Monday, August 22, 2005

All your phat lewtz r belong 2 us!

It's very interesting how more and more tales from the online gaming world are hitting the mainstream media. Everyone seems to be recognizing the prevalence of MMOs and online games in general, and weighing in on the subject. Most opinions and articles focus on violence depicted (article in the Ottawa Citizen today on how violent games are a good thing for kids), property rights with regards to virtual objects, and social and professional pay-offs that are apparent in players of interaction/leadership-based games such as MMOs.

Wish I could find the article about how MMO gamers are more likely to have highly-regarded business skills such as working through problems, taking initiative, showing better leadership qualities, etc. It was an interesting read. Then there is the somewhat infamous news about a Chinese man killing his friend because said friend sold his buddy's sword to someone in the game (EverQuest, I think).

That one was interesting in that it begged the question: can virtually owned objects be considered legitimate and legally-protected property? It sounds like a stupid question; one that most would scoff at and say "it's a bunch of frickin' pixels!". However... consider the situation thusly: you pay $25 for the retail game itself, but additionally pay $15 a month subscription. All activities including character, setup, inventory and status are maintained on a back-end server by the producer of the game. Very little of the playing experience happens on a local PC. If you physically rent a storage unit for $25 a month, and someone breaks in and steals your DVD player... that's theft. Considering that online items such as weapons, armour, etc are sold for large quantities of money on eBay and elsewheres, why is an item in a game not property? One acquires it through a transaction or a trade that is considered of value (else why do it in the first place?) or by actually going and getting the item (a kind of Lockean spin on property)... does that not meet the standard definitions of article possession?

Anyhoo, I'm constantly intrigued by anything and everything relating to online games. As stated previously, I honestly believe that as the military/government built and pioneered the Internet, MMO gamers and game companies are pioneering the next phase of virtual interaction.

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