The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Marketingweb (South Africa) – Corporate gaming and virtual worlds. “Throughout 2009, the corporate world was exposed to the reality of virtual worlds which has seen a growing influence on how companies train, market, advertise and communicate. This trend was largely driven by the rising influence and profile of virtual online worlds, which allow users to create ultimate realities such as that offered by Second Life, and in a similar vein the computer game SIMS. This is a trend that is expected to continue as organisations begin to recognise the merits of incorporating gaming into their basket of communication tools. As a social dynamic, computer gaming is an influential reality. People under 35 grew up in a world influenced and informed by computer gaming rather than traditional board games. If we consider that society has always used games to teach children the skills they need to be successful adults, the role and influence of computer games is going to increase within the corporate world – driven by the fact that an increasing segment of our marketable demographic have had their values and worldview affected by computer gaming. This growing social effect is one of the drivers behind the probable increase in virtual world activity by the corporate world.”

2. Washington Post (USA) – A Virtual Theme Park for Kids Explores Life’s Wonders. “”I think this is educational,” observes my 8-year-old stepson, about half an hour after logging on to Wonder Rotunda, a Web site aimed at kids that was recently launched by a Washington area dad. I wonder briefly if the jig is up, but he continues to explore the virtual theme park, intrigued by the prospect of winning and spending the game’s “wonder dollars” to buy virtual food and loot with which to decorate his virtual treehouse. I’m not sure whether he’ll be playing next week — who ever knows these things? — but for now he’s intrigued enough to sit still through discussions about how the human digestive system works and which presidents appear on U.S. currency.”

3. CNET (USA) – Audi creates virtual Audi Space within PlayStation Home. “Automakers are like forum trolls. Every time you turn around another one of them is yelling, “First!” This time it’s Audi claiming to be the first carmaker to develop its own virtual area in Sony’s PlayStation Home. Audi Space, as it will be known, will come on line in late 2009. Audi Space will at first feature an Audi TV channel delivering video content relating to the German automaker. In December of ’09, Audi Space will be expanded to include Vertical Run, a futuristic racing game featuring Audi’s e-tron concept. Players will collect electrical energy that will presumably be untamed by the e-tron as they race for the highest possible speed. Be the fastest and you could earn a place for your Home avatar in the virtual Audi apartments, located in a large tower in the center of Audi Space.”

4. Manolith (USA) – Second Life Economy Healthier Than First Life. “Some of you may not be aware of what Second Life is. Some of you might have tried it, gotten frustrated, and then quit. Some of you might still be SL citizens. Whatever your experience with it, you have to be amazed that it’s still around and apparently doing some thriving business. Linden Labs, the company that created this virtual space, has recently reported that SL citizens have transacted over one billion dollars’ worth of services and goods with each other, estimating fifty million dollars being exchanged per month. Furthermore, 1,250 text messages are sent every second of the day, and the virtual geography of Second Life has grown to roughly the size of Rhode Island.”

5. The Guardian (UK) – Maths is the bedrock of the digital age. “It is a situation eerily familiar to most gamers: I am lost deep inside a pyramid, being pursued by a monster about to devour me in a spectacular way if I don’t make a decision pronto. The only difference to most other games is that the problem involves geometry. An arrow appears beneath my avatar’s feet with a length on it, say 5 metres. Above are four boxes consisting of triangles, rectangles and other shapes with sizes marked on the side. Unless I drag the box with the right answer down in front of me, I will be devoured. If I succeed, a fresh section of a stone path opens and the game moves on. Called Pyramid Panic, it is aimed at key stage 3 – and is one of a family of “serious” or educational titles launched today by mangahigh.com. Others range from doing simple arithmetic to make flowers grow to solving quadratic equations to guide a spaceship to its destination.”

6. Virtual Edge (USA) – Two Recent Surveys of Marketing Professionals Shed Light on Trends in Virtual Events. “ON24 and Unisfair recently conducted studies seeking to understand how marketing professionals were planning to use various marketing and collaboration technologies. While the Unisfair survey found that 48% of the respondents planned to increase their use of virtual event solutions. The ON24 study identified some of the drivers for that kind of growth, with cost savings leading the way and time savings close behind. This was a multiple choice question so some of the options we’d like to see weren’t offered but the Unisfair research shed additional light on marketer’s priorities. Not surprisingly, new customer acquisition followed by customer retention lead the marketers’ initiative list. These are two functions that virtual events are very well suited for.”

7. Silicon.com (UK) – Are dinosaur managers and poor teaching holding back Digital Britain? “More must be done to convince grey-haired business leaders to embrace web 2.0 developments, a panel of experts has warned. A panel assembled by the British Computer Society (BCS) were asked to consider whether IT could lead the UK out of recession. But it warned the UK’s potential around technology – and thus the potential of IT to drive economic recovery – is being held back by the current crop of business leaders who are failing to ‘get IT’, and also by the failure of the education system to inspire young people to acquire the skills needed by the industry.”

8. New University Online (USA) – UC Irvine Gets Grant to Study World Of Warcraft. “UC Irvine received a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an ethnographic study earlier this month on “World of Warcraft,” (WoW) a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) with over 10 million subscribers. UCI Professor of Information and Computer Sciences Bonnie Nardi and doctoral student Yong Ming Kow will analyze how players engage in creative collaboration in this virtual 3-D universe.”

9. Minneapolis Star Tribune (USA) – Dangerous adventures in Barbie-land. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could go about your daily life as a better-looking, thinner, more perfect version of yourself? That semi-you could go to work, shop for groceries and go out on the town and the real you could schlub around your house all day long, living vicariously through your surrogate. That’d be great, right? Well, not so fast, says “Surrogates,” a subpar sci-fi thriller set in an Atwoodian alterna-future where regular folks stay at home glued to a complex computer screen while their surrogates venture into the world.”

10. The Times Online (UK) – Angelic pretender Aion threatens to knock king of fantasy games off its throne. “Once upon a time, in the world of online gaming, there was but one king: World of Warcraft — the role-playing extravaganza that has snared millions of fans to become one of the most valuable entertainment properties. Now there is a challenger for its crown: Aion, created by the South Korean company NCSoft. The game had already been ordered by more than 400,000 players across Europe and North America before its launch in Britain yesterday.”

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