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:
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! :-)
We're thrilled to have Margaret Corbit joining us as a guest author this July. We asked Margaret (shown right on the Great Wall) to introduce herself:
How did a middle-aged white girl plant ecologist get into virtual worlds? Fair question. I worked at a supercomputing center for 15 years. At the same time that I was writing my thesis on hedgerows as conservation corridors for forest wildflowers, I was working full time at the Cornell Theory Center as the science writer. Then came the Web. And I was launched into visualization and interactivity and an online science book in 1993. Woo Hoo! One of my other lives is that of a graphic artist.
Since its inception in 2003, Terra Nova has been about promoting intelligent and sustained conversations among the community of virtual world researchers and creators. While those who manage the blog sometimes delete obvious spam and ban associated IP addresses, our practice has been to let individual authors control the moderation of comments on their own threads. However, some of the authors and commenters on Terra Nova have been concerned lately about the tone and substance of some of the comments posted here. The problem is not serious at this point, but it has prompted discussion. Given this, we thought it would be helpful to establish our basic expectations about the comments field.
We're very happy to have Robert Bloomfield guest-blogging with us on Terra Nova this June. Robert is a Professor of Accounting at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, where he directs both the Business Simulation Laboratory and the Doctoral Program. Trained as a behavioral game theorist, he has published the results of laboratory games and markets in journals representing most areas of business, from accounting and finance to organizational behavior, psychology, marketing and operations.
The last six months I have been on sabbatical from my day job at Innovation Lab, a Danish based think tank on emerging technologies & trends, to study business strategies and virtual world potentials, and have been fortunate to work with IBM’s Metaverse Evangelists in the UK and key personal from the 3D Internet & Virtual Business Opportunity group in the states and various IBMer’s in Second Life, for my masters degree in Information Science at the university of Aarhus, Denmark.
We're happy to have Bob McGinley joining us this month as a guest on Terra Nova. Bob is an Executive IT Architect for IBM working in Global Middleware Services. As an Application Architect with a background in software design and development, he has a knack for delivering large complex systems. Bob has developed several large scale government industry applications using a variety of development methodologies, coding languages, and system platforms. His career is now focused on simplifying and teaching web development to enhance development efficiency.
Michelle Hinn is an instructor in the department of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, where she teaches game design courses, and is the academic advisor for the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering living/learning community at the university. She was recently named one of Next Generation Magazine's 100 Most Influential Women in Gaming based on her work as chair of the IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group. She is also the head of the game division of a shareware/donationware company, DonationCoder.com.
We're happy to have Ian Lamont joining us as a guest author on Terra Nova for the month of May. Ian's self-introduction follows:
I'm the senior online projects editor at Computerworld, a trade publication covering the IT industry, and a graduate student at the Harvard Extension School, studying modern Chinese history and mass media. My thesis is based on a computer content analysis I performed on traditional media content (news articles published by the New China News Agency) but my research interests extend to Chinese Internet usage and regulations. Thanks to my studies, my job, and my blogging efforts, I have many opportunities to write about these and other technology-related topics that interest me, most notably 3D software tools, virtual worlds, and emerging media technologies.
We're happy, nay, delighted, to announce that Florence Chee will be joining us as a guest blogger on Terra Nova during the month of April. You may be able to spot Florence in the picture at right, obviously taken at considerable risk to the photographer.
For those unfortunate enough not to know Florence, some biographical detail follows.
We're happy, nay delighted, to welcome Elizabeth Townsend Gard and Rachel Goda as guest-bloggers this month on Terra Nova. They'll be writing about Fizzy Soderberg, Second Life, and first-year Property law. You'll have to stay tuned for the details, but if you want a preview of the topic, check out this site.
We'd like to thank Elizabeth and Rachel for visiting. We're looking forward to some good conversations!
With due respect to Cory, it's well known that there's a fair amount of PR-hype around Second life. (See Reuters and Ren on the hype cycle.) I think I've been as skeptical of Second Life news stories as anyone (except perhaps Clay Shirky). Yet while I have not drunk the Kool-aid they're handing out at Linden, sometimes one of the many self-promoting Second Life-related press releases I chance upon is really striking. Case in point is this one: As reported by Fortune, Coldwell Banker is now selling land in Second Life.
We're happy to welcome Bruce Damer as a guest author on Terra Nova this month. You may know of Bruce already, but below is a brief bio with links. We're really looking forward to Bruce's posts this March and to some lively conversations.
Popular Science has a fascinating and very long interview with uber-game designer Will Wright about all sorts of stuff readers here might find interesting. E.g., cooperative gaming, educational gaming, game development finances, strategies for integrating user-generated content, what went wrong with The Sims Online, and what WW thinks about Second Life (he's a fan). Here are a few snippets:
Q: Sims Online seemed like a slam dunk, got huge press, it was going to change the nature of gaming. And it still exists, but it wasn't the raging success people were expecting.
We've had several discussions in the past about comingling virtual world technologies with physical spaces to form augmented realities. (E.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 ) To give credit where it's due, Jerry Paffendorf has often chimed in with some great links and interesting comments on this topic. (E.g. 1, 2, 3) From time to time, we've also discussed the increasing technological viability of virtual-real mashup games like Human Pac-Man.
We're happy to welcome journalist Mark Wallace as a guest author on Terra Nova this February. Mark runs 3pointD.com, where he blogs about virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games and the broader metaverse. His writing on 3D online technologies and other subjects has appeared in Wired, The New York Times and many other publications.
We're excited to welcome Dr. Jennifer Dornan as our first 2007 guest author on Terra Nova. Jen is an anthropologist and game industry writer who will be posting some of her thoughts about MMOGs during the month of February. We asked her to write a brief description of her work and background. She did that and threw in a guessing game for good measure:
I’m a cultural/historical anthropologist that found myself applying my theoretical work in neruo-psychology and social theory to my long bouts of MMO playing as I avoided writing my dissertation. After completing my PhD (in record time, which I attribute to City of Heroes), I’ve spent the last 2 years teaching at a few universities, writing and designing for various game companies, freelancing as a multi-media producer/writer, and for some reason seem to move back and forth between Texas and California on a regular basis.
Jack Balkin and Beth Noveck have just published The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds. There are some extremely encouraging cover blurbs by Jon Zittrain ("spectacular"), Richard Garriott ("extremely comprehensive"), and Henry Jenkins ("the best thinkers in their fields"). In addition to articles by Jack and Beth, the book has pieces by: Richard Bartle, Yochai Benkler, Caroline Bradley, Edward Castronova, Susan Crawford, Julian Dibbell, Michael Froomkin, James Grimmelmann, David Johnson, Dan Hunter, Raph Koster, Greg Lastowka (that's me), Cory Ondrejka, Tracy Spaight and Tal Zarsky.
If you've got to have one book on virtual worlds and law (plus), this is it. The most important essays that made State of Play such a vibrant conference are now under one pretty roof. And even if you have most of these in some other form, like I do, this is a just nice book for your shelf and reference: a pleasant weight, a firm binding, and a nice readable typeface.
A new chance to add to your game-related tome collection: TN friends Greg Boyd and Brian ("Psychochild") Green are the editors of the Business and Legal Primer for Game Development. The book is primarily advice for those working in the game industry (not working on MMORPGs specifically) but it features a chapter from James Grimmelmann that gives advice on the construction of EULAs for virtual worlds. More detail on Brian's blog. There's also a chapter with some "I wish I knew then" remarks by Richard Bartle, Jessica Mulligan, and other recognizable names.
Why a post on Second Life? Because you just can't get away from Second Life these days -- putting aside the exact terms of Cory and Dmitri's bet, Second Life is certainly vying with WoW as the apple of the media's eye, the virtual world publicity monger du jour. For instance, in the past month of so I've personally encountered:
Marjorie Garber's Academic Instincts (Princeton 2001) is the kind of book that ought to be read in a warm and bustling university coffee shop furnished with comfy chairs, preferably during a single cold and overcast rainy (maybe snowy) afternoon. It is a niche book for a niche market: academics who are interested in a collection of anecdotes and thoughtful insights about their role in society and relative to each other. Those looking for something else, e.g. a wealth of rigorous data and empiricism, a tell-all about academic intrigue, a manifesto, or even a coherently defended thesis will probably be disappointed. (You'll see this disappointment on some of the Amazon reviews.) But if Garber's other published titles, like Dog Love and Sex and Real Estate, pique your interest, you might enjoy this book. It is partially a defense of such idiosyncratic investigations.
Which is why I mention it here. Garber is a professor of English at Harvard. The closest her book comes to having anything to do with virtual worlds is the few swipes it takes at "jargon" derived from cyberculture. And yet, in many ways, this book could serve as an important roadmap for Virtual World Studies, and perhaps even for this blog.
In the TN back channel, Nate called our collective attention to today's Washington Post, where Sara Kehaulani Goo writes an article, "Hear the Music, Avoid the Mosh Pit." The piece is primarily about the appearance of Suzanne Vega in Second Life on August 3, 2006. I wasn't "there," but you can watch the You Tube version (and listen to John Hockenberry) here.
My main take-away from both the video and the Post story, I think, is amazement at the intricate cross-currents of hype generation over the event.
This summer I've been busy writing an article that argues copyright law should be reformed to take greater account of authorial reputation as a motivator of creative production. The current draft is posted on SSRN here. While it might seem obvious to some readers that many artists create for love rather than money, our intellectual property laws (at least in the United States) tend to conceive of artistic production (protected by copyright law) as being motivated almost entirely by the pursuit of market profits. At least, the law of intellectual property conceives of copyright-protected works as simply valuable financial assets and investments of authorial labor that are made in pursuit of financial rewards.
I'd be interested in feedback on the article (here or by email) from Terra Nova readers -- while it isn't about virtual worlds, it does touch on many issues we have talked about here, such as Creative Commons, user-generated content, the Memex, advertising vs. content, etc. But this post is about one of the topics I didn't get a chance to explore in the article (it shows up in footnote 73 cryptically), namely, how factors other than the pursuit of reputation and money motivate creative production.
This is kind of fun: The Guardian runs an article on IP rights in Second Life, leading to some blogs discussing trademark law in particular. See Marty Schwimmer, Professor Rebecca Tushnet, Robert Scoble, and Jeremy Pepper. (And while you're at it, re-read Betsy Book's excellent work to get an in-depth treatment of branding activities in VWs.)
[Corrected July 5] On the day that Yanks celebrate our independence from
England Great Britain, South Korean jurist and Terra Nova author Unggi Yoon writes in with some MMORPG legal news from South Korea courts. It seem that NCSoft's Lineage has been hit by a major case two major cases of identity theft.
Well, not exactly, but close enough. EA is acquiring Mythic. Mythic will stay in Virgina and become EA Mythic. Mark Jacobs will become vice-president and general manager of the studio. The news reports are generally glowy re-hashed press releases. My informal survey of the buzz from the blogosphere reveals commentary that is a bit more mixed in tone:
Another Ph.D. dissertation focusing on virtual worlds -- this one is in the field of psychology. Jennifer Jamieson Bortle, Games People Play: Identity and Relationships in an Online Role-Playing Games. The research focuses on three players of Everquest. The abstract is below.
Now that Kopp v. Vivendi is off the radar, it is probably time to mention another virtual world-related lawsuit that has been making the news lately: Bragg v. Linden Lab.
The defendant in this case is not the owner of the first game we always
seem to talk about here (WoW) but the owner of the other
virtual world we always seem to talk about here (Second Life). The
lawsuit is rooted in a dispute over a virtual land deal and is being promoted by the lawyer-plaintiff as "a possible first-of-its-kind lawsuit" that is "unique because the land doesn’t actually exist."
Kopp v. Vivendi is old news, granted, but we never really got around to blogging it here. So to look for something new to say with this post, I went over to the Central District of California website and took a peek at the docket this week and... nothing much new to report. Some exciting filings about the pro hac vice issues but no answer yet to the Complaint.
If you follow MMORPG/techlaw news and didn't catch the stories about this suit the first time around, you've obviously been hiding under a virtual rock. See, e.g, Security Focus, Mike from TechDirt, Outlaw. Slashdot Games, Marty Schwimmer -- the list goes on. But anyway, here's a brief recap: it seems that gamer/uber power-leveling virtual moneybags/entrepeneur Brian Kopp brought suit (with help from the consumer defenders at Public Citizen) against Vivendi after auctions of his tome "The Ultimate World of Warcraft Levelling & Gold Guide" were repeatedly taken off eBay pursuant to the VeRO system by Vivendia and the ESA (no, not the Entomological Society of America -- the other ESA).
Over two years ago, I was reading this pretty well-known Alpha tester review of WoW, and came across this description of some of the Horde races in Kalimdor. I've been meaning to do a post about it ever since.
...Lean predators, they're as tall as night elves when they stand fully erect, but normally bob along, hunched over, coiled and ready to spring. While Warcraft players know them by their Jamaican accents, voodoo-flavored culture and wild hairstyles, the trolls are also cruel, sadistic and evil...
The closest things to true "good guys" in the Horde – perhaps in all of the World of Warcraft – the Taurens go far beyond just a simple Native American vibe to be true lords of the plains... They are a spiritual people who put new Tauren player characters through a series of rites of passage, including following the path of a spirit wolf. Yet another of the moments in WoW that just feel intensely RIGHT, Taurens have a quest requiring them to chase a kodo herd across the grass fields of Mulgore, as close to a fantasy game recreation of a buffalo hunt as you'll ever come... The Tauren homeland of Mulgore is "big sky country," Montana to the Africa of the Barrens.
So to this Alpha reviewer, at least, it seemed the Horde "races" were all pinned, at least to some degree, to particular cultural groups and practices... does this raise any issues?
Grand Text Auto is kind of our evil (good?) twin in the industry/academic video gaming collablog space -- a bunch of really smart folks blogging together about games. While we focus mainly on virtual worlds here, GTxA focuses mainly on interactive fiction. (If you don't read it regularly, there's an index here with a topical list of posts.)
Besides being smart, the GTxA folks are creative to boot. Most of our readers are probably familiar with the ground-breaking Façade by Stern and Mateas, hailed by the New York Times and gaming theory guru Chris Crawford. Last week, Nick Monfort, author of Twisty Little Passages, released Book and Volume -- an interactive fiction work available for free online. If you're interested in thinking about future possibilities of the MMOG form (i.e. is there an alternative to rat-whacking and FedExing?) you should take a look at this stuff. Plus, it's free -- can't beat that.
The Methical EQ II dupe story has made it to the mainstream media. Mark Turner writes a piece for the Financial Times about the incident (mentioned previously here), quoting Ted and Josh, among others. Ted says: "The phase we're in right now is that everyone is trying to apply the proper metaphor. This is terra nova; a lot of these phenomena are frontier phenomena."
A few interesting news notes if people want to comment:
1) The EFF has a critical take on Blizzard's "Warden" software that scans user drives. Kind of old news here -- Jess posted on this back in August and it was discussed then. Eric Goldman's take on a similar flap about Sony's EULAized scanware is here. (Update from Ross Smith in the comments: this is too funny -- according to Security Focus, Sony's rootkit hack will reportedly let WoW hackers escape Warden's detection by adding a "$sys$" prefix to file names.)
2) There were apparently reports on Pacific Epoch of a "mass suicide" protest on China's WoW servers to protest the new fatigue regulations, noted here previously. As usual, it's hard to get independent confirmation or details. (Here's another story today from Pacific Epoch about an unusual "hunger strike.") (Update: Joystiq points to a virtual funeral for another player who reportedly died from overplaying -- so I guess these people might support the regulations?)
3) Are "virtual" things bad for you? It's a question as old as Plato, but it's still very much alive. Joystiq takes up the old questions with a NY Times health editorial where a psychologist states:
The growth of technology has cleaved us from the reality of self, as well. We say that we are "going" places on the Internet without ever leaving the room. In elaborate Internet-based games, people pay thousands of dollars to own "real estate" that isn't real at all.
Can't say how many times we've talked about that before.
4) Speaking of Plato, do you want to try your hand at a pre-MUD
MMORPG MMORPG-resembling thinget? (Richard can clarify why this really wasn't a MMORPG). Then read on:
It seems that all of us here in New York at State of Play III have been busier taking part in the live conversation than blogging. For those not here, it looks like the video archive will be made available at this link. (The opening panel is up already.) There's also a live web feed at that same link, if you're reading this on Saturday. To find SoP III participants more diligent than us on the live blogging front, try this search.
Last year when I was busy in Loch Modan, I stumbled over Stonewrought Dam (pictured at right) which spans its northern edge. Peering over the edge, I succumbed to a primal urge and flung my low-level night elf warrior over the edge. I died, of course -- but it was fun.
We've been discussing MMORPGs and social issues here at Terra Nova for nearly two years, and, if memory serves me right, we've never once mentioned attorney Jack Thompson in the body of a post. Most of our discussion of politics has stayed in the heady realm of LamdaMOO politics, and has not delved into disputes over video game-related state regulations. (We have talked about that here, but rarely.) So it is interesting to see a blog like Game Politics, which focuses almost exclusively on those state regulatory efforts, starting to pay some attention to MMOs. Check out this thread, for instance, on The Great Virtual Market Crash of 2005. It starts out noting the same website Ted pointed to (with some skepticism) in this post -- but the discussion quickly turns to Jack Thompson, who even makes an appearance in the comments. I wonder if, as MMORPGs and virtual economies take a more prominent role in the mainstream, blogs like Game Politics and Terra Nova will be operating in closer proximity?
Unggi just alerted us to this: The Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) has declared that on October 1, a fatigue system will be instituted in many major MMORPGs, including WoW and Lineage 2. See this report. The Chinese regulations are aimed at reducing time spent playing. According to the linked report: "The system will only award players full experience points for the first three hours of each day, half experience for the next two hours, and no experience after five hours." If you read Chinese, see this and this too -- and feel free to translate for us.
Looks like we're starting to see state involvement with MMORPG game mechanics. Undoubtedly this has something to do with addiction concerns and the several reported incidents of death during over-playing. It is interesting to note that a fatigue system was originally built into WoW, but was swapped in beta for the inn rest=XP bonus system they now have -- I think this was due to negative player reactions. More details on the "Beijing Accord" from Gamasutra and the Financial Times.