China Struggles to Evolve in the Age of Online Gaming

Worldofwarcraft_chinaChina is an interesting case, a society where strict cultural censorship gives way to a vibrant community of online gamers. But this online freedom only exists up to a point, as both Google and World of Warcraft can attest.

China's educated middle and upper classes are voracious online gamers, and many are unhappy with several proposed changes to the popular Chinese online game "Legend." This caps off a tumultuous few months for a Chinese government struggling to come to terms with the emergence of virtual worlds.

Let's take a look at why some Chinese gamers are staging virtual world protests, and why the Chinese government is moving to shut down offending servers in a bid to control the potential threat of unchained protest.

Continue reading China Struggles to Evolve in the Age of Online Gaming

Do Virtual World Interactions Help Growing Nations?

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A free virtual education via Internet Cafe

Pixels and Policy enjoys
covering the business and policy implications of virtual worlds, but many of
these studies, like Audi's plan to market a car through
virtual worlds
, seem distinctly rich-world pleasures.

Countries like Afghanistan,
Burma, and Pakistan struggle to meet their citizens' daily nutritional needs.
Marketing cars and having a Second Life account comes second to surviving one's
first life

Rita King of Dancing Ink
Productions and Dispatches from the Imagination Age has done some
pioneering work in the study of virtual worlds and developing nations. Her work
on using virtual worlds to understand Islam
should be required reading for budding policymakers in universities
nationwide.

Are developing worlds present
in the virtual world? Can the citizens of repressive regimes like Burma express
themselves in the Metaverse without fear of reprisal? There's one way to find
out — connect with some wired Pakistanis and see what they have to say.

Continue reading Do Virtual World Interactions Help Growing Nations?

Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca

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Northern Kentucky University is joining South Dakota State University and St. Paul College in Minnesota as a pioneer in the virtual world revolution.

According to an article in Scientific Computing, Northern Kentucky University just received a $6 million grant to construct a virtual world informatics center complete with the academic-sounding CAVE: computer assisted virtual environment.

Read on to find out how NKU is poised to change the model of how virtual worlds research is conducted, and why the Midwest will soon be in the driver's seat of academic research into virtual worlds.

Continue reading Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca

British Psychologists Analyze Sex and Morality in Second Life

When you're at home and hungry for pizza, do you order online? Do you feel an intimate attachment to your Second Life avatar? Do you find yourself seeking inspiration in the real-world for your next virtual product? A group of British psychologists hopes to understand why virtual worlds are such a large part of our lives at a recently-announced conference.

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The Online Therapy Institute (click to enlarge)

Anyone spending any amount of time in Second Life takes notice of its fantasy elements. Perfectly staid and buttoned-down people turn into sexual deviants in oversized animal outfits in the relative freedom and anonymity of the Metaverse.

Now Garry Young of Nottingham University asks why we act how we do in the virtual world.

From the article:

Young will question whether it is possible for people to consider computer games and online virtual worlds as taboo free zones where human morals need not be adhered to.

They will also propose that there could be a psychological cost for people who choose to play computer and online games where they can behave in potentially morally and legally unacceptable ways, while having to act within normal moral boundaries offline.

Ten years ago virtual worlds were a niche industry undeserving of serious scientific study. Now psychologists and researchers from around the world will assemble to discern what it is that draws millions of people to devote hours every week to virtual life.

The British psychologists are late to the game. The Online Therapy Institute has been active in Second Life for some time, providing consulting and other Metaverse services through a list of well-credentialed health care professionals.

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Virtual Prostitution (click to enlarge)

They do, however, raise a good series of questions. Why do we act the way we do in Second Life, where the dominance of sex shops and sexuality in general appears generally accepted?

As we mentioned in an article earlier today, one of the wealthiest players in Second Life is a virtual content pornographer who translated virtual success into real-world millionairedom.

If we feel liberated to be ourselves behind the anonymity of avatars, how will psychologists explain the evolving cultural norms of Second Life society? There certainly are plenty: Try using a push gun on someone who isn't in on the joke.

The conference is ongoing through tomorrow, and attendance requires a membership in The British Psychological Society. No dice on whether joining their Second Life group counts. We'll be sure to report on whatever findings these sagely scholars uncover.

Pixels and Policy Now Available on Alltop!

Alltop We're proud to announce that Pixels and Policy is now a member of Alltop.com, one of the premier news aggregators. Alltop allows you to assemble a wide mix of weblogs, news sites, and Twitter feeds all on one easy to navigate screen.

You can find Pixels and Policy under Alltop's Virtual Worlds category, alongside such big names as New World Notes and Dispatches from the Imagination Age.

We sincerely hope you'll consider adding Pixels and Policy to your list of daily Alltop reads!

The Iranian Opposition’s Second Life

Our piece on Iran's virtual protests kicked off Pixels and Policy, and in coordination with its syndication on Foreign Policy in Focus and Asia Chronicle, we're reposting it here.

Freeiran On July 22,
a week into Iran’s
foreign media reporting ban, a group of Iranian protesters gathered on a grassy
hill to speak out against Supreme Leader Khamenei’s continued support for
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s security forces, however,
were absent. In a nation with a frighteningly effective intelligence service,
Supreme Leader Khamenei was entirely unaware of this protest because it took place in Second Life.

Continue reading The Iranian Opposition’s Second Life