Category Archives: Virtual Worlds

Farmers and Cowmen in Space

Nate Combs at Terra Nova has written a really interesting post about economic and other relationships in Eve Online. It's at at My friend's keeper, and it reinforces my suspicion that while World of Warcraft is the bigger social phenom, with the largest bleed-over into art and ordinary life, Eve Online is the most interesting major game, both legally and structurally.

I'm not even going to try to quote from this one — if you're interested in Virtual Worlds (or political economy or political sociology) you should just go read it.

Update (12/8/07): And see the follow-up.

Google Patents Method to Do Real-Time Psych Profiling of Online Gamers

The Guardian reports Google may use games to analyse net users:

Internet giant Google has drawn up plans to compile psychological profiles of millions of web users by covertly monitoring the way they play online games.

The company thinks it can glean information about an individual's preferences and personality type by tracking their online behaviour, which could then be sold to advertisers. Details such as whether a person is more likely to be aggressive, hostile or dishonest could be obtained and stored for future use, it says.

The move is intended to customise adverts shown to players of online video games by tailoring them to specific tastes and interests. But it has worried privacy campaigners, who said the implications of compiling and storing such detailed information were “alarming”.

The plans are detailed in a patent filed by Google in Europe and the US last month. It says people playing online role playing games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft would be particularly good to target, because they interact with other players and make decisions that probably reflect their behaviour in real life.

The patent says: “User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterise the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterise the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc).”

The information could be used to make adverts that appear inside the game more “relevant to the user”, Google says.

Players who spend a lot of time exploring “may be interested in vacations, so the system may show ads for vacations”. And those who spend more time talking to other characters will see adverts for mobile phones.

The article doesn't really explain, however, exactly how Google plans to collect the information. Is it real-time, via the toolbar? Would the info be provided by the game or by the desktop?

Meanwhile, however, Google assures us that it's all theoretical.

When contacted by the Guardian, Google said it did not have any plans to roll out the technology in the near future, and that it was just one of a large number of patents that it has filed in recent months. A spokesman said: “Google registers different patents irrespective of whether we actually intend to use them.”

Sure, sure, nothing to worry about…

Virtual Conversion (in NY)

In a decision issued Thursday, Thyroff v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., — N.E.2d —-, 2007 WL 844860 (N.Y.), 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 02442, the NY Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, responded to a question certified by the Second Circuit: “whether the common-law cause of action of conversion applies to certain electronic computer records and data.” And, 7-0, it says the answer is “yes” — expanding the tort to intangible property. (Not all courts agree.)

So next time you take those virtual gold pieces from some newbie avatar — New York says that's conversion.

More seriously, what remains to be determined about virtual item theft is whether the communal agreement to the game license and rules amounts to license or waiver. But I can see some game EULA's being re-written to make this clearer.

Key parts of the decision below:

Continue reading

Dumb Move

Dan Hunter posts on (confused) threats he’s received from the proprietor of an online game whose press releases Dan had the temerity to suggest might be slightly inflated.

As one of the commentators to his post noted, sending this sort of threat to a tenured law professor and/or his Dean, is “like playing chicken with a freight train.”

(Incidentally, guys, oral defamation is slander, written defamation is libel. Get your threats right.)