The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Financial Times (UK) – Sony aims for a new virtual world order. “The age of the avatar has arrived for games consoles, with the launch of Sony’s Home yesterday completing the response of the big three makers to the growth in popularity of social networking and virtual worlds. The internet connectivity of the current generation of consoles is allowing Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony to build worldwide communities among owners of the more than 75m machines now sold. The addition of avatars and virtual environments is expected to open up new revenue streams, but the impact on existing virtual worlds such as Second Life , Gaia , There and Habbo is still unclear.”

2. CNN (USA) – Virtual world, real emotions: Relationships in Second Life. “Nina Allam was nervous. She was about to meet someone she had been chatting with online since February. Nina Allam and Sean Barbary were married on the virtual world of Second Life before meeting for the first time. “I was terrified on the train. Very, very nervous. I remember sending him a text saying ‘Last chance to back out,’ when I was at the station ready to get on the train.” Though meeting Sean Barbary in person for the first time, Allam was already married to him in the online virtual world of Second Life.”

3. BBC News (UK) – Virtual world for Muslims debuts. “A trial version of the first virtual world aimed at the Muslim community has been launched. Called Muxlim Pal, it allows Muslims to look after a cartoon avatar that inhabits the virtual world. Based loosely on other virtual worlds such as The Sims, Muxlim Pal lets members customise the look of their avatar and its private room.
Aimed at Muslims in Western nations, Muxlim Pal’s creators hope it will also foster understanding among non-Muslims.”

4. Ars Technica (USA) – Griefers attack Muslim virtual world already awash in users. “The idea for a virtual world focused on the Islamic lifestyle began five years ago, when CEO Mohamed El-Fatatry moved from Dubai to Finland in order to attend university. Raised in Dubai, El-Fatatry wanted wider horizons and a chance to see more of life. American universities were generally expensive, so El-Fatatry sat down at his computer, Googled for “media technology studies in Europe,” and found a Finnish university as his third hit. Finland offers free higher education, even for foreigners, so El-Fatatry applied, enrolled, and only then headed to his new country for the first time.”

5. Indiatimes (India) – Beware, your avatar under threat. “Imagine filing a complaint in a local police station to free your gaming character, worth hundreds of dollars, stolen online. As it is it was very difficult to get hostages released from terrorists hands, now local cops have another problem to handle – to release your virtual identity from cyber terrorists. And unfortunately, the NSG or Marcos are not trained in that. The online gaming world is becoming increasingly lucrative. In countries like China, US, South Korea, many companies are employing hundreds of youth to play free games in their parlours. These kids are then asked to make their characters, powerful and arm them with magical virtual weapons.”

6. exduco (Italy) – Research aims to make ‘virtual worlds’ as world wide as the Web . “If you haven’t yet been invited to send a digital representation of yourself to a business meeting or a family reunion in a “virtual world,” it may be because these richly graphical online environments are hamstrung by technical and economic limitations that constrain their reach. So far, virtual worlds have been built by just a few companies, using proprietary technologies that cannot grow in the same free-flowing way as the traditional Web. As a result, while millions of enthusiasts see them as providing unprecedented richness to online interaction, they’re stuck in niche status. ”

7. TechCrunch (USA) – JumpStart’s Virtual World Teaches Kids While They’re Busy Having Fun. “When it comes to educational software, the trick is to make kids think they’re just playing a traditional escapist game, while they’re really being surreptitiously fed facts and logic problems that put their brains to work. But while many games have done this for years, the technique hasn’t really made the jump to online virtual worlds – most of the kid-friendly virtual worlds are more focused on socializing and having fun than learning. Now JumpStart, a best-selling educational software developer, is looking to fill this niche with its new JumpStart Virtual World, which launched this week in public beta.”

8. Gamer.Blorge (Australia) – PS3 Home is surprisingly quite fun. “The PS3 Home open beta just launched recently and I had the chance to try out the latest version of the software (1.03). Even though I have been in the beta for some time, the latest version feels like a completely new experience. If you read my previous article, I did talk down the value of the PS3 Home calling it useless. During my time within Home prior to 1.03, I felt like the whole experience was uneventful and almost forgettable. However, after version 1.03 the whole experience changed within Home. For starters there are now lots of people everywhere. Previously, the Home square was a desolate place, because there was nothing to do there. Now the square is bustling with Home users everywhere. The square received a complete redesign, with a new saucer based game smack right in the middle of the area.”

9. The Industry Standard (USA) – Virtual worlds patent battle brewing? “A controversy is brewing over patent licensing plans by The General Patent Corporation, which handles’s patent licensing and enforcement, announced Thursday it had retained the law office of Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik for its client. No litigation plans were announced, but Virtual Worlds News reported that GPC would be contacting other companies regarding “licensing opportunities” for its patents.”

10. The Guardian (UK) – Games can have a serious role to play. “People have been saying for years that it was about time that computer games grew up. All that awesome technology being wasted on escapist fantasies – why couldn’t it be used to generate interest in learning maths or something? Well, whisper it quietly, it might be starting to happen. It is, of course, a bit of a libel on the still-booming videogames market to say it isn’t educational. You can’t play Entropia Universe or Eve Online without learning skills that are useful in a capitalistic world, nor Football Manager without acquiring organisational skills. But they were unintended consequences rather than the game plan.”

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