Ethics of ARGs
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 July 2012, 4:05 pm
Ren ReynoldsIn the latest Social Change Technology podcast Burcu Bakioglu talks to Andrea Phillips about Alternate Reality games, their design and some of the interesting legal and ethical issues that come up. Those in the TN community that have been watching / making / playing ARGs for the last few years will be familiar with some of the issues - such as what if someone gets hurt, how far can a 'fiction' go before it is deception? While some of the issues raised in the podcast are specific to games that have a very physical element and a fictional layer that...


The decline of Zynga and Facebook?
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 July 2012, 11:12 am
Edward CastronovaInteresting things happening on the interactive social media front. IPO darlings Facebook and Zynga have seen their stock prices falling quite a bit lately. There's more analysis than information, but one thread stuck out at me: The idea that the attention garnered by Zynga and Facebook is not sustainable. For example, Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra carefully unpacks the dyanamics of attention when the portfolio consists of shiny empty games. It works for awhile, but eventually the users become bored at what is after all a very shallow experience. Over at CNN Money, Ben Rooney reports one analyst's conjecture that Facebook...


When FPS becomes virtual world
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 July 2012, 11:38 am
Edward CastronovaOur friend Marcus Carter (PhD Student at the University of Melbourne) sends in this report about DayZ. Back in the day, we pushed CounterStrike and friends out of the virtual world category because the multi-user environments were not persistent. Now of course all the lines blur; console-based achievement systems create a persistent community at the hub of every FPS. DayZ takes it a step further, adding a massive spatial environment. When an FPS gets a huge persistent map, we are back to Trammel. Here is Marcus' report. Have you heard about DayZ yet? If you’re willing to do battle with...


UK Consumers have rights over you
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 July 2012, 6:03 pm
Ren ReynoldsThe UK is considering a set of laws that give consumers rights over the providers of digital stuff. These new consumer rights will blow a hole through EULAs and side step a whole mess of intellectual property law. All UK consumers of ‘digital content’ would have these rights irrespective of where it’s provided from, the rights cannot be contracted out of, and the remedies apply to content providers where ever they are. In short, if you are a game company based anywhere selling to the UK - you need to pay attention. This is a consultation so none of it...


The right of publicity in video games
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 July 2012, 10:07 am
greglasI've got a short essay up over at Gamasutra about the right of publicity in video games. The fundamental question is this -- if you create a game (or virtual world) and you want to include in that setting an indentifiable individual, do you need to pay a licensing fee to that person or the heir of that person? If games are like books, and not a second class medium, the answer should be "no." If I write a book, and a character in the book has a chance encounter with William Shatner or Harrison Ford, the artistic use of...


The Secret World
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 July 2012, 3:45 pm
Edward CastronovaAn interesting new MMOG is the Secret World. Much is being made of its class-free system, but for me the real innovation is in the spatial relationship of meaning to the geography. Thank heavens (or is it a plan by the Council of Rome) that we have finally gotten away from quest hubs. Instead, as you run through the zombie apocalypse, you see a smashed delivery truck and a package that is interactable. This leads you on a little mystery that is of independent narrative interest, and gains heft in the circumstances of the game. A package being delivered to...


Book Review: "As If" by Michael Saler
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 July 2012, 10:57 am
Edward CastronovaI don't normally go in for cultural studies. But every once in awhile, there's a piece that comes up with concepts that tightly and elegantly express thoughts that many are feeling but cannot put to words. Saler's As If is such a book. He addresses himself to "the literary prehistory of virtual reality," drawing connections between the works of Conan Doyle, Lovecraft, and Tolkien and our current exodus into computer-generated fantasy spaces. We have all known that there is a kinship between the 1930s dame obsessed with Holmes and the 2010 gamer obsessed with Onyxia, but it has never been...


Facebook Credits Are Dead, Long Live Virtual Currencies
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 June 2012, 11:23 am
Edward CastronovaYesterday, Facebook killed its virtual currency. (Thanks Travis Ross for the heads up.) However, the payment systems behind the FB Credit remain in place, including the outrageous 30% redemption tax, which provided FB with 18 percent of its revenue last year. The difference seems to be one of branding. An FB app can have its own virtual currency and give users a link where they can pay cash to FB (in local currencies - Yen, Euros, whatever Greece decides on, etc.) in return for the virtual coin. The coin then flows through the app back to the devs. The devs...


Unggi YoonSince 2007, by Game Industry Promotion Act and its Implementing Decree, S. Koreans shoud not do business for exchanging or mediating exchanges of, and repurchasing in-game money or data like in-game items that are produced or obtained by copying, adaptating, and hacking the game program or by way of abnomal game-play. The word of 'by way of abnomal game-play' has been generally understood as 'using Bots in game', and many sweatshop owners and RMT dealers who broke the law were punished. On the other hand, Supreme Court of S. Korea ruled that RMT itself is not totally banned by this...


Korea to Ban Sale of Virtual Items, Botting
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 June 2012, 11:38 am
Edward CastronovaWe reported in 2006 that the National Assembly was considering something like this. However, later Korean Supreme Court decisions seemed to legalize some game-to-real market activity. Now however the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is pushing ahead a series of provisions that will criminalize virtual item sales and especially the use of automated programs to farm virtual items. This was first mentioned by Shander in our Diablo III comment thread, referencing this reliable source elsewhere (thanks Shander!). According to the source, maximum penalties are 5 years in prison and a 50m Won ($45,000) fine. Justifying the law, the government...


Diablo III Real-Money Auction House: First Thoughts
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 June 2012, 3:49 pm
Edward CastronovaYesterday the Diablo III Real-Money Auction House opened for business. I'll call it the RMAH and it's interesting that the game company also calls it that. "Real money auction house." The company, Blizzard Entertainment, wants the players to think that the gold coins of the game are not real money while the dollar is real money. We'll see how long that lasts.The terms of service for the game actually put "real money" in quotes at one point. After the fold, a little of my personal experience and some thoughts on what it means. I spent about $10 total on four...


Out with the new, in with the old
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 June 2012, 1:10 am
greglasTwo quick things: 1) the weblog got an overdue facelift, and 2) we apparently outlived a certain television show. Both are causes for minor celebration.


Euro Fears Drive Wealth Into Virtual Currency
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 June 2012, 1:08 pm
According to the Financial Post, as confidence in the Eurozone falls, purchases of Bitcoins originating in Eurozone countries is rising. It's a correlation. But perhaps indeed some people are seeing the Bitcoin as a safe haven. You wouldn't put it in Facebook Credits, because of the exorbitant cashing-out fee of 30%. This is another instance of completely normal economic behavior - switching from risky money to safer money - that nonetheless seems weird because the allegedly safer money is generated by a software program and has nothing to do with the real world. But what, after all, does the Euro...


Third-Party Money
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 June 2012, 10:00 am
We've become used to the idea that a social media or game developer would launch their own currency within their system. With Facebook Credits, we have a third-party cirtual money approach. That idea is apparent in other areas, notably GetJar Gold. GetJar is a distributor of Android apps, but it also offers a virtual currency service that can be integrated into the apps. For us iPhone users, it would be as if iTunes had something like "iBucks," where the iBuck appears in the apps you use. This is an interesting parallel to the real world, where at some point it...


Virtual Comedy Stages
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 May 2012, 11:06 am
Got an email (copied after the break) from a comedian seeking to drive traffic to a charity website. He and his buddies are playing games in Iron Man Mode: One death. Nice, funny premise. It's consistent with Yogscast, the effort by two Brits to perform through Minecraft. My kids watched Yogscast as much as they played the game. "O Lewis! O Simon! AHHHHHH" It was funny. When serious game content goes over the top - see Tera - it's too, too funny to knock it down. Drives role-players mad, of course. In this ironic age, we're all looking for a...


Smithsonian Art of Video Games
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 May 2012, 2:58 pm
So I was lucky enough to get a guided tour of the Smithsonian's Art of Video Games exhibit last week by curator Georgina Goodlander. If you're in DC, it is worth a visit, plus it will be venturing off on a traveling tour at the end of the year. What I found curious, but not surprising, was my mixture of excitement and disappointment at seeing video games displayed as "art" in the Smithsonian. During a long stretch of my adolescence, I trained as a visual artist, with the hope of one day producing something worthy of placement in a museum....


Go visit Petra's Planet
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 May 2012, 10:34 am
Petra is a Finnish girl who, in the storybooks, is able to fly around the world and see many different cultures. On the Petra's PLanet MMO, the player does what Petra does: Go to different countries. There's nothing special or amazing about this, and that's what's special and amazing. In a decade, we've gone from 4 MMOGs and perhaps 6 immersive world-type games, to the point where a small country's story for children spawns its own immersive virtual environment. Remember in 1995 when the headlines screamed "Soon there will be computers in cars and refrigerators!" Well, today there are indeed...


New name same cast
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 May 2012, 6:51 am
Just to let TN readers know - I changed the name of the Virtual Policy Network's podcast to: Social Change Technology. That seemed to best sum up what it's about. We've done a few shows recently that TN'ers might like - they are also a bit of a TN All Star cast: TL Taylor on e-Sports Mia Consalvo and friend-of-the-show Ron Miners on the social aspects of so-called Social Games We've also had a preview of this year's Federal Consortum for Virtual Worlds conference; Burcu Bakioglu talkiing to Michael Andersen about transmedia story telling and me talking to Rita J,...


Bitcoins can be stolen
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 May 2012, 11:19 am
Couple of reports from the world of the virtual currency Bitcoin indicate that it has become a hacker target. A BTC is worth about $5 at the moment; the thefts are in the 6-digit area in terms of dollars. What do we have here? A real-world currency who holders are subject to extraordinary attacks? Or is it a virtual currency that is necessarily more vulnerable to security risks? Or, are the holders of Bitcoin small-scale operations with insufficient security? I can't tell; I don't know enough about security. I wonder how this hacker-theft rate compares to the theft rate for...


New Book: Virtual Economies and Financial Crime
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 May 2012, 10:00 am
I thought reader must be interested in the forthcoming title from Edward Elgar: Virtual Economies and Financial Crime, by Dr. Clare Chambers Jones. Here is the description from the publisher: Virtual economies and financial crime are ever-growing, increasingly significant facets to banking, finance and anti-money laundering regulations on an international scale. In this pathbreaking and timely book, these two important issues are explored together for the first time in the same place. Clare Chambers-Jones examines the jurisprudential elements of cyber law in the context of virtual economic crime and explains how virtual economic crime can take place in virtual worlds....


Is it gambling?
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 May 2012, 1:45 pm
So, you do something in a virtual world and you get a random item. Say, you kill a dragon. The item has real-world value. You obtained it as a result of three things: You paid or registered to play the game, you performed an action that may have required skill or maybe not, and the system executed a random item generation process. Still, it's not gambling. Right? It's monster-raiding. OK, now you go into a social network and do something and you get a random virtual item of nontrivial value. Say, you 'Liked' somebody's pic and you got a free...


Uncharted's Designer Heads to the Ivory Tower
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 April 2012, 2:11 pm
We've talked before in this space about academia and industry working together, and how much the academy needs to hire expertise from game developers. In perhaps the biggest such hire ever, USC has hired Richard Lemarchand. I wish I knew how much they had to pay him, as we are trying to come up with a way to do something similar. Any guesses?


Facebook Credits Under Attack
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 April 2012, 11:09 am
Earlier we reported that Google decided not to have a virtual currency. Facebook's Credits may face legal challenges, as Joystiq reports.


Virtual Currency Exchanges on the Upswing
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 April 2012, 8:58 am
Back in the day, say 2004 or 2005, some far-seeing folks tried to set up virtual currency exchanges. Traffic was too light at the time, but now it seems to be a sustainable business model with some venture buy-in. See this article in Forbes. Here's the skinny: The exchanges stand ready to transfer balances in either direction for a large number of currencies, including $. It's a natural next step in the evolution of this space. When there were a zillion European currencies, banks made a lot of money just helping you switch from one to another. "If it's Drachma,...


Latest Virtual Currency: $C
Posted by Terra Nova [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 April 2012, 2:46 pm
Everybody in Buffalo and Detroit jokes about their northern neighbor's "play money." But it may soon go digital in a way that looks more like Yo-Ho-Ho money than than Euros.


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