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Professor, Rutgers School of Law - Camden
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I agree with Tom. Virtual worlds are not dead, their study is not dead, and there is still work to be done. I think the reason this blog has been defunct is largely that the authors have moved on to doing other things. And I'd note that this was true even in the early days of Terra Nova. Some voices were prominent in 2003-2004. In 2007, some of them had moved on and other voices were more prominent. (It would be interesting/fun to do data visualization on how that changed over time.) I think from 2004-2009 or so, many of us were interested in digging deep into virtual worlds as a subject in itself, including reading outside our disciplinary comfort zones and discussing/debating issues with those from other disciplines and generalists. We did a great deal of that and I think many of us learned a great deal from those conversations. And then many of us thought about what we learned, wrote articles and books, and moved forward in our own directions. I would certainly enjoy continuing our conversations, but I think that, for many of us, the need to publish meant that our interest in the topic became more focused and closer to our home disciplines (or practices for the developers). And many of us are interested in things other than virtual worlds. By analogy, it wouldn't be surprising for a group of scholars researching the life of Thomas Jefferson to set up a vibrant collablog discussing his life in various ways. But at a certain point, some of those scholars will become interested in other topics (e.g. Alexander Hamilton) and the conversation will lose focus. But none of this is to say that Thomas Jefferson isn't a topic worthy of discussion or that parties to the original conversation don't want to talk about him anymore. In fact, I think almost all the Terra Nova authors are continuing to publish, at least occasionally, on topics originally discussed here. And many of us are still in touch with each other, meeting at conferences, chatting via Facebook and email, and sharing ideas about those topics. So while this particular tool is largely defunct (I think I was the only one who posted during the last 6 months or so, right?), the collaborative conversation is still continuing. I would make suggestions on how to reinvent an online forum around the topic, but for various reasons I think that's a task best left to others at this point. Good on Ren for giving it a go. Greg
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2014 on Making it official: RIP Terra Nova at Terra Nova
One more non-philospher: Hector Postigo has been talking a lot about this lately. Hector studied with Langdon Winner.
Richard, I think Ms. Paul was actually involved in a symposium at the Smithsonian. (And yes, I certainly do remember that!) :-)
Toggle Commented May 29, 2012 on Smithsonian Art of Video Games at Terra Nova
Richard (& Greg too I guess): Here's what they say on the website: "Video games are a prevalent and increasingly expressive medium within modern society. In the forty years since the introduction of the first home video game, the field has attracted exceptional artistic talent. An amalgam of traditional art forms—painting, writing, sculpture, music, storytelling, cinematography—video games offer artists a previously unprecedented method of communicating with and engaging audiences. The Art of Video Games is one of the first exhibitions to explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies. It features some of the most influential artists and designers during five eras of game technology, from early pioneers to contemporary designers." So, yes -- the latter (the art of game design) is what I think they say they are doing whereas the former (the artwork of games) is what they appear to be doing for the most part. For an example of how it isn't all visual art, but isn't too much more, see this on "mechanics": It's all sort of pre-ludology, I suppose. But again, I'm inclined to forgive, given that at least there is an effort being made to bridge the gap. From listening to Ms. Goodlander, I got the sense that there was considerable initial resistance to the whole notion of the exhibit from within the Smithsonian community, but that the powers-that-be have been pleased with the public interest in the show.
Toggle Commented May 23, 2012 on Smithsonian Art of Video Games at Terra Nova
Hi Shander, Good questions, though it's difficult to talk about them in the abstract. I can sort of answer them using US law, which may not always fit with Dutch law. Even as far as US law goes, I'd be interested in researching these questions a bit further. That said, in US law, *generally* it is more difficult to have courts take into account "sentimental value." Courts usually would be classify a loss of "sentimental value" as "non-economic" damages or "non-pecuniary" damages if they were claimed in tort. The chief reason they are hard to get is that it is hard to quantify those sorts of damages and it is also hard to ascertain whether they truly exist. That said, they aren't prohibited. As you say, pain and suffering can provide the basis for damages payments in some cases and "loss of consortium" is a pretty standard form of non-economic damages. And also, it is commons for forms of equitable relief (e.g. injunctions) often take into account non-economic harms and concerns. Regarding criminal law, most criminal statutes prohibit the theft of "black market" property under the same terms that they prohibit the theft of other forms of property. By "black market" I mean, e.g., illegal drugs or stolen property -- forms of property not lawfully possessed by the owner under state law. But I think the analogy doesn't really work with respect to most forms of virtual property, in that the virtual items are only "black market" goods insofar as sale might be prohibited by contract.
As always with your posts, Ted, there's a lot to talk about. But w/r/t MMORPGs, I think you can see this trend in the big $$$ titles as inevitable. This isn't a comprehensive list but: 1) The PC game industry and the console industry have always been primarily aimed at selling the single player experience. Two-player games have been the exception. Community has been the super-exception. With certain platforms we're seeing social creeping into the mix in various ways, but it is rare to see it in the core game design of a major title. 2) The MMO industry was probably at its most innovative in the early 2000's, when it had no idea what it was doing and was looking at MUDs in an effort to figure out how to understanding gaming in a shared world. UO and EQ were very MUD-like -- the contemporary WoW and WoW-clones are primarily about "alone together" as you say -- providing a semblance of society to achieve a certain psychological boost to play, but steering the main course back to what has been the tradition in PC and console. 3) And, fwiw, don't forget FPS games & that whole segment. If you look at Halo, Call of Duty, etc., what is happening there may be more social, more EQ-like, than some MMOs. But those games aren't MMO culture or shared world so much... it's rare that you see them grouped with MMOs. 4) The games that really prioritize social these days are games on Facebook and other casual games. But they're not doing it like UO or EQ did it, gloriously stumbling into emerging weirdness -- they're all about metrics, growth, stickiness. Finally, I'm sort of optimistic that the failure of big-budget MMOs to get social is opening a window of opportunity. I've been looking at Minecraft lately, and I'm thinking that someone out there might soon stumble into the right mix. Remember Ludicorp before it became Flickr? I'm looking for something like that around the corner.
Hey Richard, Here's the opinion with a better translation: 3.5. Before assessing these complaints it should be noted that the Court of Appeal has established the following: - it cost the victim time and effort to obtain the virtual amulet and mask. These objects were of genuine value to him and he, the defendant and the co-accused all wanted fervently to possess them; - the victim had exclusive de facto control over the virtual amulet and mask because these could only be accessed by logging into his RuneScape account. Through the actions of the defendant, the objects passed out of the control of the victim and into the control of the defendant. This violated the victim's uninterrupted enjoyment of exclusive control over these virtual objects; - the rules of RuneScape do not cover obtaining objects in the manner that occurred in this case: the objects were taken from the victim outside the context of the game itself. 3.6.1. The assertion that the objects are not goods because they consist of 'bits and bytes' is untenable. The virtual nature of these objects does not in itself preclude their being considered goods within the meaning of article 310 of the Criminal Code. The appeal court's ruling on this matter is thoroughly reasoned and is in no way incorrect in its interpretation of the law. The Supreme Court bases this conclusion in part on the fact that the appeal court established that 'for the victim, the defendant and his co-accused, the possessions they collect in the game hold genuine value, which can be taken away from them' and that 'this concerns items of value accumulated over the course of the game, which were obtained – or can be obtained – through time and effort' and that the victim had 'exclusive de facto control' over the objects within the game environment and lost control of those objects through the actions of the defendant and the co-accused. Re your chess analogy, if you rented a bike within a park that you could use for one week within the park, and someone stole that bike from you the first day of your rental, that would be understood as theft, even if the bike remained in the park and you were not the owner of the bike. Your chess analogy differs because there is no payment for the use of the pieces. Perhaps your chess analogy is more like Runescape, given that players don't necessarily pay for items. Though, IIRC, they do have micropayments and, of course, there is the eBay market. But the criminal statute in the Netherlands doesn't require purchase of a license to the goods, it just requires de facto control of goods that are valuable. So I'm not really sure if your chess analogy wouldn't fit within the definition of the Dutch law -- it very well might. I think this is probably the TOS: It does state "You agree that all intellectual property or other rights in any game character, account and items are and will remain our property. Jagex owns all rights in the Jagex Products, and you are only granted permission to use such products, subject to and in accordance with these Terms and Conditions." But as you say, contract does not alter the rights of those who are not parties to the contract. In this case, if Jagex were to say that "theft by knifepoint outside the game context is permitted by the game rules," there would have been a different analysis but I'm confident that such a contract would be voided for public policy reasons. It is interesting, though, that the court stresses that this sort of theft was *not* permitted by the game. Also, fwiw, the opinion I referenced in the OP is not technically part of the Court's decision. Apparently the Dutch Supreme Court does not do cites in its decision. The AG's office, which is associated with the court, apparently writes opinions accompanying the decisions. (I learn something new every day!)
Peter - thanks for the translation! I appreciate it. You Dutch folks certainly are ahead of the curve on this.
@thoreau -- many thanks. The Optimus Prime statue would be infringing, I would think. Non-commercial copying (like copying mp3s and giving them to friends) is still copyright infringement, unless it is protected by fair use. Many courts have found various forms of non-commercial copying to be outside the scope of fair use, so I would hardly bet that the Optimus Prime statue would be protected by fair use doctrine. And w/r/t Legos -- the Lego company gets licenses to make Harry Potter and Batman (etc) Lego kits, including copyright licenses. So a great rendition of OP in Legos could be a copyright infringement too. @inklink: Megaupload can afford very good lawyers. If they were penniless pirates doing the exact thing that they are doing, I would call it an easy case for prosecutors. However, with good lawyers, I think they've got some good arguments on DMCA 512 compliance. The result of the YouTube case, which I discuss in the Gamasutra piece, may influence what ultimately happens with the Megaupload prosecutions. There may be some interesting jurisdictional questions too about whether US criminal copyright provisions should apply to them (even if they should be subject to personal jurisdiction here, which will probably be contested too).
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2012 on Minecraft and Intellectual Property at Terra Nova
Thanks for reading it!
Toggle Commented Jan 17, 2012 on Minecraft and Intellectual Property at Terra Nova
Way to go, Ted. I like stories and I know you do too, but I feel your pain. I think I arrive at a similar place from a very different angle -- the real or imagined crises in the movie industry don't worry me so much. I'm more worried about a society where people are more engaged with various screens than they are with each other. And you're right that games often cut through a lot of carefully artifice quickly. I suppose that's why when we're trying to get people to know each other, we use ice-breaking games rather than have them all watch movies together.
Toggle Commented Jan 4, 2012 on Movies Stink at Terra Nova
Thanks everyone for the comments. I was reading the reader comments on Slate and many are (justifiably) much more pointed than mine. This is off-topic, but is comment 9 here (Marvin) a form of link spam? I don't get why it would be spam, since it's just a brief comment with a link to Marvin's QQ email address, not a URL. I see the same email listed as the contact on a bunch of flash game websites. Marvin -- are you legit? Do you use Second Life frequently?
Toggle Commented Nov 12, 2011 on Why Second Life failed at Terra Nova
I had high hopes. Like Polynices says, it was not the sandbox game that they could have made. There are actually deep divisions within Lego about how much they are a user creativity company and how much they want to tie into Hollywood and licensing. This one was obviously driven by the Hollywood side of the company, since the game was totally on rails. (Since the Lego console games are all very profitable licensed tie-ins, this was no surprise, I guess.) With a little imagination, Lego *could* have created Minecraft and made gazillions. Instead, they decided to copy Everquest and substitute Lego figures. Their MMO is now going down the tubes and Minecraft is minting money. They should think about that at the next board meeting.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2011 on Lego Universe to Close at Terra Nova
Just re-read the OP, and I think I'm getting what Ted was driving at now. Maybe? So the question is really: was EQ a better game than WoW in terms of design/art? Is WoW a grind? If yes to both, then why is WoW more popular. Relatedly, is Farmville and the Facebook game genre bad art? Is it based on a science of stickiness? If yes to both, then why are those games popular and why are designers gravitating toward them if they find them unrewarding as artistic endeavors? In other words, is the professional science of game design leading to jobs and consumer markets whereas the art of game design is losing, competitively. (That isn't my question, just a guess at what Ted was really driving at with the OP.)
Toggle Commented Nov 4, 2011 on Do you build a game like a machine? at Terra Nova
Adams actually makes sense to me in the full article. He's telling people who want to work in the game industry that their passion won't impress people who want to hire them, and won't carry them very far when they are tasked with replicating some one else's ideas that they think are junk. But he uses Van Gogh (who was an indie artist if there ever was one) as his example of "professionalism," which must be combined with passion. And I think he's saying that professionalism = effort and craft. So he's really not doing a science vs. passion thing, he's pointing out that enthusiasm for a vision alone gets you 1% of the way toward making something -- the other 99% is craft, which is serious work. Personally, I think 99 percent of the best stuff comes from the "indie" side of things. The *first* car and the *first* computer game -- the *first* anything, are almost always *indie* projects. You get innovation from people who are thinking for themselves. If you want "polish," look to the big studios and Hollywood for the latest Madden 20__ or Transformers __. That's what corporate creativity is good at delivering.
Toggle Commented Oct 29, 2011 on Do you build a game like a machine? at Terra Nova
Hi Shayne -- Yes, I agree -- good points!
Toggle Commented Oct 8, 2011 on Minecraft as Web 2.0 at Terra Nova
Amber & Leonel -- thanks so much for the comments! I'm really happy you liked it.
Toggle Commented Oct 6, 2011 on Minecraft as Web 2.0 at Terra Nova
Right! Or "citizens," even.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2011 on Back to Ontology at Terra Nova
@Ted -- I agree, though with the qualifier that I'm pretty sure that happiness has certain baselines (e.g. health) that might make rule-based equality not promote happiness in some cases, even if the rules are fair. E.g. a coin toss making the loser a lifetime servant of the winner may be fair, but I don't think it would promote happiness. @Stabs -- and I think, to the extent you might justify trade subsidies for the entertainment industry, some of this is about cultural issues as well, not just direct economic returns. If we're subsidizing the Voice of America, we should recognize that Hollywood and hiphop are the true voices of the US in many countries. And to the extent they make us look good, they probably do serve our economic interests.
I think that's right, and mostly due to the technology of games. Physical sports strive to make rules ensuring equality, but it doesn't work out, because we are physically different by design. But in digital games, you can do a lot more to create an equal playing field due to the disembodiment and the algorithmic nature of the interactions. It's curious, though, that the end point of MMOGs is actually inequality, right? And achieving the sought-after high status is tied to time investment, which flips the real world on its head. (As some person once told an audience in -- was that State of Play 2004?) Culture defines inequality. Above, I was talking about economic inequality, which I think is a serious problem for us today, but at the same time I'm often bothered by those who think that the only metric of inequality is economic (I'm looking at you, Karl Marx!). (Btw, on the point of the OP, I agree- I'm not sure why EA should get all of those tax breaks.)
I think I agree with your argument that much of the WPA's success (if it was a success) was about culture & popular belief. And I also think it can't be replicated now -- even if it were, the result would be different just because our families and our economy are different. I guess, though, I'm not too adverse to seeing government engage in redistributive programs through employment measures at this point, if that were done right and the narrative were convincing. I doubt the private sector is going to help this country arrive at more equitable income distributions.
Ted, in your opinion, was the WPA a success? Just curious.
Exactly -- which is why (to digress just a bit) schools should be focusing on enabling students to learn what they want to learn and what they can use rather than getting them to, e.g., score higher on the SATs and other standardized tests. Especially given the massive disruption we've seen in access to knowledge (today the Internet offers *incredible* resources to self-teach), the old model of top-down education is doing us a disservice. So sending game designers to college isn't about teaching them particular skills, it's about exposure to new ideas, teaching them how to learn, and interacting with people who have (or are gaining) expertise in various areas.
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2011 on Game Education: What Should You Study? at Terra Nova
And I agree with Cunzy -- on top of that, I think you have to be sort of crazy / in love with games. :-)
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2011 on Game Education: What Should You Study? at Terra Nova
Agree 100%... if you want to train to code game servers, and only code servers, maybe you should just learn how to code game servers. But if you want to design games, you really ought to be very curious about a whole bunch of things. If you're not, you probably won't make very interesting games. Just take a look at some of the leading figures in the industry -- they're deeply curious about everything. I'm not sure that someone like that *needs* a liberal education to do what they do, but I can't imagine someone like that wouldn't *want* to get a liberal education.
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2011 on Game Education: What Should You Study? at Terra Nova