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The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Vancouver Sun (Canada) – SEE Virtual Worlds™ Purchases Virtual Property from MindArk for $6 Million USD. “SEE Virtual Worlds™, an entertainment company developing a virtual reality universe of connected planets tied to licensed franchises, and MindArk, the company behind the virtual 3D environment Entropia Universe, today announced SEE Virtual Worlds has procured the rights to Planet Calypso, the first planet in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) Entropia Universe, for $6 million USD. Taking place in a distant future, Planet Calypso is home to a human colony working to establish a new virtual civilization. The planet has been successfully running since 2003 with more than 950,000 registered accounts from 200 countries and territories with $428 million USD processed in player-to-player transactions in 2010. Additionally, SEE Virtual Worlds’ has acquired the assets of First Planet Company, a subsidiary of MindArk.”

2. Tolerance (Canada) – Video Games – Virtual Worlds Not So Far From Our Own. “During my winter holidays this past December, I visited friends who had just received the Nintendo Wii for Christmas. At first I made fun of them – grown adults playing games after all! But after a few days of watching them play, I was intrigued and had to try this out to see what the big deal was about. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed myself. That winter morning, as I simulated playing tennis and boxing, I realized that I was quite good at it. Moreover, it was great exercise, and even an interactive activity, since I was playing against my friend. This was quite a revelation for me – as an adult female who just doesn’t “do” video games. ”

3. Digital Spy (UK) – Power Up!: The Gamification of Life. “In As You Like It, the great bard William Shakespeare famously penned: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” But in the modern world, that would possibly read more suitably as “all the world’s a game, and all the men, women and children merely players”. In just 40 years, the video games industry has grown from a niche world of bedroom enthusiasts to a multi-billion-dollar behemoth, snapping at the heels of the traditional entertainment industries, both financially and creatively. Perhaps gaming’s most incredible feat, though, is to extend its tentacles into everyday life via an intriguing phenomenon known as gamification – the application of gaming principles to work, education and day-to-day existence. Digital Spy investigates the growing groundswell of support for gamification and asks what dangers there may be in making life one big game.”

4. Detroit Free Press (USA) – At $1 a square, people get to use imagination. “Jerry Paffendorf has taken the popular concept of virtual worlds – where you can be anything or anyone you want to be on the Internet – and given it real roots in Detroit. For seven months, Paffendorf has been selling square-inch-sized pieces of land in the city for a $1 a square inch. Now, he has sold out of inches. This spring, he plans to put down the grid, so buyers or “inchvestors” from as far as Australia can do what they want with their tiny property. “If you can stretch your imagination … this small space can be as big as you want, ” said Paffendorf, 28, who moved to Detroit in January.”

5. The Independent (UK) – Reality is Broken, By Jane McGonigal. “Engaging with the argument that gamers are our future feels a bit like a game itself. It’s one in which I pit my wits against the California-based alternative-reality guru and academic Jane McGonigal and her characters, the Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals, while she tries to slay my avatar, the cynical layman reared on English circumspection and gloom. It might not quite be Mortal Kombat, but McGonigal’s treatise is an epic read and, as a non-gamer, I am a prime target. The book describes the kind of experience gamers get from virtual worlds, such as that of the interstellar wargame saga Halo, and the all-encompassing, inclusive feeling that people need from real life. That they aren’t getting the latter is in part, the author believes, because of a focus on extrinsic rewards that promote an inward spiral of unhappiness.”

6. Los Angeles Times (USA) – Significant layoffs at Disney’s Interactive Group. “Disney Interactive Media Group laid off a “sizable” number of employees Monday as part of a restructuring of the money-losing digital unit, according to people with knowledge of the situation. It is unclear exactly how many people have lost their jobs in the reorganization. Cuts include “minimal” job reductions at Junction Point Studios in Austin, Texas, the development group within Disney Interactive that created the top-selling Epic Mickey video game, a company spokeswoman said. She declined to say how many employees were let go at Disney Interactive’s eight development studios, or how many people work for the digital group.”

7. Minnesota Daily (USA) – From EverQuest to Afghanistan: Army, U teach teamwork. “When she started analyzing video games three years ago, Kyong Shim wasn’t taken very seriously. People questioned the idea of learning from the games. Now the U.S. Army is on board and is one of many groups looking to use the massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMPORG) research to advance training for soldiers. The Army will use the teamwork aspect of MMORPGs to improve communication and work toward a common goal, said Shim, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota.”

8. Mother Jones (USA) – Wii Shall Overcome. “In February 2010, Jane McGonigal completed another level in her quest to become America’s new guru of gaming. She delivered a talk at TED, the annual California conference that’s an obligatory stop for anyone peddling a Big Idea, from Al Gore to Bill Gates to David Byrne. McGonigal’s was that video games can fix the planet’s toughest problems. It’s a bold, appealing proposition: Game-addled kids, who spend an average of more than 10,000 hours fiddling with consoles and controllers before they turn 21, could wind up stopping climate change with their PlayStations!”

9. Search Engine Watch (USA) – Beast Wars: The Bunny People vs. The Horse People. “Often, people tend to doubt that there’s real money at stake selling virtual goods. Despite estimates that virtual goods will become a $10 billion industry this year, it often seems fantastic that people are willing to spend real money on products that don’t exist in the physical world. But they do. Just like in any other business involving real money, there are real lawsuits involved. In this case, we have something that sounds almost ludicrous: the Bunny People (a.k.a. Ozimals) vs. the Horse People (a.k.a. Amaretto). To date, the battle still rages on. But as silly as this might sound it’s really only about what any other civil lawsuit is about: money. Very real money.”

10. The Epoch Times (USA) – New Video Games Played With Living Organisms (Video). “A new discovery could make “Tron”-like battle grids a reality for unwitting microorganisms, with the unveiling of “biotic games” in the journal, The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). Games include remakes of classics like “Pac-Man” and “Pong,” only they’re played with living, swimming microorganisms, complete with a hand-held controller. Developing the games borders on scientific research. “The details of biological systems are not completely understood, hence the realism is limited by the game designers knowledge,” states the report.”