SSRN-The Laws of the Virtual Worlds by F. Lastowka, Dan Hunter

What if you could check out of your world, and enter a place where the social environment was different, where real world laws didn't apply, and where the political system could be anything you wanted it to be? What if you could socialize there with family and friends, build your own palace, go skiing, and even hold down a job there? And what if there wasn't one alternate world, there were hundreds, and what if millions of people checked out of Earth and went there every day?

Virtual worlds - online worlds where millions of people come to interact, play, and socialize - are a new type of social order. In this Article, we examine the implications of virtual worlds for our understanding of law, and demonstrate how law affects the interests of those within the world. After providing an extensive primer on virtual worlds, including their history and function, we examine two fundamental issues in detail.

First, we focus on property, and ask whether it is possible to say that virtual world users have real world property interests in virtual objects. Adopting economic accounts that demonstrate the real world value of these objects and the exchange mechanisms for trading these objects, we show that, descriptively, these types of objects are indistinguishable from real world property interests. Further, the normative justifications for property interests in the real world apply - sometimes more strongly - in the virtual worlds.

Second, we discuss whether avatars have enforceable legal and moral rights. Avatars, the user-controlled entities that interact with virtual worlds, are a persistent extension of their human users, and users identify with them so closely that the human-avatar being can be thought of as a cyborg. We examine the issue of cyborg rights within virtual worlds and whether they may have real world significance.

SSRN-The Laws of the Virtual Worlds by F. Lastowka, Dan Hunter

Terra Nova: Games People Play

Games People Play


Another Ph.D. dissertation focusing on virtual worlds -- this one is in the field of psychology. Jennifer Jamieson Bortle, Games People Play: Identity and Relationships in an Online Role-Playing Games. The research focuses on three players of Everquest. The abstract is below.


The following is a study of online relationships and identity formation in Everquest, a multiplayer online role-playing game. Using a phenomenological and reflexive approach, the study seeks to explicate the attractions of this type of online forum, which draws hundreds of thousands of players who spend many hours each week playing the game. Three Everquest players' experiences are considered in light of literature from mainstream psychological, social constructionist, psychodynamic, and cyborg theory, with special focus on the players' reports of the dialogue between player and character, and of the nature of their relationships in Everquest. Subjects participated in a non-directive, qualitative interview and submitted and discussed gameplay logs. Findings challenge the notion that these players' online identities are escapist paradoxes of their offline personae, but highlight the ways in which their ego-ideal colors and limits their online identifications. The participants' ambivalence about the limits of Everquest relationships is also explored, especially such as the Everquest community might be understood as an example of hyperreality structuring the experience of the real. Finally, suggestions for further research in the area are suggested.

Terra Nova: Games People Play » Blog Archive » Log On, Rez In, Drop Out: The 60s of Technology

A week or two ago, I found myself describing the greater metaversapolitan area to a friend who had never heard of things like Second Life or, virtual worlds or massively multiplayer online games, and who had only passing knowledge of apps like Google Earth and the concept of mirror worlds. I told her about the little business boomlet the sector seems to be experiencing these days, and the potential such places and applications hold for not only increasing our knowledge of the real world and the ways we connect there, but for making possible new modes of being and richer ways of interacting. A great place to get your fantasy on, and you can pull down six figures there, to boot, or so the marketing goes. Regardless, I said, it was exciting to be a part of it, to see this new thing unfold before my eyes, to be reporting on it from the front lines, so to speak, and to ride along and see just where it might go — even if it’s headed for a fiery crash, as some would argue, or a more mundane sputtering thud.

Her reaction was interesting: “It sounds like you’re living through the 1960s of technology,” quoth she. This strikes me as pretty spot on.

The more I think about it, the more I like my friend’s analogy. A lot of the concepts that are associated with 60s culture and counter-culture are also showing up in the metaversal sphere. Virtual worlds often create a hallucinatory landscape (giant snail races, anyone?) that would not be out of place in the most colorful acid trips of the decade in question. Virtual worlds are also being used as new avenues of personal realization and empowerment. There, you can be anything and anyone you want — or so it’s said. There’s something very akin to a sexual revolution in the offing, and many people are also exploring new approches to what we think of as “work.”

There is also an explosion of creativity. Much of the various forms and examples of art and creation that is coming out of the metaverse is truly new and exciting — though as much if not more is not very interesting at all, of course. But the moment has sparked a new flame under the broad class of people known somewhat clinically these days as “content creators,” and has in fact radically broadened that class by giving people new tools (even if they’re crude, as yet), which they are now using to pry open doors that hadn’t even been perceived before.

The metaverse at the moment is also a place where the received wisdom of established rights and laws is being challenged on a daily basis, and where people are struggling to find new ways to organize their society, as well as creating new kinds of communities that attempt to exist apart from those already established. And, as eventually happened to 60s culture, metaverse culture has now begun to be adopted by “the establishment,” much to many metaversal citizens’ chagrin. » Blog Archive » Log On, Rez In, Drop Out: The 60s of Technology

Second Life Future Salon: Microsoft Embraces Bottom-up Gaming

very historically, socially and developmentally significant that Microsoft is now publicly embracing bottom-up creation in gaming. Allard, a vice president at Microsoft says, 'We're going to take on the Wikipedia model. We're going to take on...the open-source model, if you will, for gaming.' Damn, if that isn't one of the biggest paradigm shifts in Microsoft's history. Looks like all the big players are hopping aboard the train to Bottom-Up Town.

Second Life Future Salon: Microsoft Embraces Bottom-up Gaming: "

Second Life Future Salon: February 2006

So far 3D files have been moved from Second Life, World of Warcraft and Google Earth into Maya. I've visited Eyebeam several times in the last few weeks and Mike was cool enough to help me export my avatar into Maya

Second Life Future Salon: February 2006: "Sims"

Sims 2 hacks spread like viruses | The Register

"Players of Electronic Arts' enormously popular simulated life game are complaining that their artfully-crafted homes and mansions are beginning to resemble the Twilight Zone, thanks to an artifact of the game's design that causes hacks to spread like viruses from user to unwitting user.

Entire neighborhoods of Sims are being mysteriously graced with eternal youth, while some characters are finding all their needs fulfilled by a single shot of magic espresso. Others no longer need to empty the toilet after potty training their toddler. Some Sims are being abducted by aliens when they glance through their telescope - every time, instead of just occasionally, which is normal.

All this mayhem is the work of a community of experimenters wielding hex editors, custom programs and reverse-engineering skills who began mastering their own Sims 2 worlds immediately after the game's release last September. The hackers share their weird science with one another through public websites and forums..

The hacks are easy to install, but they aren't for everybody. Many are cheats that eliminate challenges and obstacles in the game, while others modify fundamental behavior of the virtual people that inhabit the Sims 2 world. The "No Social Worker" hack, for example, allows Sims to neglect their children without the state getting involved. The "No Jealousy" patch lets them keep multiple lovers without getting slapped all the time.

Sims 2 hacks spread like viruses | The Register: