NetEase Granted Burning Crusade License

February 16, 2010 -

Following a prolonged battle and a series of false-starts, China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) has finally given the official go-ahead for NetEase to operate the world of Warcraft expansion The Burning Crusade.

In granting the license needed to operate the game, GAPP said that NetEase had “taken necessary corrective measures." The decision came down on Friday wrote Digital East Asia. GAPP had previously suspended NetEase’s permit over what it termed “gross violations” of regulations.

In related news, China Tech News offers word of a new Chinese initiative spearheaded by game operators that will educate parents on how to best oversee their children’s online game activities.  Game operators Wanmei.com, Tencent, Shanda, Netease, Changyou and Giant Interactive are particpiants in the program, which will provide a variety of support materials for parents and also provide the means for parents to suspend or cancel their children’s accounts.

Digital East Asia also shed light on a series of YouTube videos (pictured) that lampoon the World of Warcraft Chinese debacle and use the situation to provide commentary on the rigid state of Chinese censors. The Wall Street Journal said about the video, “…its subtext is a broad, biting allegory of the fight against government Internet controls, peppered with allusions to a list of real-world conflicts in China over the past year.”

Part 1, with English subtitles, can be found here.

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Chinese WOW Bickering Continues

February 8, 2010 -

If you thought that the trials and tribulations of Chinese World of Warcraft operator NetEase were over, think again.

In response to orders from China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), NetEase has suspended new user registrations for the game. The suspension is expected to last a week and was done in response to GAPP claiming that NetEase had committed “gross violations” of regulations, reports Reuters.

GAPP ordered NetEase to stop charging users to play the game and had returned a NetEase application to run the WOW expansion The Burning Crusade. NetEase, however, had continued to operate the expansion, claiming that it was in compliance with local laws. NetEase has once again resubmitted its application to GAPP to operate the WOW expansion.

NetEase has been stuck in the middle of a government turf battle for at least several months now, as GAPP and the Ministry of Culture battle over which bureau has the right to govern gaming within China.


Estavillo Drops All Suits

February 2, 2010 -

We will have to find a new nickname for professional plaintiff/serial suer Erik Estavillo, as he is dropping all his lawsuits.

Estavillo wrote that his medical conditions, particularly symptoms related to panic disorder and Crohn’s disease, contributed to his decision to abandon the cases. He indicated that the long wait for cases to be heard was starting to get to him, causing his doctors to advise him to walk away from the lawsuits in order to improve his health. Estavillo also provided us with some individual reasons for dropping each case, mostly due to those being sued making improvements or fixes which seemed to appease Erik.

Estavillo had sued Sony over being banned from the PlayStation Network following Resistance: Fall of Man online gaming sessions. He had alleged that Sony was ineffective at stopping players under the age of 17 from playing the game and that banning him from the network amounted to theft, in regards to his PSN pre-paid points. Estavillo wrote that a signup page for PSN appears to have been added, which requires a parent or master account to add a new account to a PS3, addressing his concern of younger kids playing the game.

Erik has also sued Microsoft over a red ring of death on his Xbox 360 and Nintendo over a Wii system update that rendered his homebrew channel unusable. Estavillo said he just learned that Microsoft is not charging 360 owners to fix a console that received a RROD and that he has found many websites that would easily allow him to re-install the home brew channel if he so chose to do so.

A suit against World of Warcraft maker Activision Blizzards had alleged that characters in WOW walked to slow, thus enabling the game’s publisher to continue to reap monthly subscription fees as it took long periods of time just to travel in the game. Estavillo notes that now, it appears that WOW avatars walk much faster in Ghost mode.

Another factor in dropping the suits was that Estavillo could not afford to pay the process server fees needed to serve the people he had subpoenaed for some of his cases. Those subpoenaed by Estavillo had included Bill Gates, Winona Ryder, Depeche Mode’s Martin Lee Gore, Lady Sovereign and Krayzie Bone.

Estavillo will also drop his most recent case, which targeted a variety of gaming and popular websites for libel.

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Social Interaction as a Lynchpin of Gaming

January 27, 2010 -

A love of the social aspects of videogames tends to drive any perceived dependence on games more so than a game’s activity itself.

This is the angle a Kent State University article takes in examining the aspects of what fuels gamers to keep on playing, in addition to the subject of whether or not the term “addiction” is fair to use in relation to videogames. KSU Sophomore Brian Clark weighed in on the latter subject, stating that the use of such a term was misleading:

Rather than craving the game itself, they crave the interaction they get in the game so rather than going out and having a real life social interaction, they’re having social interactions with other people on a game.

The piece notes that a definition of someone addicted to videogames, as put forth by the American Medical Association (AMA), is a person that “has more control and success over his or her social relationships in the virtual world than reality.”

World of Warcraft was mentioned often in the piece, with Clark admitting that a friend of his had a reliance on the online game, which Clark, again, attributed to the social aspect of WOW. The additional factor of playing a game that never really ends only increases the difficulty of putting a game like WOW aside noted student Connor Shivers.

Achievements can also be a powerful lure for gamers to keep playing. Clark’s previously discussed WOW-loving friend also became reliant on them, “He would play some Xbox games just for the fact of getting achievement points (on Xbox LIVE) and feeling like he accomplished something.”

GP: The definition as defined by the AMA probably needs to be updated as more and more relationships that begin in virtual worlds cross over to the real world. I would venture a guess that most hardcore gamers have befriended a fellow gamer via an online guild or clan and then met up with them IRL.

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PBS Prepping All Encompassing Look at Digital Life

January 20, 2010 -

The Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) investigative show Frontline will air a deep look into how digital media and the Internet have transformed human lives and the subject of videogames is featured heavily in the program.

Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier will debut on February 2 at 9:00 ET. The 90 minute show was produced by Rachel Dretzin, who also created the recent Frontline special Growing Up Online, and will feature commentary from Douglas Rushkoff. Segments include Living Faster, Relationships, Waging War, Virtual Worlds and Learning.

Many individual videos are already available for viewing on the PBS website and a trailer for the show offers a quick overview of what it’s all about.

The Waging War section features game-related topics such as the military’s use of virtual reality training, as well as looks at both America’s Army and the Army Experience Center.

Virtual Worlds contains a cornucopia of videogame segments, including the use of virtual reality therapy for veterans, gaming addiction, professional gamers, violent games, Second Life and about 20 more pieces.

Another cool aspect to the program is that the Digital Nation website launched about a year ago ago in a bid to let users collaborate with the project by sharing their own experiences.

Fulfill Your Obligations, Even in Games

January 13, 2010 -

A Florida man has been arrested because he didn't play fair in World of Warcraft.

According to an Associated Press report out of Clearwater, 23-year-old Christopher H. Bouffard was arrested on Monday after he collected $760 from at least two people in exchange for World of Warcraft characters that he never delivered. He was arrested on charges of scheming to defraud and two counts of grand theft.

The incidents occurred in 2008, when Bouffard allegedly solicited the money in exchange for the characters, but cut off all contact with the individuals once he received the money.

He was being held on $20,000 bail. No word on what Blizzard plans to do with his account, or whether he even had one to begin with.

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Escapism as a Positive

January 13, 2010 -

Using Avatar as a benchmark, a USA Today opinion piece praises the mainstream adoption of fantasy in media such as movies, novels and videogames.

The author wonders if the popularity of World of Warcraft, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter indicates that today’s society is obsessed with escapism, or the ability to leave the real-world behind for the chance to immerse oneself in a fantasy world.

The scribe answers with a resounding no, and offers a positive spin on the new state of geek (and gaming) culture:

I've met hundreds of gamers and geeks. Their reasons for embracing fantasy and gaming aren't about mindless escapism. Games teach social skills, leadership and strategy; they inspire creativity and storytelling.

They provide rites of passage, accomplishment and belonging, even belief systems. They let people safely try out aspects of their personalities — often dark, evil sides, or extroverted or flirtatious — that they can't or won't flex in "real life." The games connect folks to magical thinking, to nature, to a primal, pick-up-your-battle-ax and kill mentalities long suppressed by so-called society.


As an added bonus, the author writes, the ability to insert ourselves into a different world—even if only for a short time—allows us to mitigate the “minutiae of our modern, mundane troubles.”

Amen.

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China Decision on WoW Coming Soon

January 4, 2010 -

It appears that China's feuding regulation agencies may have made peace that could lead to gamers in the country being able to play World of Warcraft again.

According to a brief item in JLC Pacific Epoch, China's General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) and the Ministry of Culture have come to an agreement about whether NetEase has been illegally operating its license for the MMORPG World of Warcraft. According to "an unnamed insider." the two sides apparently have agreed that regulations were broken, as the story says that a "punishment" will be announced in mid-January.

It remains to be seen what the punishment will be, but at least a decision appears close. The case has been in limbo since mid-September after GAPP told NetEase to stop charging for new WoW accounts and halted its review of an application by NetEase to allow players to play the WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

If the sanctions stop short of completely shutting down NetEase in China for its "illegal" activity, it could pave the way for resumption of gameplay on NetEase servers when the sanctions are lifted. If GAPP and the MoC go so far as to ban NetEase from operations, WoW parent Blizzard Entertainment may be forced to find another company in good standing to operate its WoW servers in China.

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WOW Playing Fugitive Busted with Help of Blizzard

January 4, 2010 -

An Indiana man wanted on drug charges was tracked down in Canada, thanks to his World of Warcraft addiction.

Following a 2007 warrant issued for his arrest, Alfred Hightower of Howard County, Indiana had fled to Canada reports KokomoPerspective.com. Hightower was wanted on charges of dealing marijuana and both schedule III and IV controlled substances.

Detective Matt Roberson began tracking the wanted man using information obtained from a childhood friend of Hightower’s. Roberson eventually learned of Hightower’s dependence on WOW and subpoenaed Activision Blizzard for more information on the fugitive.

The publisher's cooperation seemed to surprise Roberson:

“They don’t have to respond to us, and I was under the assumption that they wouldn’t,” said Roberson. “It had been three or four months since I had sent the subpoena. I just put it in the back of my mind and went on to do other things. Then I finally got a response from them. They sent me a package of information. They were very cooperative. It was nice that they were that willing to provide information.”

After zeroing in on Hightower’s location using a combination of WOW billing address, IP address and Google Earth, Canadian authorities were alerted and Hightower was nabbed in Ottawa, Canada and deported to Minnesota, where U.S. Marshals held him for Howard County authorities.

The article also features a link to a WOW Armory listing for Hightower’s character, a Level 80 Tauren Shaman.


Thanks Dan!

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Winona Ryder, Depeche Mode Factor in WOW Lawsuit

November 24, 2009 -

World of Warcraft maker Activision Blizzard is the latest target of a lawsuit by serial suer (or professional plaintiff) Erik Estavillo.

Filed this morning in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, the civil complaint charges Activision Blizzard with “deceitful” business practices, as it “continues to maintain a harmful virtual environment to many of its customers by forcing them to follow the game’s sneaky and deceitful practices.”

Among Estavillo’s claims is that WOW is designed for a gamer “to walk or run at a calculated slow pace, resulting in the player taking longer to get where he or she needs to go in the game.” This slow pace, says the plaintiff, leads to a longer time needed to finish game play or quests, in turn leading to more subscription revenue for Activision Blizzard.

Estavillo also complains that faster transportation is not available until a player levels up accordingly, or purchases an expansion pack.

The plaintiff then likens his health problems (OCD, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, major depression and Crohn’s Disease) to the afflictions that ailed the late EverQuest gamer Shawn Woolley, who took his own life on Thanksgiving morning in 2001.  Estavillo stated that he “doesn’t want to end up like Shawn did as he [Estavillo] relies on videogames heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life.”

Estavillo subpoenaed Depeche Mode founder Martin Lee Gore and actress Winona Ryder to provide testimony on his behalf regarding the subject of alienation.

Gore was subpoenaed because “he himself has been known to be sad, lonely, and alienated as can be seen in the songs he writes,” and Ryder because of her and Estavillo’s common interest in the J.D. Salinger book The Catcher in the Rye. Ryder would be able to, “explain the significance of alienation in Catcher in the Rye and will also testify to how alienation in the book can tie to alienation in real live/video games such as World of Warcraft.”

Estavillo is seeking punitive damages of $1.0 million and a court order that WOW implement changes that address the issues of his complaint.

Other lawsuits filed by Estavillo include one against Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), following a banning from the PlayStation Network, and a recent suit that targeted Microsoft and Nintendo—the former over an Xbox 360 red ring of death and the latter over a firmware update that disabled his Homebrew Channel.

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GAPP Snaps, Shuts Down WOW in China

November 3, 2009 -

As China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and the Ministry of Culture continue to flex their muscles over control of the country’s game industry, World of Warcraft gamers and operators are feeling the brunt of the infighting between the two entities.

Reuters reports that GAPP has stripped NetEase of the ability to operate The Burning Crusade, the latest version of WOW. GAPP cited a “gross violation” of regulations and ordered NetEase to stop charging users to play the game and to cease taking new subscriptions.

NetEase has since responded, saying that they “believe that they are in full compliance with applicable PRC laws and are currently seeking clarification from the relevant governmental authorities.”

Roth Capital Partners analyst Adam Krejcik said of NetEase, “These guys are essentially stuck in the middle of this power struggle.”

Until September of this year, GAPP was responsible for approving all game content within China. The Ministry of Culture assumed some of these duties, but GAPP appears unwilling to give up its authority, leading to the current infighting. WOW was launched in China on September 19 with Ministry of Culture approval, but no GAPP approval, which is now coming back to haunt NetEase.

Analysts estimate that Chinese WOW activity contributes 5 or 6 cents a year per share to Activision’s earnings.


Thanks Greenfenri

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Imagining the Web Minus Net Neutrality

October 29, 2009 -

A reddit user has created a striking visual representation of what *could* happen if net neutrality laws are shot down.

The image is based tiered pricing plans that some cable and Internet companies currently offer (lending, perhaps, an increased measure of reality to the illustration) and imagines, for example, websites such as Hulu and YouTube as part of a "Hollywood Tier," available for $10 over the price paid for basic Internet service.

More relevant here is the rendering of a “Playground” tier that includes Valve’s Steam platform, World of Warcraft, Gametap, Electronic Arts and Real Arcade, offered for a $5 surcharge. Yikes!

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Gamer Compares WOW to New Girlfriend

October 6, 2009 -

A study conducted by Singapore’s National Institute of Education reveals that its youth rack up an average of 27 hours a week playing videogames.

The group has polled over 3,000 students during the course of the three-year study, which The Straits Times reports is still ongoing. Lui Tuck Yew, acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts was reportedly “quite surprised and a little bit shocked” at the number of hours spent gaming.

Lawrence Lee, a 16-year old World of Warcraft player, called four hours of gaming a day “nothing,” and compared the game to fledgling love:

It is the novelty, like getting a new girlfriend. You want to spend every minute with her.

Singapore has formed an inter-ministry committee to address “cyber-wellness” issues.

Read the entire scanned article at the Education Soon blog.

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Bake Cookies, Beat Internet Addiction

September 23, 2009 -

More details on exactly how a new facility treats Internet addiction have emerged via an article on the ShanghaiDaily website.

The reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program, which opened its doors earlier this year in the state of Washington, takes a cold turkey approach to treating Internet addicts and attempts to fill their days with a mix of counseling and daily chores, such as baking cookies.

The program has its first patient, 19-year old Ben Alexander, who said his World of Warcraft addiction caused him to flunk out of the University of Iowa. The center can handle up to six patients at a time, but draws the line at accepting Internet sex addicts, as the retreat’s owner, Psychotherapist Cosette Dawna Rae, lives in the facility with her family.

This story claims the 45-day program costs $14,000, differing from earlier reports that pegged the figure at $45,000.

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Hardcore WoW Playing Senator Announces Run for Lt. Guv of Guam

September 4, 2009 -

We've written before on GamePolitics about Ray Tenorio (left), a member of Guam's Senate who also happens to be a hardcore World of Warcraft player.

But Tenorio has an announcement to make about his next political move, and he sent it here, which is kind of cool:

Hafa Adai (Hello) Game Politics.com.

I hope everyone at GamePolitics.com are healthy and doing well. As most everyone in WoW are eyeing level 85 in the Cataclysm expansion, waiting to take down the Lich King and still grinding heroic Ulduar...

I wanted to let GamePolitics.com know first that I am running for Lt. Governor with my friend, Senator Eddie Baza Calvo, who is running for Governor... 

I want to let your readers know that, among the numerous web sites and related comments to the articles about my gaming life some years ago, I understand the issues faced by the people who write on GamePolitics.com.

 

Perhaps together, we can continue to let people, voters and those in positions of authority know that gamers are the same as those who do everything from clean public parks, fight and die for democracy, conduct intricate procedures in professional careers, and, Yes, even make policy...for our communities, everywhere around the globe. That simple fact is rarely said but is the basis for an even broader discussion on the depth and breadth of people who enjoy gaming and still carry out their responsibilities.

Tenorio's WoW character is Paleray, a level-80 Dwarf Priest on the Silverhand server. He belongs to the Knights of the Marianas guild.

Guam is a territory of the United States and has one non-voting member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tenorio is a member of Guam's 15-member unicameral legislature.

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13 Arrested After Chinese Teen Is Killed at Internet Addiction Camp

August 10, 2009 -

Last week GamePolitics reported on the tragic death of 16-year-old Deng Senshan (left). The Chinese teen was beaten to death by employees at a camp for Internet addicts.

IDG is now reporting that 13 people have been rounded up by Chinese investigators. The facility itself, the Qihang Salvation Training Camp, has been shut down after authorities found that it was unlicensed. 122 students receiving "treatment" there were sent home to their families. From the IDG report:

Conservative [Chinese] officials blame hugely popular online games like World of Warcraft for getting teens hooked on the Web, harming their grades in school and dividing them from their parents. Some of the camps have used shock treatment on students, but China banned the practice last month.

UPDATE: More at Slashdot...

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Female Gamer Sees Sexism At Play in MMOs

August 10, 2009 -

Are the virtual worlds portrayed in massively-multiplayer online games inherently sexist?

Although she believes the situation is improving, Jaime, a veteran female gamer, still sees a great deal of sexism in MMOs. In a column for MMOsite she explains her view:

From my own experience, in the early days of MMOs – looking back at Ultima Online and EverQuest – there was a definite attitude that women simply didn't play games... Female players who identified their gender... [were] ignored. Women... [had] their skills and abilities in the game questioned...

Players began to slowly accept that there were women playing MMOs... Nonetheless, the attitude itself was still low and chauvinistic. I can recount at least half a dozen times while playing Dark Age of Camelot... [receiving] requests for pictures, breast size, age, if I was available for dating, and various sexual requests and connotations...

There's also been one constant: the harassing of female characters... whispers soliciting cybersex, of course, but also more innocent gestures such as the use of emotes to flirt at, kiss, poke, tickle, tease, grope, slap, and otherwise virtually sexually harass a female character.

Not surprisingly, Jaime sees the anonymous nature of the online world as a major contributing factor in MMO sexism.

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ECA Urges Gamer Action on Net Neutrality

August 5, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association is urging gamers to stand up and be counted for Net Neutrality.

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, the ECA issued a call to action:

Now is the time for you to stand up for your rights and join millions of Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they choose onlin. Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Take action now and tell Congress to make Net Neutrality the law of the land. Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to: charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft, to interfere with Xbox Live, or to completely shut off your ability to access for favorite web sites. Net Neutrality effects your entire online experience...

This is our best chance yet in making sure that Net Neutrality is passed by Congress. The head of the FCC supports it, the President of the United States supports it, and we're asking you to make sure to tell Congress you support it. Take a moment to send them the message to make Net Neutrality the law.

A suggested letter to Congressional representatives is available from the ECA website.

GP: Gamers, this issue may not inflame passions in the same way that the censorship debate does, but it's just as important in the long run.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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Outraged WoW Gamers Inexplicably Have Accounts Suspended

July 31, 2009 -

Numerous World of Warcraft gamers have found their accounts unexpectedly suspended, apparently through no fault of their own.

Ars Technica reports that chargebacks were filed against the accounts by PaymentOne; however, many of the WoW players affected insist that they have never used PaymentOne's services to cover the game's $14.99 monthy fee.

Mike Thompson of Ars Technica explains:

Chargebacks are normally used as a method of consumer protection—a last line of defense against shady retailers... Exactly why and how these chargebacks were applied to the aforementioned accounts has yet to be determined, but they've caused the accounts to have negative balances with Blizzard, which has led to their suspension until the issue is resolved...

Posts in the forum thread show that Blizzard is willing to discuss the unauthorized charges, but there haven't been any definite results from pursuing this course of action yet... A quick Google search shows this isn't the first time that allegations of fraud and unexpected charges have been leveled against the company.

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Treating World of Warcraft Addicts Right Inside the Game

July 28, 2009 -

Let’s say you’re hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft.

You play for 16 hours a day. You’ve lost your job, your friends, and you hardly eat or bathe anymore. Obviously, you need help but you’re unwilling to tear yourself away from your PC and see a counselor.

Well, if you’re not going to them, maybe they can come to you - in Azeroth.

Dr. Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London, would like therapists to join the game in order to treat addicted gamers right where they’re spending all their time.

[Addicted gamers] don’t exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenage anti-social behaviour issues do because they’re in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble. Because of this we can’t get through to them in the traditional educational environment or intrude on their actual bedrooms, we need to turn to the internet itself to tackle these problems.

Graham admits that many psychiatrists may not be very good at playing video games and suggests existing players can be recruited to act as “peer mentors” for users identified as problematic.

The project is scheduled to be launched by year’s end by which time Graham hopes to convince Blizzard to waive or at least discount the game’s subscription fee for psychiatrists.

AE:  An interesting idea but, as a practical matter, one wonders how an addicted gamer would react to another player "counseling" him or her to take a break.

Via: Telegraph

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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London Mapped in Warcraft II Style

July 28, 2009 -

For today's geography lesson, we defer to Unterbahn, where Jeffrey Warren found a way to map London in Warcraft II style:

Take a look at this map of London with a Warcraft II theme; I used GSS/Geographic Stylesheets and Cartagen to create a custom map style that displays the entire world as if it were a Warcraft II level. This was done to showcase the abilities of the dynamic mapping framework Cartagen, which is open-source and runs in HTML5's Canvas element. No Java or Flash!

Via: boingboing

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Former WoW Player Details His Game Addiction in New Blog

July 7, 2009 -

A recovering WoWaholic recounts his descent into depression and game addiction in a new blog.

C Gibson explains that WoW Survivor is intended to offer a supportive place for those who found the MMO world a bit too compelling.

In an introductory post, Gibson candidly discusses his own experience:

I was going to school full time in NYC and working. Because of an issue with my family, I became depressed. I stopped going to class, quit a good job for a lamer one... and reinstalled WoW. Instead of dealing with my issues, I ignored them by grinding reputation for a mount while my wife was at work...

 

I was on the verge of losing the person I cared about most over something that really didn't matter to me and had ZERO real life benefits. I agreed to and went to a counseler... and that helped eliminate my depression because I was no longer a passive variable in a world I didn't pay attention to.

I uninstalled WoW and haven't played since. I do read up on the blogs on occassion, and I actually find that that solidifies why I don't play. There is no way to keep up and I don't feel like getting wrapped up in a never ending adventure while my real life crumbles...

GP: When I read such stories, it's hard to know whether the writer's game addiction is a symptom of something else - like depression - or the underlying disease itself. In any case, Gibson's story seems to have a happy ending. He reports that he is successfully pursuing a writing career in NYC and that he and his wife are the proud parents of five-month old.

Via: ExGamer

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Is Gold Farming Really Banned? Confusion Over China's New Virtual Currency Rules

July 1, 2009 -

Earlier this week GamePolitics covered a story by Information Week which reported that new Chinese regulations on virtual currency would outlaw gold farming.

But there appears to be confusion about whether the practice of gathering in-game MMO currency and then re-selling it for real cash will be affected by the new regulations.

incgamers disputes the report, citing the University of Manchester's Prof. Richard Heeks:

This [new Chinese law] therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image.  And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency.  And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items.  And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

In any case, Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat writes, a ban on gold farming may be difficult for Chinese authorities to enforce:

The practice of trading virtual goods for real money is easy to make illegal, but hard to enforce. The gold farmers may not be affected... because of a technicality. Most of China’s gold farmers, who operate in sweatshops with dozens of fellow farmers, operate on servers on foreign soil. The government can only control what goes on with domestic servers...

The New York Times, which did not challenge the notion that the rules would impact gold farming, quoted Indiana University Prof. Edward Castronova, an authority on MMOs. In lauding the Chinese government action, Castonova offered what, to some, may seem like an alarmist view of in-game currency:

This action shows that at least one government is concerned about the way virtual worlds challenge its control of society. As virtual currencies take over more and more purchasing power, control over the effective money supply shifts from the central bank to the game developers.

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Report: China Bans Gold Farming

June 29, 2009 -

If you are planning on buying gold for your World of Warcraft character, act quickly. The price may be going up soon because of an official crackdown which should affect availability in a negative way.

Information Week reports that on Friday the Chinese government enacted new virtual currency regulations which, among other provisions, make gold farming illegal: 

The ruling is likely to affect many of the more than 300 million Internet users in China, as well as those in other countries involved in virtual currency trading. In the context of online role playing games like World of Warcraft, virtual currency trading is often called gold farming...

The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester.

He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China.

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Australia Moves to Block Online Access to Games With Content Beyond MA-15+

June 25, 2009 -

Australia's federal government said yesterday that it plans to block access to websites which host and sell games with content edgier than what is allowable under an MA-15+ rating. The unprecedented censorship policy will apply to Australians of all ages.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (left) said that the filtering scheme willl apply to downloadable games, Flash games and websites which sell boxed copies of MA-15+ games via mail order.

Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia, an online users' lobbying group, criticized the plan:

This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping. Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?

Mark Newton, described by the SMH as an ISP engineer, told the newspaper that the plan could affect online-only games like World of Warcraft and Second Life as well:

That [online games] exemption [on content ratings] is the only reason why multi-player games with user-generated environments are possible in this country; without it, it'd only take one game user anywhere in the world to produce objectionable content in the game environment to make the Australian Government ban the game for everyone.

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So Far, Iranian Censors Not Blocking Online Game Traffic

June 25, 2009 -

While the Iranian government has cracked down on communications by restricting Internet traffic during the ongoing post-election unrest, an analysis performed by Craig Labovitz of  Security to the Core suggests that authorities aren't paying attention to the flow of online game data:

While the rapidly evolving Iranian firewall has blocked web, video and most forms of interactive communication, not all Internet applications appear impacted. Interestingly, game protocols like xbox and World of Warcraft show little evidence of government manipulation.

Perhaps games provide a possible source of covert channels (e.g. “Bring your elves to the castle on the island of Azeroth and we’ll plan the next Ahmadinejad protest rally?”)

Meanwhile, Xbox 360 gamer Mike Murikami, blogging for The Examiner, notes:

With the Xbox 360 offering video chat among the features of being an Xbox Gold subscriber, this could easily be an upcoming popular way for loved ones and news outlets to deliver messages to and from the country.

6 comments

Gay Pride Month Celebrated in World of Warcraft

June 24, 2009 -

June is Gay Pride Month in the U.S. and the LGBT community in World of Warcraft marked the event with a large-scale celebration on the Proudmoore server.

GayGamer reports that this year's event was the fifth such gathering:

There were a variety of activities including Pre-Parade Festivities, March, Meetup with Alliance, Nude Duel Championship final round, March to Ratchet, Dance Boat Party to Booty Bay, Azeroth's Next Top Model Competition, Crafting Faire and Post-Parade Dance Party in the Bay.

It's great to see events like this happening in WOW and City of Heroes.

Via: Destructoid

68 comments

U.S. VAT Tax Would Affect Games, Systems, Online Fees (and everything else)

May 28, 2009 -

Suddenly, there's a good bit of discussion in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of a value-added tax, or VAT.

For the uninitiated, a VAT is essentially a national sales tax. As the Washington Post points out:

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax... has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity...

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything... But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American...

Should a VAT be enacted, it will tax every type of transaction involving a good or service. For gamers, that means disc-based and downloaded software, consoles, peripherals and even monthly fees for Xbox Live, Second Life and World of Warcraft.

The WaPo posits scenarios involving VATs ranging from 10-25% but concludes that a VAT is unlikely - for now.

84 comments

Survey Says: One in Twelve Gamers Addicted

May 26, 2009 -

One in 12 gamers shows signs of addiction, according to a study being presented this week at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress.

Prof. Vladan Starcevic (left) of the University of Sydney told New Zealand's NZTV that his team reached that conclusion after conducting an online survey of nearly 2,000 worldwide respondents:

Their whole lives revolve around this activity and there certainly seems to be a problem there - there is an addiction. And it seems to us that these people seem to... have other mental health issues, and it seems excessive video game playing is a manifestation of these underlying problems.

Problem gamers identified by the researchers were more prone to being socially isolated, at increased risk of depression and more likely to engage in compulsive behavior. Most seemed to play four or more hours per day and preferred MMOs like World of Warcraft. On the other hand, Starcevic noted that 92% of gamers displayed no problems with their gaming:

Most people who play video games are not problem video game players, to put it in simple terms, they're not addicted to video games. It is a minority of people who seem to have a problem.

As GameCulture notes, the 8% figure arrived at by Starcevic is remarkably close to the 8.5% game addiction rate Iowa State Prof. Douglas Gentile reported in a study released jointly with the National Institute on Media and the Family last month. As GamePolitics has reported, Gentile's research was criticized by ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer and Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood.

42 comments

Australian Paper: Video Game Biz "In Denial" About Game Addiction

May 20, 2009 -

Australia's largest daily newspaper, the Herald-Sun, charges that the video game industry is "in denial" when it comes to video game addiction:

Game addiction looms as a new national health problem for adults...

 

Games are an easy target, but it is true that the computer and video games industry has, unsurprisingly, backed away from the subject of games addiction. A statement from the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia shows the industry is in denial.

"Certainly many young people go through periods of intense involvement in computer game play, for example with a new game, but this is not a lasting obsession for the majority,'' it said.

Coming in for a mention, unsurprisingly, is World of Warcraft.

While there may be an argument to be made for game addiction, the poorly-researched Herald piece fails to make it.

Via: Joystiq

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Is King right? Should all games adopt the free-to-play model?:

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Matthew Wilsonit is a game worth playing if you have a pc/360/ps304/20/2014 - 9:34pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/IGLevine/status/457552538343325696 The Lutece Twins show up in some of the most unlikely of places.04/20/2014 - 2:44pm
Andrew EisenAs it happens, Chinatown Wars is the only GTA game I've played.04/19/2014 - 10:43am
Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
IanCSo im guessing a bunch of edutainment games, which a lot of people elsewhere are going gaga over, dot count as classics? Okay. If you don't mind me, i have a sudden urge to play Putt Putt....04/19/2014 - 6:15am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
 

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