people,” Rod Humble, head of the
Sims studio, said in a telephone interview last week. “It’s private because
it’s set in real life. Rather than on a console in the living room where
everyone can see, you generally play on a handheld or on a PC in the study,
where no one can look over your shoulder. You get to tap into this wonderful
childhood imaginary game, which is ‘What if I could create my own little world
and all the people in it and watch them go through their business and jump in
and change things when I want?’ That is a pretty personal fantasy.”
Okay, but won't people want to share their personal fantasies? I mean people do already. So why then did the Sims Online fail so miserably? Our own Mia Consalvo has a theory or two, all neatly documented in her chapter From Dollhouse to Metaverse: What Happened When The Sims Went Online (in the Player's Realm anthology). She notes that she enjoyed the Sims much more than the Sims Online, for instance, because she tends to be a more solitary player. But why? One reason is that solitary play allows one to construct a magic circle (for lack of a better metaphor) that doesn't have to look like a Venn diagram where players are constantly constructing, reinforcing and arguing about the boundaries between those two play circles. It is precisely the necessary overlp of the circles that creates so much conflict in MMO environments (more on this here and here). A truly satisfying game experience allows one to construct whatever type of circle they want, unfettered by gameplay or other social norms that might otherwise influence their freedom of expression:
artificial situation, players can experiment, allowing them to see ‘what
happens’ when a Sim nags another Sim for too long. There are no real
consequences involved. Yet when the other Sim is a real person, even if it’s a person I do not know,
my feelings change. I can nag a computer easily—another person is more
difficult. And likewise, even if I really wanted to have my Sim slap that other
Sim (or just peck her on the cheek), the other Sim now has the opportunity to
refuse. Not that the computer AI couldn’t, but it was different somehow. These
changes in my expectations for what is acceptable behavior are perhaps my own,
not shared by others. ...It is possible that because TSO is so similar to ‘real
life’ that I have transferred my behavioral norms—just as I wouldn’t expect to
be able to slap a stranger on the street IRL, neither can I do so in TSO. That
norm is not so pronounced in other types of online games, where situations are
more fantastical, and different behavioral norms already more established. But
the underlying point seems to be that players either bring with, or invent,
expectations for interactions, when other people are involved. And these norms
have consequences for how they behave. Whether that is a good or bad thing I
can’t say. But it does suggest that the ‘look and feel’ of a virtual world can
inspire in players certain behavioral norms, and as we see the rise of more
non-sci-fi and fantastical MMOGs, behavioral norms will likely change, as both
the environment and player base change as well (Consalvo, 2007, p. 22).
(So this, of course, makes me think about solipsism
(those of you who know me know that I have a
pet theory about us all living in a big virtual world, and we have also discussed it elsewhere here)… is this world I
live in a personal universe? Do any of
the rest of you lovely people exist? Oh, dear, I hate
it when my brain meanders into existential territory that leaves me
depressed. So unfair. And anyway, I don’t
care if all of you really exist or not ‘cause I love you anyway…)
The point is that game experiences can and should be about
the stories that people create themselves, not about the stories that others
choose to tell them. And what's lovely about this is that there is a huge body of literature amassed in recent years that addresses the possibilities of storytelling and personal narrative for transformational purposes. What it makes really clear to me is why people can find sort of basic and boring emergent environments endlessly fascinating, while many of us are left scratching our heads: what the heck is the appeal of grinding through several tens of thousands of creatures that need killing. Well, of course we know that no one would play WoW if there were no other people involved... but that has more to do with the state of evolution of single player games (the status quo plus people is better than just the status quo), and the fact that videogame narratives can now be constructed on the fly by all sorts of people at the same time. But what about the next evolution? Can it trump the MMO?
Soon (!) I will have
the option of designing my own personal Sim universe, designed with lots and lots of love by my favorite Will Wright. What could be better than that? And looks like they might have learned their lesson:
Spore is unique in that while it has multiplayer elements involved
there will be no direct live contact with other players. Players'
created content gets saved to a master server and will be downloaded by
the client-software of other players. In this way, a player will
interact with the content created by another player in a non-intrusive
I can show them my sandbox, but they can't mess it up. Is that the best of all worlds? My universe is unpwnable.
Neils Clark forwards a five page collage on "Gaming Addiction: Clearing The Air, Moving Forward" on Gamasutra (April 3, 2008). Clearing the air might be ambitious at this stage of the discussion, but Neils provides a useful catalog of the range of ideas that have taken root in this landscape. The difficulty of charged-up umbrella issues is that all sort of argument can become ensnared. A few selected quotes are provided below the fold; read the essay on the Gamasutra site. There is excellent comment there too.
The public opinions among developers run the gamut... -- "The biggest problem in your life is that you get to play games all day? Poor you." Others view it with an air of caution... "Bad for business, and the industry knows it."
...distinguish between gameplay elements that might encourage all players to go overboard, versus those that caused problems for a select few...
Games make a magnificent target. It doesn't have to be addiction, violence, or any one thing. ... (the late) Gary Gygax wrote... "Oddly enough, we don't seem to have progressed far beyond the Salem witch-hunt stage, 'Thar's demons in them-thar games!'...
Just as too many governments, researchers and regular folks seem distanced from games, developers seem to sometimes distance themselves from a game's potential for causing problems.
(Increasing use of) "Internet Addiction" (IA) when referring to heavy game use. This is despite serious and ongoing concerns over many different elements of IA's validity.
...issues raised by excessive gaming appear very real in the eyes of the South Korean, Chinese and Singaporean governments, whether or not the analysts at the helm have an adequate understanding of gaming.
"It's almost impossible to make a game addictive on purpose... It's a bit like the Tao: those who set out to look for it are guaranteed not to find it."
...what happens if a presidential candidate gets draconian on video games? ... It seems bad for players either way. If the issue blows over, then there won't be any pressure to have a serious discussion... If something gets the angry mob on overkill, then our discussions are going to be about designing around federal mandates, something already required for Chinese designers and localization teams.
...The people who make games are giving us something to do, and they're good at what they do... sooner or later the industry will want to engage critics in dialogue...
This post is a plug for an article that I’ve recently completed with my colleague Michael Carrier at Rutgers-Camden. The article is here.
It is very short (for a law review article — 36 pages) and is our best
effort to decisively end to the doctrine of “cyberproperty,” a.k.a.
“cybertrespass,” a.k.a. the Internet variant of trespass to chattel
Though this article doesn't explicitly mention it, cyberproperty doctrine has some interesting connections with virtual property and virtual worlds -- below I'll explain what cyberproperty is and how it relates to the concept of virtual property.
What Cyberproperty Is
Cyberproperty is a modified version of trespass to chattel doctrine. Trespass to chattel is a traditional property tort doctrine that
protects personal (chattel) property from damages short of conversion.
So, e.g., denting the fender of someone’s car might constitute a
trespass to chattel. In America, the tort has always required a plaintiff to prove
actual damage in order to state a claim. So you can certainly sue someone for
denting your car, but you can’t sue someone for simply touching it or shining
a flashlight on it (at least not under a trespass to chattel theory).
However, in the past decade, state and federal courts have created a
new Internet doctrine of trespass to chattel that essentially waives
the traditional damage requirement and enables courts to enjoin
electronic contact over computer networks without any evidence of
damage. If you think about it at all, modifying the law for networked
contact this way is absolutely bizarre — networks, unlike traditional
chattels, only function through contact with other machines. Trespass to chattels (TTC) can essentially outlaw the ping.
Burk once said in his early and influential attack
on the doctrine, the modified TTC doctrine would even seem to permit a
person to sue a television broadcaster for sending unwelcome
advertisements to a home tv set. Yet TTC has had several vigorous
advocates, including, perhaps most notably and vociferously, Richard Epstein.
I have some personal history with this rather strange doctrine. A
few years ago, when I was a litigator, I had the opportunity (with Bill McSwain)
to represent Ken Hamidi in his struggle to communicate with the
employees at Intel. Intel sued Hamidi in California state court,
claiming that it had a right to enjoin Ken from “trespass” on its mail
server (a.k.a. sending email messages to its employees). Amazingly, the
trial court granted the relief to Intel and, on appeal, the California
Court of Appeal again sided with Intel, rejecting Hamidi’s First
To make a long story short, when the California Supreme Court took up the case, Ken prevailed
(over some spirited dissents). Today, in California, the Internet
version of trespass to chattel is something close to the traditional
version of trespass to chattel — proof of actual damage to the chattel
(the computer) is required. Since state common law governs the tort
doctrine, Hamidi essentially overrules the prior California state and
federal court TTC decisions, most notably the decision in eBay v. Bidder’s Edge (insofar as it conflicts with Hamidi).
Yet even post-Hamidi, cybertrespass has survived. In addition to
making occassional affirmative appearances in recorded opinions (e.g. Sotelo v. DirectRevenue), I’ve seen cybertrespass claims showing up quite frequently in
pleadings. Just a couple weeks ago, the Legal Intelligencer even
carried an article that suggested cyberproperty lawsuits would be the
next big thing. I certainly hope not.
The goal of our article is simply to explain succinctly why cyberproperty
doctrine makes no sense. In short, Mike and I think that it is a
ridiculously unbalanced property right, that no existing property
theories can justify it, and that the existing prohibitions against
spam, electronic invasion, and copyright infringement are superior to
an unchecked common law right that seriously threatens competition and
How Cyberproperty Relates to Virtual Property
So by opposing cyberproperty rights and endorsing (in some case) virtual property rights, am I being inconsistent? I don't think so.
The terms "cyberproperty" and "virtual property" seem like they could mean the same thing, but they've evolved in very different contexts. The cyberproperty right, as I've explained, is essentially the grant of a supercharged exclusionary right to the owner of a networked machine. Traditional property rules require proof of actual damage if a person claims that someone has touched something that they own. But with cyberproperty, where the chattel is a computer, the doctrine throws that traditional limitation out the window and permits courts to enjoin electronic contact regardless of whether damage is proven. So cyberproperty takes a standard exclusionary right that accompanies personal property and makes it even stronger.
Virtual property, on the other hand, is typically understood as a cross-cutting right, somewhat like a servitude. It is premised on the fact that someone else owns the property in question. It seems essential to the concept of virtual property that the party that asserts a virtual property claim is not the owner of the chattel on which the data at issue resides.
So, essentially, virtual property is the mirror image of cyberproperty -- whereas cyberproperty would accord additional legal powers to the owners of chattels, virtual property recognition would effectively decrease the powers that accompany ownership of a chattel. Whether or not courts extend virtual property rights to virtual worlds eventually, they have already been extended to domain names by Judge Kozinski in Kremen vs. Cohen, and statutes like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act can operate in ways that seem to acknowledge virtual property interests.
Why do I see virtual property as a growth area? My general impression is that, as popular investments in the networked environment increase, as more of our important data moves from PCs to distant server farms, and as our daily activities are increasingly recorded and archived by others, we'll see much more pressure for the law to recognize virtual property rights, i.e., cross-cutting rights of access and control that are granted to individuals that are not the owners of the networked physical chattels at issue.
By the same token, I think cyberproperty doctrine is a throwback idea, essentially retrogressive in the Internet Age. Today, the owners of servers are well-protected--perhaps even slightly over-protected--by the tools in the existing legal system. They also enjoy substantial technological powers. Concentrating an additional and radical legal exclusionary power based on server ownership seems like a very bad idea.
In line with the recent discussions we had here about the role of voice in virtual worlds (see for instance this post, and more recently this one), some new research by Greg Wadley from the University of Melbourne adds more empirical data to the debate. The findings are summarized in this paper but click below to read Greg's own summary of his findings:
"During 2006/7 two colleagues and I conducted research into voice communication by MMORPG players. Our methods were qualitative (interviews etc) rather than quantitative. Our subjects played DDO and WoW for two months and participated in interviews and focus groups in which they discussed their experiences. This style of data-collection runs the risk of introducing problems with subjectivity and generalizability, but it is good for exposing unexpected issues. Our study could be seen as complementary to Dmitri's work on voice in WoW, since we examined the same phenomonenon using a different method.
We presented our results in a paper at a conference last December. Briefly, we found the usefulness of voice to be context-dependent. It works well when used by small groups of players, who already know each other, and are collaborating in fast-paced coordinated activity such as raids (ie, the MMORPG scenario that most resembles a team FPS). But when group size, type of activity or number of channels varies, the usefulness of voice may vary. Some players are uncomfortable using voice with strangers, or when playing a character of different age or gender. And voice channels allow in-game communication to pass into the player's surroundings: for example, a player's family and guildmates may unwittingly share the channel. In the paper we compare these findings to prior research on computer-mediated communication. Of these findings, the interaction between communication medium and role-play is the least clear. Our subjects differed in their opinions of what role-play is, and whether typical MMORPG players are engaged in it.
Using similar methods I am currently researching the use of voice in Second Life."
I was recently invited to speak at the Culture and Computer Games: Studying Online Activities conference held at the HumLab in Umea, Sweden. The conference was organized by Torill Mortensen, and the participants were mainly European games researchers who have their own WoW guild, The Truants. As a non-WoW player I was honored to be asked, and the conference was great, featuring not only research talks and research-in-progress discussions, but also workshops on how to make machinima and how to pull data from games for interesting sorts of analysis and display.
I arrived in the middle of one presentation about game audio (by Kristine Jorgensen), and I'm so sorry I arrived late. Her talk was one of the first I've heard that takes seriously the audio in MMO games. More thoughts on why audio is so fascinating below the cut--
Kristine argued that audio is extremely contextual, and so players must be familiar with a particular situation to know what a certain audio cue will signal. In the discussion following her paper we talked about how the sound of certain spells going off, for example, might cue a player that other party members are (or are not) doing their jobs, as you either receive or fail to receive buffs, cures, and the like. This also reminded me of Final Fantasy XI Online, where the sound of spells was critically important in my job as a white mage, as sometimes the text going by was too fast to read and check if a certain spell had been executed or not.
I also think there's another aspect to audio that is key- and also tied to context. That would be how audio can help form the game community, or at least play a role in its development. A former student of mine and I once joked about the 'de-leveling' sound you hear in FFXI, which seems to add further to the insult of death along with losing a level. But that sound, and others like it, also add to the shared experience of the game- it gave us something to talk about, to share about the game. Likewise, FFXI has some of the most beautiful game music I've ever heard, and some regions are so lush with sound, they are a pleasure simply to travel through. So to me, game audio is definitely a part of MMOs that can not only enhance game play, but also the game experience.
Does anyone else have particular thoughts on how game audio adds to or subtracts from the game experience?
I ran a roundtable session at IMGDC last weekend on the subject of "Government Interference: How Much Can you Take?". The way it worked, I presented a number of scenarios in turn, ramping up each one of them to see when (if ever) the situation would become so intolerable that it would stop the attendees from ever wanting to develop an MMORPG.
Some things were irritating, but not so irritating that they'd cause the assembled developers and designers to give up. For example, government requirements for tracking every single transaction to prevent fraud fell into this category: it adds a huge overhead, but it's something people can just about live with.
There were two proposals, however, which hit the abandon ship button for everyone. Both of these are ones I've seen advocated a number of times, included here on TerraNova.
The first issue was player power. If a real-world government decreed that players had to be elected to the live team, and that the recommendations of these players had by law to be implemented, then that was a step too far. Developers simply could not operate MMORPGs under those circumstances.
The second issue was object ownership. If players were given real-life ownership of their characters or their characters' in-world inventory, then developers would draw the line. They'd be so hamstrung by such a law that they wouldn't be able to create MMORPGs if it applied.
Interestingly, many of the people at the roundtable (who, because of the nature of the conference, tended to have an indie viewpoint) were completely unaware that there was even the possibility of either of these two situations becoming a reality. This contrasts with the views of the players, academics and lawyers who have promoted the enactment of such laws, but who seem oblivious to the effects they would have on designers and developers.
Are we heading for trouble, here?
Games AI seems most associated most with single-player computer games. This is because with single-player games there is no social dimension to highlight (it is up to only the AI for dynamic content). However, AI has an important role yet to play in social "massively multiplayer" spaces, I believe. Consider the features readers of MMOWatch thought were important in RPGs (see site poll) as illustrative. In order of importance (at the time of my reading): "NPC interaction", "Character development", "Exploration", "Combat" (only 5%), "Puzzles", "Questing"...
A call for papers is out (AIIDE '08), details below. Readers here might take this time to suggest to those considering writing what they think are the important qualities of entertainment AI in MMORPGs.
The Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference (AIIDE '08) is soliciting papers and presentations on research and applications involving artificial intelligence in computer games and entertainment. The conference will take place on October 22-24, 2008, at Stanford University in California, USA. Paper drafts and talk proposals are requested before April 22, 2008. More details can be found at the conference website: http://www.aiide.org ...
This year's technical program includes a new Industry Track strictly for presentations in addition to the more traditional Research Track. Industry professionals who do not want to submit an academic paper are invited to propose an Industry Track presentation by submitting short abstract.
AIIDE is hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and is the premier conference on artificial intelligence in computer games and entertainment. It brings together technical leaders of game development and research to examine how artificial intelligence can improve games and entertainment, exchange information about new developments in the field, and share experiences in deploying AI in commercial products. The conference will feature invited talks from prominent industry professionals and academics, a full technical program, and a lively poster/demonstration session.
The speaker list and conference program will be announced in the summer of 2008. More information about AIIDE '08 can be found at: http://www.aiide.org
It's April 1st, but this is legit.
It's a hearing of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee. See this witness list and there's an MP3 of the proceedings now that can be found here. I'll refrain from comments until I've listened to all of this, but the opening statements of the Congressfolk were, to say the least, interesting.
Update: Video, audio, and prepared statements now archived here. Some news reports now available here. And one initial thought: apart from the opening remarks, this was mostly a hearing about Second Life. The speakers other than Rosedale talked primarily about Second Life and UGC worlds.
Update 2: On listening to testimony and further reflection, in lieu of commenting, I think I'll just point to Lum's reaction. I'm really not sure I have much to say about this event myself. Still, it is the first Congressional hearing on virtual worlds. I wonder what the first hearing on airplanes was like?
Update 3: Ok, my last comment on this, in reply to Raph's thoughts. If you can get past 1) the opening remarks, 2) the promotional video for Second Life, and 3) the fact that everyone at the hearing seemed to think that Second Life was synonymous with virtual worlds (made convenient by the fact that the other witnesses had major investments or involvements in Second Life), then you'll find the Q&A (starting at 51:20) has some very interesting stuff. Some of it shows the legislators being perceptive. Some of it shows the legislators and witnesses being not so perceptive. But if you're interested in the regulation of virtual worlds, it's worth a listen.