Lecture Videos and Slides
The lectures for this week are on Monday, September 25th at 1:15pm and Tuesday, September 26th at 1:15pm. Both will be taped. They will be available here in QuickTime format approximately 24 hours after they occur.
Virtual Worlds Intro Video (showed partially in 09-26-06 class, this is the full version)
Get the Videos Delivered (or if you have trouble w/ playback)
- Democracy Player is a free and open source video player/aggregator that will download and play back your class videos (sort of like a TiVo for your computer).
- Mplayer is another free and open source video player with its own codecs for playing Real(tm) and Quicktime(tm) (as well as all the other common formats). Some people who have problems with Democracy Player can play the videos with mplayer.
- VLC is another video player. It is, in my opinion (this being Dean), far easier to use than Mplayer.
This week has been adopted by Team Mutumbo at 2:02 pm on 9/12/2006
Team Mutumbo consists of:
Virtual Worlds Introduction
- To what extent will or should real-world governments regulate or otherwise interact with virtual worlds?
- What points of control are available for regulation of virtual worlds?
- How "real" are virtual worlds? What is at stake in such a question? What prompts us to ask it, and what would the answer turn on? Why do we become emotional when we discuss it? Do you agree or disagree with the view espoused in this essay (which argues that Virtual Worlds Are Real)?
- Professor Nesson mentioned an article by someone at the Berkman center which criticized virtual activism on the grounds that it is necessarily "inauthentic." But it would seem that everything that goes on in a virtual world is "inauthentic" in at least some sense. Does that mean that we should stay out of virtual worlds altogether?
What is a Virtual World?
A virtual world is an interactive simulated environment accessed by multiple users through an online interface. Virtual worlds are also called "digital worlds," "simulated worlds" and "MMOG's." There are many different types of virtual worlds, however there are six features all of them have in common:
- Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once.
- Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually, ranging in style from 2D "cartoon" imagery to more immersive 3D environments.
- Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time.
- Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized content.
- Persistence: the world's existence continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in.
- Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups like teams, guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, neighborhoods, etc.
Purposes for Virtual Worlds
- Commercial Gaming - MMORPG
- Socializing/Online Community Building
- Political Expression
- Military Applications
- Castronova says that Virtual Worlds are a good place to study the meaning of "Utopia," the creation of governments, social norms and conventions, markets, poverty, and law and economics (see Appendix A of "Virtual Worlds").
Reality, Virtual Reality, and Gray Areas
Actions contained within the virtual world, constrained by code
Actions that overlap with the real world
- eBay market for virtual property
- Virtual World, Real Money
- Norrath: $3.42/hour income per capita
- The Sims Online: exchange rate of 15,000 simoleans per US$
- $20 million in sales through eBay online games category
- Virtual World, Real Money
- Virtual sweatshops
- Tax on virtual income
Why Go Virtual?
Outlets for creative expression
Outlets for baser tendencies:
- Grand Theft Auto debate:
- Cathartic or desensitizing?
Virtual Rights, Real Remedies?
Arguments for virtual property rights
- Justifications for real property apply to virtual property
- Ownership in virtual world is âvirtuallyâ identical to ownership in real world
- Exclusive right to use
- Persistent control
- Right and ability to transfer
Arguments against virtual property rights
- Virtual property is created and controlled by provider of virtual world, not by player
- Virtual property, insofar as it exists, remains in possession of provider
- Player only possesses license to use in virtual world
Against whom may these rights be enforced?
Who should enforce these rights or provide remedies for their violation?
Possible real world analogues
- Casino/gambling chips
- Domain names
- Contracts for Virtual Performance
- Exchange of real-world cash for virtual world performance (delivery).
Should in-game creative expression be protected?
- YES: user creations constitute independent creative expression
- NO: user creations are insubstantial additions to the virtual world
What form of protection should be available to this expression?
- Rights of Publicity in Virtual Personae
Who should own the rights to this expression? Should this be addressed on a case-by-case basis?
- Attacks on property?
- Defamation of virtual personae?
- Virtual prostitution?
Castronova on Virtual Worlds
Questions to consider when reading
- What do you make of the comparison Castronova repeatedly suggests between the first European immigrants to the "New World" and those who are beginning to spend substantial amounts of time in Virtual Worlds?
- Castronova predicts that VW's "may soon become one of the most important forums for human interaction" and "induce widespread changes in the organization of Earth Society." What forms will such change take and how profound will they be?
- How can we reconcile Castronova's claim that Virtual Worlds will substantially affect our future with the view of John Barlow that traditional governments should not try to regulate cyberspace? Is there a tension or a conflict here?
- Wiki entry for Edward Castronova: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Castronova
- Edward Castronova's Webpage: http://mypage.iu.edu/~castro/
- Wiki entry for Virtual Economy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_economy
- BBC story about Castronova: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3570224.stm
- Weblog on academic studies on virtual worlds, hosted by Castronova: http://terranova.blogs.com/
- Wall Street Journal Article on Copyrighting dress designs in Second Life: http://online.wsj.com/wsjgate?subURI=%2Farticle%2FSB115888412923570768-email.html&nonsubURI=%2Farticle_email%2FSB115888412923570768-lMyQjAxMDE2NTI4MzgyODM0Wj.html
- Popular Science article that has attracted many newcomers to Second Life recently, and includes a picture of Harvard's Virtual Campus: http://www.popsci.com/popsci/technology/7ba1af8f3812d010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html
Other Virtual Worlds
Castranova's article was written in 2002. Since that time, many other MMORPG's besides Everquest (and its sequel) have become massively popular. Below is a list of virtual worlds that are currently very popular in the United States** and brief descriptions about them for all the potential gamers out there. [**While games such as World of Warcraft are popular on a global basis, games, like movies, have a strong local presence. Some online games that are extremely popular in Europe or Asia, for instance, may be unknown and/or inaccessible in the U.S. and vice versa.]
- EVE Online In this game (released in 2003) you are an inhabitant on EVE, a place far away from Earth. Humans arrived in EVE through a natural wormhole, but were unable to determine their whereabouts. Through the wormhole gate humans were able to expand into vastness of space and created countless colonies, collectively called the New Eden system. Then, suddenly the EVE wormhole gate closed and the New Eden system collapsed, with only a few of the cut off colonies surviving. Together these colonies were fashioned into five separate empires, but the existing peace between them is tenuous at best.
- World of Warcraft The land of Azeroth is where one finds himself as he begins his adventure in World of Warcraft, the latest game (released in 2004) in the award winning Warcraft world. The age-old feud between humans and orcs has raised its foul head and war is at hand. Each side has formed an alliance, and the new player must choose his allegiance before creating a character. The humans have teamed with the gnomes, the dwarves, and the night elves, collectively known as the Alliance. The orcish Horde has enlisted the aid of the undead, the trolls, and the Tauren, a tribal race of bull-like creatures. Multiple characters may be created, but characters on the same server must all be on the same side. No problem playing both Alliance and Horde characters, just not on the same server.
- Neverwinter Nights Online Role Playing Game, but arguably not "massive" (server is limited to 64 simultaneous players). Unlike MMORPGs, servers are hosted and run by the players themseluoves. NWN's AuroraScript game engine allows users to create their own "mods" -- arguably one of the most powerful toolkits released to date for users to create their own games or virtual experiences.
- Guild Wars To Be Continued...
- Dark Age of Camelot To Be Continued...
- Star Wars Galaxies To Be Continued...
- A Tale in the Desert - A social experiment where players are expected to recreate the society of ancient Egypt through gameplay--everything in the game is "learned" and created by the users, from small houses to huge temples. Though much smaller than the previous games, it has much more interesting social structures.
- The Sims Online - The Sims Online was developed as an online extension to the popular Sims game, in which players create people that inhabit a world where they do essentially banal things like cook dinner, go to work, use the bathroom, take care of pets and make enemies and friends.
-  - UOGamers is a group that runs "freeshards" -- a popular MMORPG, Ultima Online, has been essentially reverse-engineered so that anyone can download and run the software to have their own Ultima Online server (where originally, you had to pay a monthly fee and could only play on the official servers). Many of these are not-for-profit, volunteer-run servers that can have tens of thousands of players. This is an intermediate stage between strictly corporate-controlled virtual words and completely user-controlled; much like the idea that you have to own a printing press before you can enjoy freedom of the press, you have to own a server (or perhaps volunteer to give free help to someone who does) to have control over a virtual world.
- For a summary of MMORPG market share as of July 2006, see MMORPGCHART.com
Links about Virtual Worlds
- Terra Nova - Blog about MMORPGs launched by, inter alia, Castronova
- New World Notes - Blog about Second Life
- Virtual Darfur - Ethan Zuckerman's Critique of Second Life
- Machinima: Text 100 in Second Life -Interesting video by First PR firm in Second Life
- CNET launches Second Life presence -Article includes SLurl-link to SL
- Living a Second Life - Recent Economist article on SL
- News Service in SL - London's The Guardian newspaper on Reuter's newest beat
- Casino Software is another media of playing casino legally