Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Second life

I was fascinated by the last edition of Four Corners, You Only Live Twice.

It is about living in virtual online worlds where you enjoy making money, adventure and sex. Participants in this world are other real players and the game interacts with the real world – game money can be converted into US dollars, clothes you try on virtually can be purchased and so on.

Regulatory and legal issues abound. Should unconventional sexual practices in this world be banned? How are contract violations and identity theft dealt with? Given that real profits are being earned with real investments in virtual stocks and property assets, should they be taxed? Who should tax them given that players are distributed globally? Can such games be used to simulate real world behaviour to determine what will happen to the economy if Ben Bernanke raises interest rates?

The limits of living are set by your imagination and these games allow your imagination to run riot.

The main game examined was Second Life which is extraordinary. I got into it last night (it’s a possible substitute for blogging!), have an Avatar identity and am in the process of learning the rules.

I’d be interested in reader experiences of such games.


lucy tartan said...

My partner goes into Second Life fairly often. He socialises with people he knows from elsewhere on the Internet - other music fans. I find it quite boring there. My impression is that people have a brief infatuation with it, build and buy, then get bored and drift away leaving behind empty buildings. The perspectives put by Clay Shirky on Four Corners seemed about right to me.

When Australians are awake it is quite deserted or thinly populated so I guess it might be more interesting for Northern Hemisphereans.

Jenny Diski had a good essay about Second Life in last month's London Review of Books.

rabee said...

Why is it that the successful games have interaction in the presence of resource limitations. I don't think that a game with unlimited resources where people get what they want for free would be very successful.

In fact, in some cases the setting has more limitations on resources than here on God's Earth.

I can't imagine a game set in Cloud Cuckoo Land being very popular?

Lowell Cremorne said...

You are spot on that a bunch of ethical and moral issues abound in Second Life. I cover Second Life news for Australian users ( and I never cease to be amazed at some of the activity that goes on - 99% of it is creative even inspirational activity - like real life it's the 1% that usually let the side down.

Sam Ward said...

Without resource limitations there is no game. What goals can you set if you've already accomplished everything?

P.A. Coplay said...

Hi Rabee,

I remember reading an article quite a while ago about this (in a magazine in a hairdressers). It was interesting in that misallocation in the virtual life games occurred in ways economists would predict. Where there was no limit on currency, hyperinflation occurred. Where no one had to incur storage costs players either created or accumulated enormous quantities of stuff.

Also one game had to create two versions - one with basic rules (like not killing newbies for sport - possibly after either bad publicity or legal action (my memory is not the best on this)) and the other where everything goes.

I went back to find the article for a class in which I taught GE but the magazine was gone...


hc said...

p.a.c., The show explicitly discusdsed the use of such games in economic simulation exercises. I think there is an interesting experimental economics effort here.