The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. New Scientist – A virtual refuge from recession. “Do these two graphs look related to you? This blogger concerned with virtual world Second Life thinks they might be, using them to suggest that the current global “credit crunch” has driven the growth of virtual world Second Life’s economy.”

2. Social Science Research Network – Criminal Law in Virtual Worlds. “When does conduct by an online player in a virtual world game trigger liability for a real-world crime? In the future, will new criminal laws be needed to account for new social harms that occur in virtual worlds? This short essay considers both questions. Part I argues that existing laws regulate virtual worlds with little or no regard to the virtual reality they foster. Criminal law tends to follow the physical rather than the virtual: it looks to what a person does rather than what the victim virtually perceives. This dynamic greatly narrows the role of criminal law in virtual worlds. Existing law will not recognize virtual murder, virtual threats, or virtual theft. Virtual worlds will be regulated like any other game, but their virtualness normally will have no independent legal resonance from the standpoint of criminal law.”

3. Wall Street Journal – Sony Again Delays PS3 Virtual Community. “Sony Corp.’s videogame unit delayed for the second time the release of its much-anticipated virtual-community service for the PlayStation 3, showing the extra care it is taking in vetting products as demand for the videogame console is increasing. The 3-D service called Home, which originally was expected to be sold starting last year, now is expected to be available in the fall, the company said. The service will let users create avatar characters, decorate homes and interact with other users in a virtual world.”

4. IT Week – The virtual world is your oyster. “While the influence of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace on firms’ sales and marketing initiatives continues to grow, some experts predict that their impact will soon be dwarfed by that of another Web 2.0 technology – virtual worlds.”

5. Times Online – McKinsey: ignore Second Life at your peril. “Virtual worlds such as Second Life will become an indispensible business tool and vital to the strategy of any company intent on reaching out to the video-game generation, one of the world’s leading consultancies has said. McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm whose observations about corporate behaviour are closely watched, said that virtual worlds were on the cusp of a major expansion – particularly as a way to reach younger customers – and that companies were “ignoring them at their peril.”

6. CNET – Real solar homes come to virtual world ‘Second Life’. “It’s about time green architects invaded Second Life. The organizers of the Solar Decathlon are hosting an event in Second Life on Thursday where people can attend a virtual conference and then get a virtual walk-through of a house designed to be powered entirely by the sun.”

7. Indianapolis Star – Celebrate the Earth with eco-friendly sites. “If the celebrations of Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 25) have triggered your child’s interest in “going green,” here are some fun online ways to further that interest. At the PBS Kids EekoWorld, www.EekoWorld.org, kids ages 6 through 9 can explore environmental issues by participating in two simulations.”

8. Sydney Morning Herald – Why games matter. “Madison Reed, an 11-year-old Spinal Muscular Atrophy sufferer, is sad and mad. It’s not because “my muscles don’t work right” as she says on her blog, because she’s “just like other kids” and loves life, even if she needs help with most tasks. The reason she’s sad and mad is because Disney has decided to close its Virtual Magic Kingdom on May 21.”

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