Edward Castronova’s MMO, Arden, is being released today. It’s available to play, download, and modify as you wish.
His new book, Exodus to the Virtual World, is also now available. I’ve been flipping through a copy, and it looks pretty interesting. Whether or not you agree with the thesis — that game mechanics are going to increasingly influence real-world governance and society — there’s a lot of fascinating research packed into its pages.
It seems like forever since we first started working on it, but at last our book about the Second Life Herald — and about the metaverse in general — is being published (in a matter of days), and we’re planning a party to celebrate the fact. In case you missed it, I’ve written a book with philosophy professor and Herald founder Peter Ludlow. It features a colorful cast of virtual characters from places like Second Life, The Sims Online, World of Warcraft, EVE Online and various other places, as well as numerous flesh-and-blood people. Titled The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse, the book not only chronicles the rise of the virtual world’s first and favorite tabloid, but looks as well at the increasingly important role that virtual spaces play in our everyday lives, and articulates the issues we’ll be facing as the societies now emerging in the metaverse grow in reach and influence.
It should be in bookstores momentarily, and you can already buy the thing online, but maybe the most fun way to acquire a copy would be to buy one at the party we’re having in Brooklyn on November 3. Continue reading →
Terrific. I’m quoted in an article about Second Life in tomorrow’s New York Times. Which of the many topics covered in the interview am I quoted on? That’s right, cyber-genitalia and virtual McMansions. On the whole, though, the article is a pretty good deep dive on why people value such virtual goods, and what utility they derive from them. Check it out.
GoPets CEO Erik Bethke is set to break new ground in the area of virtual worlds by proposing to turn his service’s end-user licensing agreement and terms of service document into a plainly written bill of rights. [Via GamePolitics.com, pointed out by Nate Combs.] In a recent LiveJournal post, he offers $5,000 for help in drafting the document, but sets out 16 points for discussion, starting off, rather remarkably, with a right of due procedss and habeas corpus. If Bethke can get all this in place, it will represent a great step forward for virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games. In his post, he mentions Raph Koster’s Declaration of the Right of Avatars, which <pimp alert>Peter and I reference in our book.</pimp alert> There isn’t a terms of service doc out there that comes anywhere close to this. But if virtual spaces are to have a real, robust future, they’re going to need much better governance structures than they enjoy at present. Bethke’s new style of ToS, if it can be implemented, would be a big first step down that road.
It’s South by Southwest season again, or at least the run-up to it. For the last two years I’ve headed to Austin for the excellent South by Southwest Interactive festival, a fun week of geeks and great conversations that takes place each spring in one of the greatest small cities in America. The process of choosing who gets to take the stage there, though, starts early. Hugh Forest, who runs the place, has just posted this year’s SXSW Panel-Picker, the mechanism by which a fair portion of the panels are chosen. I’ve proposed two, which I’m going to insist you all go vote on forthwith. Here are the titles, links and descriptions:
â€¢ Presence: Building the Social Web
“Despite social networking, the Web remains a lonely place: a billion people browse it, each one alone. This session examines efforts to make the Web a more social medium by bringing “presence” online. Help us imagine a Web that works less like a library and more like a multiplayer game.”
â€¢ Kicking Virtual Ass and Taking Avatar Names
“What is it like to run the virtual world’s most notorious tabloid? Where do you draw the line between good taste and bad, between information and sensation, between virtual and real — if such a line exists? Explore the role of a very free press in the evolution of online worlds. Dual presentation with [Second Life Herald founder] Peter Ludlow.” Continue reading →
The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading →
Virtual worlds researcher Aleks Krotoski, who’s been working on a Ph.D. about social networks in virtual worlds, has posted about some of her findings, which are available in the form of an excellent video presentation you can find at the Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences (scroll down). You can also download the accompanying PowerPoint presentation. Aleks is doing very interesting research measuring the ties among people in the virtual world of Second Life, and is farming results from an opt-in survey she made of 10,000 SL residents. What’s to be learned here? According to Aleks, you can discern several things: Continue reading →
The virtual world of Second Life is often compared to the annual Burning Man festival in that both are a place where fantasy becomes reality and almost anything goes. But SL resembles another, more mid-90s slice of festival culture as well, at times, and never more so than this weekend, when it takes on the guise of a field in Hampshire (extra credit for catching that reference) with the three-day SecondFest that’s about to kick off, sponsored by the Guardian newspaper and Intel, and organized by Rivers Run Red with promotional help from the ever-brilliant Aleks Krotoski, who writes for the Guardian. The festival gets underway tonight with DJ sets from people like the Glimmer Twins and Tom Findlay, according to the schedule, and wends its wooly way through to a Sunday-evening set from none other than the Pet Shop Boys. Taking place over no less than nine sims (»start here«, and see map after the jump), and with multiple stages, screens and, of course, tents, and too many acts for me to bother to count, it sounds like SecondFest could actually be some kind of landmark entertainment event in Second Life — if no more than 500 people want to get in at the same time. Sounds like fun in any case. Check it out. Easier to park, and just as much chance for muddy casual sex — if you like your muddy casual sex virtual, that is. Continue reading →
Honestly, I had no idea. When I blogged yesterday about the possibility that EVE Online players might soon get new governance tools, little did I know that Seth Schiesel would have an article about it in today’s New York Times. And indeed, the announcement today is that EVE players will soon be able to elect a player-staffed oversight committee that will be regularly flown to Iceland to “audit CCPâ€™s operations and report back to their player-constituents.” To insure the elections are free and fair, “CCP says it will call in election monitors from universities in Europe and the United States.” Pretty brilliant. (And thanks to empeekay for the screenshot.) Continue reading →
Mitch Kapor, an early investor in and board member of Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world of Second Life, will give a talk this evening in SL, all about the Level Playing Field Institute, where he also sits on the board and which “promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces by removing barriers to full participation,” and about philanthropy in general. Mitch’s talk at last year’s Second Life Community Convention was a really informative and insightful look at how disruptive technologies happen (something Kapor knows a lot about, having helped make computers useful for large numbers of people). If he can have the same effect on reducing the kind of subtle bias in education and the workplace that holds people back without many people even being aware of it, it’ll be a great thing. Mitch’s talk goes off at 8pm SL Time (11pm Eastern), and you’ll be able to listen to it at »Sheep Island Auditorium«, »Crayon Theater«, and »Reuters Auditorium«. The late time unfortunately puts it out of reach of most European SL members, but hopefully the talk will be archived somewhere on the Web.
For those of you still skeptical about the value of game consoles as a social and communications channel in an age of virtual worlds, I offer this Variety story, which describes young Hollywood execs networking and talking about deals over Xbox Live. Voice chat means they’re undeterred by the lack of a keyboard. And the games provide the engaging activity around which social functions are organized: “Nobody is yet selling a script or getting cast in a movie on Xbox Live. But like any social activity, the bonds formed in a game of “Gears of War” — currently the most popular game on XBL — carry over into other areas. In an incestuous industry town like Hollywood, most people’s social circles primarily involve people in the biz; so tagging somebody with a grenade at night can make it easier to give them a call about a project the next day.” World of Warcraft may be the new golf, but Live seems to be the new Chateau (or wherever’s more hip these days). Romantically, however, it’s not so hot: “Xbox Live is not a universally appealing way to socialize, even among the under-35 set. The games are predominantly male; the rare female voices are often girlfriends or wives in the background asking when the player is coming to bed.”
On May 19, Romania will hold a referendum on whether to impeach its suspended president, Traian Basescu, who has been charged with violating the country’s constitution. Before that time, members of the Romanian community in the virtual world of Second Life would like to hear from him and other Romanian political leaders in a virtual venue that’s been built out for the purpose. The two-minute video above provides a tour of a nice build that’s apparently designed to host a debate between real Romanian political leaders, should they care to put in an appearance. The »debate hall« looks fairly accomodating, and comes complete with voting mechanisms and a press room that’s apparently wired to provide television feeds. The video cites 20,000 Romanian Second Life users, and says around 800 a day are visiting the in-world location. Of those polled, 95 percent say they’d like to participate in an electoral meeting in SL. Continue reading →
Alex Harbinger holds a teen grid debate on intergrid commerce in the virtual world of Second Life. Photo courtesy of Lucky Figtree.
We recorded a great SecondCast this past Wednesday with two residents of Second Life‘s teen grid, Lucky Figtree and Alex Harbinger (both 15 years old). They’re leading the charge (or at least, Alex is) to unite the teen and adult grids, or at least to let them overlap to a certain extent. Along the way, we discuss Cristiano’s open letter to Linden Lab, and give away a couple of books. (There’s still time to enter the giveaway, actually.) Plus, listen for the dulcet tones of Starr Sonic, who joined us from the Second Life Cable Network as a special guest host. Definitely check out SLCN.tv’s news archive and live broadcasts. Starr’s doing it right.
RuneScape, the browser-based massively multiplayer game from Jagex, now has a million paying subscribers, the company reported today. Just $5 a month gets players “exclusive quests, skills and a huge map of the fantasy world Gielenor, to explore.” The fact that it’s being shelled out by a million kids (or their parents; the RuneScape demographic is reportedly very young) is fairly impressive. Among Western MMOs, only World of Warcraft can boast more than a million paying subscribers. (Most MMO subscribers, including WoWs, pay around $15 a month.) And, as Matt Mihaly pointed out some time ago (in asking whether RuneScape would reach 1 millions subs), the game reportedly has some 5 million players, including those who play for free, and concurrency rates above 200,000. Jagex says they have 150 support staff devoted to the game, if that’s any gauge. [UPDATE: Matt has more details from an interview with the Jagex dude, Andrew Gowan.] I think it’s pretty significant to the future of media that there are a million young teens paying for this game, and four million more playing it from time to time. More evidence that 3D multiuser environments are here to stay as part of the media landscape. Most readers of this blog don’t need to be convinced of that, but there are many, many people out there who aren’t yet clued in. Successes like Jagex’s should help with that.
A group of students from Brown University have launched an open-source museum in the virtual world of Second Life. Known as OSMOSA, the Open-Source Museum of Open-Source Art, the museum is located »in Second Life’s Eson region« and features a mess of artworks that anyone can copy, modify, alter or otherwise contribute to. The museum itself is open to alteration as well, which is a fantastic idea. The modding got under way at the opening party Tuesday night: an already-altered image of Manet’s Olympia (with space helmets added to make it more excellent) came out the other end of the night with some interesting additions and adjustments, as seen below:
Giff Constable of the Electric Sheep Company (aka Second Life resident Forseti Svarog) has published a book of avatar portraiture from the virtual world of Second Life that’s now available not just in a virtual edition but as a real, old-media paper book as well. Out for about a week now, Avatar Expression gathers “56 color photographs revealing personality across a range of beautiful, exotic, humorous and even abstract” avatars. It’s available in its virtual edition for free »in Second Life«, or you can order one for $13.68 (the cost of production) at Lulu.com. A couple of dozen copies of the phyisical book have sold since publication was announced a week ago, Giff says, so hurry and get ’em while supplies last. Actually, they’re printed on demand, so there’s no hurry, but pick one up anyway; physical documents recording the history of virtual worlds are few and far between.
MySpace recently announced it would hold a mock presidential election on January 1st and 2nd of next year. (Results will be posted on MySpace’s impact channel.) While that’s obviously not very virtual-worldy, I do think it’s worth noting here, because it’s going to focus a huge amount of attention on one of the most compelling sites of digital identity-making on the Web today. Not that MySpace lacks for attention, but most of that attention perceives it as a novelty. It’s only in the last couple of months that sites like MySpace and other lifelogging-related spaces are starting to be taken more seriously, as important bellwethers of the culture. I’m looking forward to seeing what the coverage of this is like in the press. I’d also love to see “global” polls held in the virtual world of Second Life. Anyone want to set that up?
As Jerry notes, Negin and Kimmy’s latest Nerd of the Week has been posted, this one examining the Second Life Nerd in detail, based on interviews conducted at our latest metaverse meetup with all your favorite Second Lifers. (The interviews are actually interesting, FYI.) If you haven’t seen Nerd of the Week, check it out immediately. Negin and Kimmy turn out to be excellent filmmakers, and their short NOTW episodes are definitely worth your while. And if you’re interested in the metaverse meetups themselves, there’s one happening this Friday in Manhattan, open to all. Read more details here. [UPDATE: Added Revver link so Negin and Kimmy can make some coin from this.]
If you’re reading this, you probably know that I gave a presentation on Friday to the Art Directors Club of Germany here in Berlin. I had written my comments into a long post that also included these more general thoughts on culture and the metaverse, but realized there was too much for any sane person to make it through to the end, so I’ve split them up into two. First, the cultural metaverse of Berlin. Coming soon: Some idle thoughts on next-gen virtual worlds.
The day-long conference I spoke at actually turned out to be quite interesting, featuring not only creative professionals from branding, marketing and advertising, but architects and event planners as well, including Ric Birch, who has been organizing the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games since around 1984. I’ll go over some of what was said below, but first, to explain the pic: The event was held at a very nice new arts center here known as RadialSystem V, where in the evening I had the chance to attend a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in which the chamber orchestra of about 14 pieces had also been choreographed as dancers. One non-musician dancer was also on stage, doing things like sprinkling solo violinist Midori Seiler with snowflakes and autumn foliage when he wasn’t running around in his tighty whities. The musicians mostly walked or sometimes ran around the stage, and though I’m usually not a fan of avant-garde treatments like this, the effect was actually quite captivating, and worked exceedingly well, and a lot of the choreography of the solo dancer was very Beckett-like. The whole thing was conceived by the formidable Sasha Waltz. The space at RadialSystem is very impressive to begin with, being a modern structure built into the remains of an old warehouse or factory building that sits right along the former Berlin Wall on the edge of a canal. The audience loved show, giving the performers something like six or seven curtain calls. Continue reading →
The nose knows nothing in virtual worlds, but that hasn’t stopped Calvin Klein from launching a virtual version of their new ck IN2U fragrances for men and women in Second Life, according to a press release. The virtual launch accompanies the real-world launch of the same scents today, March 21. Since avatars can’t smell, the virtual perfume bottles will enable SL users to spray each other with bubbles that “initiate dialogue,” as the release puts it — probably requesting the sprayee to engage in a Calvin Klein animation. There will also be “graffiti bottles” available from the Calvin Klein build, put together by Justin Bovington’s Rivers Run Red on their Avalon island in Second Life, where Calvin Klein is holding a L$1 million photography contest to accompany the launch. Finally, if you’re in the UK you’ll be able to click through to a Web site and order a free sample. Continue reading →
I’m in the Austin airport on the way back from South by Southwest (my flight of course delayed by snow in New York [and actually, I’m home now]), and I just snapped this vaguely Sesame Street-like picture of the number 18. Not just any 18, though: It’s a Helvetica 18, brought to my attention by a fantastic documentary I saw as part of the SXSW film festival, titled simply Helvetica. The typeface celebrates the 50th anniversary of its design this year, but the film does much more than simply celebrate the typeface — which, if you glance around, you’ll realize has become the ubiquitous choice for “clean” design in the period since the second world war. What’s great about Helvetica (besides the fact that it’s beautifully shot) is that it does a terrific job of illustrating how design shapes our lives and who we are as human beings. And in a remarkably 3pointD twist, the film even winds up talking about Helvetica and design in the context of Web apps like MySpace and how those things contribute to who we are, which is the only reason I even dare blog about it here. Continue reading →
Venture capitalist and World of Warcraft addict Joi Ito and lifelogger Justin Hall sat down for a conversation together in Room 9C on Monday afternoon at South by Southwest. Ben Cerveny joined them midway. Title of the talk: Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy.
Ito: I know everyone says this, but we’re going to try to make this as interactive as possible. Justin and I are going to talk about online games and what we can learn from them and things like that. I play World of Warcraft and mess around in Second Life, I think it’s stupid to compare them, it’s like apples and oranges. If you played text MUDs you know MOOs and MUDs split at some point. People who were into furries tended to go toward one, people who went toward the other focused more on gamplay and quests and levels. But it is interesting to compare in terms of what you can learn from them.
I play my WoW videos inside of SL and plan WoW raids in SL. SL is more for simulation for me, I do lots of ritual there, talks and things like that. It’s really not where I build relationships, although different people do that.
Shows a slide of WoW UI. Think all the way back to LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis was saying the whole Internet will eventually be MUDs or MOOs. You can think of WoW as an evolutionary point in interface design. You can think of this as an interface to everything on the Web. You can make add-ons, there’s the Lua language for scripting that you can do. Shows his own more complex HUD with lots of add-ons. Most of the screen is in 2D. There’s all kinds of sophisticated stuff. Sometimes the 3D world is really important, but when I’m engaged in a boss fight it’s like a pilot looking at instruments rather than at terrain. A Lot of the innovation happens in the user community. Continue reading →
Welcome to Second Life: The Ahern welcome region in March 2004
Electric Sheep Chris Carella reminded me recently of this page full of screenshots taken three years ago, in March 2004, in the virtual world of Second Life, by SL resident Essence Lumin. [Chris found them on virtual architect Lordfly Digeridoo’s redesigned blog.] Essence recorded every one of the 108 sixteen-acre regions that then constituted the world, snapping each from the southeast corner of the sim. A great project that would be impossible today, given the thousands of sims that now make up SL. Instead of trying to duplicate it, I’ve gone and taken screens of half a dozen regions from approximately the same spot. You can check them out below (with historical screens borrowed from Essence), and see how much the world has changed since then. The Ahern welcome area, which appears in the top left of the screenshot above, you’ll have to see for yourself in-world. [Warning: There’s about a dozen screenshots after the jump.] Continue reading →
Finally! I’ve long thought the Rocky Horror Picture Show would be the perfect film to screen in the virtual world of Second Life. After all, it’s the original weird costumed participatory media experience, filled with sex, mad scientists and terrorized newbies — just like SL! Well, start working on your Frank N. Furter avatars, because the Pirate Cinema in Stockholm, Sweden (I think this is the link), is holding a Rocky Horror Picture Show Second Life-a-long that will pair a real-world screening with one in the virtual world.
The event is being held in collaboration with architecture students at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology, who are billing it as “a night in the spirit of Piracy and architecture, an attempt to destroy the firewall between the physical and virtual, to create a fellowship without limits.” The film starts Thursday, March 1, at noon SL time, in »The Office region« of SL.
The great thing about it is that the real-life screening will be streamed into the virtual world. (The SL screening will apparently be streamed to the RL theater as well.) If you’re not a virgin, you know that this means that the SL audience will get to see not only the film itself, but the antics of Sweden’s costumed Rocky Horror fans as they prance and dance onstage, and ask questions and give directions to the actors (which the actors, of course, answer and follow slavishly). One can only imagine what the experience will be like in Second Life. (It would be great to get a regular screening going there to see how the Rocky Horror cult manifests itself in the virtual world.)
The above YouTube clip, from Minneapolis artist Phil Hansen, doesn’t appear to be all that 3pointD, at first, but appearances can be deceiving. It’s a full five minutes of some really nice action painting with a unique twist (which I won’t give away; hit the Play button already!). In an unbelievably fortuitous moment of technological serendipity, I happened to be listening to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues on iTunes when I was watching this, and had the YouTube soundtrack turned down. All of which engendered a small epiphany about the history of lifelogging and the origins of the mixed(-up) media we enjoy today. Read on, if you dare. Continue reading →
[UPDATE: Boo! Due to technical difficulties, the Sheep won’t appear on the Today show until sometime early next week. Stay tuned for details.] Sibley Verbeck, CEO of metaverse services firm Electric Sheep Company (still sponsors of this blog) will make a live appearance on NBC’s Today Show tomorrow morning, February 23, 3pointD has just heard. Sibley will be interviewed by Today Show host Matt Lauer, as Sheep Jessie Segal and Kerria Seabrook navigate their avatars around the virtual world of Second Life, checking out some builds and other interesting corners of the culture. The spot will air sometime between 8:00am and 10:00am Eastern (that’s 5:00am and 7:00am SL Time), so get up early and tune in.
A fun new episode of everyone’s favorite Second Life podcast, SecondCast, is now on the air (or on the site, rather). It’s our one-year anniversary, and incredibly, we’ve actually managed to average an episode a week, making this one #52. Johnny, Torrid, Lordfly, Cristiano and myself take a walk down memory lane, reminiscing about fruit griefing, field trips and SecondCast’s own war of the worlds. We also cover some news of the day. Happy Birthday, us!
Let’s dispense with the news straight off: The metaverse meetup that’s slated for 23 February now has a location: Planet Thailand in Williamsburg, which is letting us take over their back room for the event, so you’ll be able to munch Pad Thai and eggplant and wander around and chat to whoever you want to. More importantly, though, a bunch of us checked out Uffie at the Hiro Ballroom last night, and she was awesome — at least, in her way. And in fact, the show was a really interesting look at how deeply the idea of lifelogging and recording one’s raw experience has infected the choices entertainers are making and how that’s affecting the kinds of media that are being created these days. (Pics at the end of it all as well.) Continue reading →
SLInsider reports that the Postmasters Gallery in New York City will be mounting a show of portraits of Second Life avatars on February 17. The portraits were shot by Eva and Franco Mattes, as far as I can tell, and have been digitally printed on canvas at 36″ x 48″, all of which sounds like it makes for a pretty formidable show. I’m planning to drop by for the opening, this Saturday, 17 February at 6:00pm Eastern, but the show will be up for a month, so if you’re in the area, don’t miss it. Great way to spread the virtual word to a broader audience, if you ask me.
Click image for JimmyJet Fossett’s Flickr set from the event
No, not the official guide to promoting Second Life. Second Life resident JimmyJet Fossett snapped a bunch of good pictures of last night’s in-world author appearance promoting the book Second Life: The Official Guide, which I wrote two chapters of, and he was kind enough to send along a link to the Flickr set where they’re posted. There were a few great avatars in attendance, so they’re worth checking out. No good griefers, unfortunately. Continue reading →
I love the idea of a virtual picture book on Second Life (such as this one). The only way I’d love it more were if it were real. (Who knows, maybe that’s on the way as well.) I actually think it’s important to keep these kind of documents updated, since SL is so mercurial, and great builds rise and fall practically overnight. I’d love to be able to look back on the best, rather than have to lament that they’ve been lost to the pixelated mists of time.