The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Massively (USA) – Enter at Your Own Rift: How gold farming really hurts the economy. “Recently, Trion Worlds CCO and RIFT Executive Producer Scott Hartsman talked to Gamasutra about how gold farming is a much bigger threat than we assume, particularly because of the large amount of credit card fraud. Those who played RIFT at launch probably recall the large wave of hacked accounts early on. According to Hartsman, the hacking attempts were so quick and so intense that the game could have been “denial-of-serviced off the internet” when it launched.”

2. Tom’s Hardware (USA) – Kid Creates Games in ROBLOX, Gets Over 10 Million Followers. “For the uninitiated, ROBLOX is a massively multiplayer online virtual playground and workshop designed specifically for children 7 and over. Unlike other MMOGs where players roam various lands, perform jobs and take on hobbies, ROBLOX allows its users to build virtual worlds and games in a social, LEGO-like environment. “Each player starts by choosing an avatar and giving it an identity,” reads the official FAQ for parents. “They can then explore ROBLOX – interacting with others by chatting, playing games, or collaborating on creative projects. Each player is also given their own piece of undeveloped real estate along with a virtual toolbox with which to design and build anything desired — be it a navigable skyscraper, a working helicopter, a giant pinball machine, a multiplayer ‘Capture the Flag’ game or some other, yet-to-be-dreamed-up object or activity.”

3. 9&10 News (USA) – Camp Grayling Trains in Virtual World. “The military has turned to computers and essentially video games to train their troops for what they will encounter overseas. Camp Grayling in Crawford County is the largest training facility in the US and offers realistic and safe battle zones for their troops. Today’s troop can train in a fake Iraqi village after planning out an attack or rescue in the base’s Simulation Center.”

4. eMarketer (USA) – Quick Stat: US Virtual Goods Revenues to Reach $653 Million This Year. “According to eMarketer data from January 2011, the US virtual goods market is expected to generate $653 million in revenue this year, up 28% from 2010. The popularity of social gaming has catalyzed tremendous growth in virtual goods monetization. Game developers, virtual worlds and social network providers are driving this economy, which is projected to grow substantially in the next several years.”

5. Metro Weekly (USA) – Game Theory. “Some people play to escape. Some people play to belong. Some people play to experience virtual worlds of fantasy, others play to explore realistic recreations of history. There are nearly as many reasons to play video games as there are games themselves. But one thing is certain: More people are playing than ever. And more of those people playing are LGBT gamers. Not so long ago, if the topic of ”gay” came up in conjunction with video games, it was to focus on a negative — the invisibility of LGBT characters in games; the taunting and harassment of gay players online; the stereotypes that seemed to carry over from old entertainment forms into this new, virtual one. But that’s changed.”

6. Business Standard (India) – Gartner evaluates maturity of 1,900 technologies. “Advances in embedded sensors, processing and wireless connectivity are bringing the power of the digital world to objects and places in the physical world. This is a slow-moving segment, but one that is now accelerating with the growing pervasiveness of low-cost, embedded sensors and cameras. User interfaces is another slow-moving area, with significant recent activity. Speech recognition was on the original 1995 hype cycle and has still not attained maturity, and computer-brain interfaces would evolve for at least another 10 years before moving out of research and the niche status. However, a new entry for natural language question-answering recognises the impressive and highly visible achievement of IBM’s Watson computer in winning TV’s Jeopardy! general knowledge quiz against human opponents. Gesture recognition has also been launched into the mainstream through Microsoft’s Kinect gaming systems, under hacker attacks by third parties to create a range of application interfaces. Other areas continue to progress more slowly, including speech-to-speech translation, augmented reality and virtual assistants, while virtual worlds remain in the trough after peaking in 2007.”

7. Forbes (USA) – Females Spending More Real Cash On Virtual Goods In Video Games Than Males. “It seems the virtual world of video games is replicating the real world mall, when it comes to the shopping habits of males versus females on in-game virtual goods. U.S. Gamers, whose online purchases of digital goods were once paid for largely by credits earned from advertiser offers, now say they are migrating to “real world” payment for digital goods using debit, credit and prepaid cards, according to a new study of online gamer behavior commissioned by PlaySpan, a Visa company, and undertaken by research firm VGMarket. The survey data was compiled in July 2011 from over 1,000 gamers drawn from a VGMarket database. According to the study, nearly one-third (31 percent) of the general gamer population has used real world money to purchase virtual content. Of those gamers who use real world money, 57 percent said they make purchases of virtual items using real world money at least once every month. Console games with online play account for the majority (51 percent) of virtual purchases using real world money, with social networking games (30 percent) and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) coming in at second and third respectively.”

8. The Global Mail (Canada) – Video games teach kids ‘new literacy’: Do you buy it? “When you check in with your kid, who is now into hour three of his Halo marathon, you repeat that well-worn phrase your mother used on you about killing brain cells and trading in the controller (well, it was a joystick back in your day) for a book. But are video games really the anti-books? A new article on PBS’s Mediashift web portal presents a different argument: our definition of literacy is outdated. Kids may be learning a “new literacy” through playing video games.”

9. Fast Company (USA) – Civil Resistance Simulator Teaches Players To Topple Dictators. “You say you want a revolution? Download the how-to video game for nonviolent change, now with a special Middle-Eastern edition to help continue the Arab Spring. Revolutions can happen anywhere, as we saw in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia earlier this year. But seemingly spontaneous uprisings against governments are usually anything but random: they are the result of relentless organizing, persistence, and strategy. Now a video game called PeoplePower has been updated to instill a new generation of revolutionaries with the tactics and strategic skills to pull off nonviolent movements. Originally called “A Force More Powerful,” which we reported on in 2006, the new game was developed specifically to reach an audience in repressed and often poor regions, particularly in the Middle East. The most innovative feature allows users to build their own virtual worlds to match their governments and countries, essentially creating an open-source platform for learning about regime change.”

10. Nature (UK) – Video: Relaxing on a virtual beach. “For centuries a stroll in the countryside has been touted as beneficial to health – something modern science has confirmed. But for many people these benefits are out of reach.
Nature Video took a trip recently to the laboratory of Robert Stone in Birmingham. Building on work done for the Ministry of Defence, Stone is building digital recreations of the English countryside to help improve the mental health of people who can’t reach it in reality.”

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