Friday, March 12, 2004


(Continued from yesterday...)

AB: I often get the feeling that it’s just a matter of time before the powers that be, who have no idea what’s really going on in [MMOGs] will get wind of a few stories and will begin to take an interest in trying to control what’s going on, especially concerning matters of economy/trade between the virtual world and the real world... do you [think] this is coming?

HL: [F]ar as economy and trade, yes, I do think there will be some pretty interesting debates, in the very near future. Since the Lindens encourage residents to make real money from their efforts, what happens when some begin making a lot of money? And since the Lindens allow residents to retain IP rights over in-world objects they create, what happens when some residents convert those rights into, say, a TV show, or some other prominent project? You have to think any controversies that exist now-- jealousy, competition, and so on-- will become even more intense, when the stakes get even higher. Who knows, someday soon, a San Francisco judge may have to scratch her head over a copyright dispute that involves a customized avatar (what?) script (sorry?) that's been imported off-world (come again?) into a successful machinima (huh?) series.

AB: We’ve come to the wild speculation portion of the interview, what do you think the future of MMORPGS will look like? Do you envision mass participation, and what role will they play in peoples’ lives?What are some of the ways they can benefit society as a whole?

HL: Well, let's look at the big picture: in Asia, in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and so on, MMORPGs are already mainstream, played by tens of millions, across all demographics, with whole television networks devoted to [them]. These countries also happen to have some of the most powerful economies in the world, and as mainland China enters the world trading economy as a full participant, this audience and its purchasing power can only grow larger. As as the presence of real world money in these worlds increases, the cultural centrality of the MMORPG that's already taken for granted in Asia now will spread into the US and Canada, and then to Europe. At that point, MMORPGs will play as core a part of people's lives, as the Web or cell phones play a part in their lives now, in all the developed/developing nations. But because we are talking about a shared space, the potential to transform the world for the better-- different cultures and languages and mores, coming together, taking the best from each other, resolving conflicts on digital battlegrounds, as opposed to real bullets-- are unlimited.

That's the hopeful scenario, at least. Then again, I am quite sure that during this evolution, there will also be the equivalent of a 9/11 terror attack on a MMORPG, and it will wreak havoc on millions-- and that, too, will challenge our optimism and best hopes for the future, as it does now.

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> AB: We’ve come to the wild speculation portion > of the interview, what do you think the future > of MMORPGS will look like? Do you envision
> mass participation, and what role will they
> play in peoples’ lives?

To some degree this depends on whether synthetic worlds can move on beyond art and entertainment to become one of the standard platforms for human interaction and collaboration. Will we use them for dinner parties, seminars, casual meetings? Why would we when videoconferencing is there as an alternative? Is there something about avatars and immersive landscapes -- features videoconferencing lacks -- that makes the medium superior for these purposes? What?

Posted by: Fred Hapgood at Mar 13, 2004 12:20:34 PM