The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. CNET (USA) – Metaplace secures funding for its virtual world. “Metaplace, a company that plans on letting users build a virtual world and use social networking conventions to allow groups to enjoy them, announced today that it raised $6.7 million of funding in a round that was led by Charles River Ventures and Crescendo Ventures, as well as independent investors, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz.”

2. Salon (USA) – Muxlim Pal to be world’s first Muslim-themed virtual world. “For the last couple of years in Second Life, there have been reproductions of Islamic holy sites, including a virtual Mecca (with a virtual Kabaa), and a small handful of virtual mosques, including replicas of the Hassan II mosque in Morocco, the Chebi mosque (a replica of the Mezquita mosque in Cordoba, Spain), Istanbul’s Blue mosque and a few others.”

3. Times Online (UK) – Jilted Japanese woman questioned by police after ‘murdering’ her virtual husband. “It was a classic crime of passion: a bored husband walking out on his marriage, his spurned wife so enraged by the desertion that she was driven to kill him. The murder, in May, was swift and cold-blooded but justice is inexorable. The perpetrator, a piano teacher from the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, sits in police custody awaiting charges that could send her to jail for years. One thing sets this apart from the standard crime passionel, however: it happened in a virtual world to online characters in an interactive game. But the legal consequences for the “killer” are being played out in the real world.”

(The mainstream media have loved this story in the past few days – nearly 600 publications have run the story so far)

4. The Canadian Press (Canada) – Compulsive gamers build strong emotional attachments to online world. “When 15-year-old Brandon Crisp occasionally got out of line, his parents would discipline him with the method they believed worked best: take away his prized Microsoft Xbox. Steve and Angelika Crisp would eventually return the gaming console to the Barrie, Ont., teen, who would resume playing his favourite game, “Call of Duty 4,” late into the night.”

5. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Reality bites? A second life is virtually yours. “Ricardo Malveira has a simple piece of advice for those faced with the grim reality of the slowing global economy: avoid it. While the Australian dollar and the All Ordinaries shed huge chunks of their value in recent months, Mr Malveira’s business has been booming; where other businesses in the retail sector have seen a downturn in demand, he has a long list of clients. The business Mr Malveira created with his wife, Maria, exists in the virtual world Second Life, though his profits and business prospects are more stable than those of the outside world.”

6. iReport (USA) – Virtually Very Angry. “n real life you have to deal with all sorts of emotions, joy, sadness, love and anger. CNN have asked the members in their Second Life group of ireporters to tell them about how people deal with anger in the virtual world and what makes them angry. Well, real life is stressful enough, as most people know, and sometimes anger is a hard emotion to cope with. I have seen people angry in Second Life when personalities clash and they argue, resulting to name calling and even using the limited power of SL weapons to pay their enemy back.”

7. Wired (USA) – Dutch youths convicted of virtual theft. “A Dutch court has convicted two youths of theft for stealing virtual items in a computer game and sentenced them to community service. Only a handful of such cases have been heard in the world, and they have reached varying conclusions about the legal status of “virtual goods.”

8. Globe and Mail (Canada) – U.S. campaign heats up in Second Life. “It’s not just Earthbound voters who are intensely following the U.S. presidential campaign: The race also is a hot topic in the virtual world of Second Life. John McCain supporters and Barack Obama supporters – more accurately, the personas they have created – meet regularly in Second Life, described on its website as “an online, 3D virtual world imagined and created by its residents.” They watch the presidential debates together. They make T-shirts, banners and yard signs. They hold voter registration drives and rally on Capitol Hill.”

9. PSFK (UK) – Augmented Reality, Virtual Insanity. “There is an old curse that goes like this: “May you live in interesting times” It doesn’t get any more interesting than two recent strange news stories about digital worlds sparking irrational behavior in the real world. These two items illustrate the weird problems we could be encountering on a regular basis as bleed-through increases across the border of the real and virtual worlds.”

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