The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Japan Times (Japan) – Need for reality checks. “The line between real and virtual worlds has become more confused than ever. Two weeks ago, a woman was arrested after “killing” her virtual husband who had divorced her in an online game called “Maple Story.” She was arrested not on charges of murder, but on charges of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data. She was taken to face real charges in Sapporo, where the real man whose “avatar,” or online persona, was “killed” really lives.”

2. Linux Insider (USA) – Virtual Learning and the Avatar Generation. “Online learning is evolving into much more than discussions via Blackboard. Today’s online learners are spending time engaged in discussions, meeting in virtual classrooms, and combining online and on-the-ground learning, even if they live time zones away from campus. In response, universities are adjusting their curriculum, learning expectations, and changing how instructors approach topics online. One major challenge, creating and maintaining learning communities in virtual space, is testing both existing and emerging online tools. Jeremy Kemp, assistant director of San Jose State University’s Second Life Campus, never meets his students. Instead, he gets to know them through their avatars. The first thing Kemp teaches his library science graduate students is how to do basic things, like how to share information without interrupting each other, how to outfit their avatars and how to deal with technology problems, like when one avatar is in and out of class as their computer crashes and reboots.”

3. London Free Press (Canada) – Gamers, at any cost. “We are stalking the mountainous terrain on our horse in this world of warlocks, druids, hunters and warriors. Thick purple clouds hang in the sky, blanketing the area and casting it into a permanent violet dusk. Lightning strikes fall around us. Here, in this virtual landscape, where relationships are formed through pixilated images on a computer screen and a few dashes of the keyboard send us into a language with its own dictionary, we have reached Level 70 of World of Warcraft – the most popular online role-playing game on the market.”

4. BBC News (UK) – Capturing the scents of warfare. “Video games use realistic graphics and sounds to create virtual worlds. Now researchers in Birmingham are adding smells to the experience to prepare soldiers for war.
I’m walking along an Iraqi street. I can hear the sounds of a crowd somewhere in the distance.
The call to prayer echoes around as I move towards the still-burning wreckage of a bombed bus. The smell of charred rubber fills my nostrils.”

5. Emirates Business 24/7 (UAE) – A virtual victory. “While crowds gathered at public rallies and millions of others glued themselves to cable news, many spent US election night online – and they had plenty of company this time around.
Across the internet, users were discussing, celebrating and bemoaning Democrat Barack Obama’s unfolding election victory inside virtual worlds, on social networking sites and liveblogs and in online games. Others used techno-savvy websites to share their individual voting experiences throughout the day. A motley crew of election voyeurs gathered to watch voting results pour in from across the country on a giant map inside Second Life, the online virtual world developed by San Francisco-based Linden Lab where pixelated avatars fly around and interact with each other. For months, volunteers have been unofficially campaigning inside the behemoth virtual world.”

6. Gamasutra (USA) – The China Angle: China Tries And Buys Social Gaming. “One of the things that people in the game industry say is that the industry is in some way recession-proof because games are viewed as a cheaper alternative entertainment than eating out and going to expensive clubs. Of course, one still has to buy the appropriate console and software, but on a dollar-per-hour measure, it is still cheap.”

7. Forbes.com (USA) – A Realer Virtual World . “For the large majority of Internet users, virtual worlds like Second Life remain a confusing landscape of empty buildings, failed marketing and furry strangers. But Joe Paradiso believes that virtual worlds could be more than an over-hyped gimmick. They just need a dose of reality. Paradiso, a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, is working to create what he calls X-Reality or Cross Reality, a system designed to bring virtual and real worlds into a practical sort of alignment. With funding from Second Life parent company, Linden Lab, Paradiso aims to use sensors, displays and software to bring real-world data into virtual worlds and to integrate access to virtual worlds with real-world situations.”

8. PC World (USA) – Second Lifers Split on Linden Lab’s Open Spaces ‘Compromise’. “Linden Lab oversees one of the most successful social virtual worlds in existence, but it is still struggling with residents about how Second Life should be governed. Case in point: The debate over the use of “Open Spaces,” a virtual world land type that the company designed for residents to use for, common sense would dictate, open spaces like forests and water. As residents took advantage of the lower-priced land tier and over-developed and over-used the land, Linden Lab took exception at the increased CPU drain on their servers, and raised prices.”

9. The Daily Mail (UK) – Long live The King. “Next Thursday, I will be queuing at midnight in a line of people dressed as Orcs and elves, questioning what I’m doing with my life. I keep telling myself that I’ll be covering a milestone in the history of games – the launch of Wrath Of The Lich King, the long-awaited expansion for the online PC game World Of Warcraft. But in reality, like 11 million other people worldwide, I’ll be doing it because I’m a helpless addict.”

10. Dusan Writer’s Metaverse – Are Virtual Worlds Ready For Business? “When you think business in virtual worlds you think brands. The wave of polished yet mostly empty sims that followed the press infatuation with Anshe Chung’s mythic millions. And how the brands came and then slipped out into the night, the press flaks from Linden Lab and elsewhere calling the whole thing a brilliant experiment from which, heck, we learned a lot, that was the point really, this was never GOING to be the killer app of virtual worlds, keep your hat on folks, and by the way I have a sim for rent with a nice view.”

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