Swine Flu Researchers Study 2005 WoW Pandemic

May 1, 2009 -

Canada.com reports that researchers are learning how pandemics spread by tracking progress of the Corrupted Blood outbreak that occurred in World of Warcraft in 2005.

Prof. Nina Fefferman of Rutgers University commented:

Suddenly, there did exist [in WoW] an experimental framework to watch how people would behave during an epidemic. That's exactly what we worry about in real-world epidemics — the little behaviours that we don't tell people to do or not to do, because we have never seen this happen before.

For those who don't play WoW, or didn't back in 2005, here's how the game's virtual pandemic went down:

Blizzard Entertainment decided that some players' characters had become too powerful, so they created a virus — called "Corrupted Blood" ...The virus quickly infected any nearby character, regardless of its relative strength.

The programmers imposed a mass quarantine, and expected players to take it seriously because "death" can cause their characters to lose items, strength, weapons and armour they had accumulated over many hours of play.

Yet many players ignored the quarantine, spreading the virus. Eventually, more than four million of the game's six million players worldwide were infected, and millions "died."

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Swine Flu Infects World of Warcraft

May 1, 2009 -

Swine flu may be causing a bit of a global panic just now, but the virus has apparently existed in Azeroth since the days of the Wrath of the Lich King beta.

The pic at left comes from the database at WoWHead, via Giant Bomb.

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PETA Plans Save the Seals Event on World of Warcraft

April 8, 2009 -

The increasingly game-aware People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will hold a save-the-virtual-baby-seals event in World of Warcraft at 1 P.M. EST on Saturday.

According to a post on the PETA site:

Activists from across the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are banding together to put a stop to the atrocious seal slaughter. Anyone who slaughters baby seals for their fur must surely be in service to the evil Lich King.

 

You must be in the WhisperWind realm in order to fight... go to Northrend, where you will find a zone called Howling Fjord, where the baby seals live on glaciers and boats float in the fjords. This will be the battleground to stop the slaughter.

Unfortunately, casual WoW players will not be able to check the event out since characters need to be level 68+ to enter the Howling Fjord zone. One of the reasons why the Ron Paul WoW campaign rally was so successful was that it took place in a starter zone.

In addition, hardcore WoW fans have posted comments to the PETA article and its Facebook event listing pointing out other concerns:

I actually do find this somewhat ironic, as there is soooooo much animal killing involved during the levelling of your characters.

I am a little aghast that you chose Alliance; if you want to be environmental you really want to be looking at the Tauren mythology. They are one with the earth and they are very environmental. As someone who plays mostly Horde characters, this just comes off as prejudiced.

Whisperwind is NOT a pvp server, most likely you are just going to be a witness to the biggest in game seal slaughter and you will be powerless to do anything about it.

Whisperwind is already a very high population server, which means most PETA members are just going to see the queue screen like the Ron Paul people did.

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Video Games Get the Blame in Colorado Shooting Spree

March 28, 2009 -

A Colorado police officer has suggested that a troubled 22-year old man who went on a random shooting spree last October may have been influenced by violent video games.

The Denver Post reports that the police investigator made the comment in regard to Stefan Martin-Urban (left), who killed two people and wounded two others before turning his gun on himself:

When Stefan Martin-Urban... pulled a pistol from behind his back and methodically shot strangers, his behavior was eerily similar to characters in the video games he played obsessively.

Those games, authorities said Friday... are the closest police and FBI investigators can come to an explanation for Martin-Urban's actions that killed two and injured two.

"It could be that he was simply acting out a part in a video game. Maybe he had interjected himself into a game in his mind," Grand Junction police Sgt. Tony Clayton said.

 

Like the thugs in "Grand Theft Auto" and warlocks in "World of Warcraft," Martin-Urban showed no emotion...

Sgt. Clayton's remarks notwithstanding, there are indications that the killer was, like so many other random shooters, a mentally disturbed person who gained access to a gun. From the story:

He had no criminal record and had not exhibited any psychotic behavior. But unbeknown to anyone who might have been alarmed, Martin-Urban had purchased a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger...

The only other clue that something wasn't right was his computer log: He spent an inordinate amount of time playing games where the object is to kill and steal.

He played the games as many as 12 hours a day during the last few months of his life. He holed up in a hotel room in Europe during a family vacation last summer and played the games while his mother and sister went sightseeing.

"In the last year, he had no friends. No boyfriend. No girlfriend. No pets. He was consumed with the video games. He spent an enormous amount of time playing them," Clayton said...

Martin-Urban lived mostly in isolation...  after enrolling in a state college... He stopped going to classes within two weeks.

His father had committed suicide in Alaska four days before the previous Christmas...

He had a profile on YouTube where he wrote that he lived in a world "that some people choose to call 'reality.' " His favorite videos included a prophecy that a 2,000- mile-long spaceship containing cosmic beings was going to appear in the Earth's atmosphere three days after the shooting.

In regard to the YouTube video, a local TV station speculated that Martin-Urban may have been part of a cult which predicted that the world would end within days of his rampage.

The Denver Post report also notes that Martin-Urban was a Grand Theft Auto player and even theorizes a link between his GTA play and the fact that most of his victims were getting into a BMW at the time of the shooting:

One of the fanciful cars in the game — the silver Blista — has taillights that resemble a BMW's.

The Rocky Mountain News reported last October that Martin-Urban's aunt worried that he may have been suicidal.

GP: Martin-Urban's self-imposed isolation, his retreat into obsessive gaming, his dropping out of school, the trauma of his father's suicide, and his apparent fascination with the bizarre cult video would seem to be red flags that Martin-Urban was a deeply troubled young man.

Protectionism at Work in China's WoW Lich King Refusal?

March 19, 2009 -

Recent reports that China is throwing up obstacles to the introduction of World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King may be economic protectionism at work, says techno-financial site Silicon Alley Insider:

Wrath of the Lich King still isn't on sale in China, waiting on approval from Chinese censors who are nitpicking over "skeletons" in the game. And now it's looking less and likely Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) latest will get approval anytime soon -- China is vowing to make it harder and harder for games like WoW to get the thumbs up.

Blame good old-fashioned protectionism: The Chinese Government hopes to make homegrown, Chinese games more attractive by keeping foreign games off the market.

By way of evidence, SAI points to a report published earlier this week by JLM Pacific Epoch, which tracks business happenings in China:

The [Chinese government] intends to tighten approval criteria for online game imports in an effort to protect the development of domestic online game enterprises and avoid the excessive penetration of foreign culture among Chinese youth...

The central government supports the export of domestic online games as a way to promote Chinese culture, and... plans to organize an overseas roadshow for domestic companies to cultivate efforts abroad...

GP: So, if the JLM report is correct, the Chinese don't want Western games sold there, but would like to send Chinese games here. Sounds like something the ESA - which represents the interests of U.S. game publishers - might want to take up the U.S. government.

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In Wake of Rampage, German Pol Calls for WoW to be 18+ Rated

March 18, 2009 -

First-person shooters Counter-strike and Far Cry 2 have already come in for mention in relation to last week's horrific rampage shooting in Germany.

But World of Warcraft, not one of the usual suspects in the video game violence debate, has now been thrown into the mix by a German politician.

Welt Online reports that Germany's Minister for Social Affairs Mechthild Ross-Luttmann (left) has turned her attention to WoW:

Ross-Luttmann... aims to achieve a general age restriction for addictive computer games. World of Warcraft, for example – available to minors at the age of 12 – might in the near future only be sold to adults. In addition to this, parents need to be further sensibilized [sic]. “Parents must know what danger potential exists in their children’s bedrooms,” Ross-Luttmann said.

Computer game expert and author of "Digital Paradise" Andreas Rosenfelder is rather skeptical about demands like this. “I don’t see a connection between digital role playing games like World of Warcraft and shooting sprees,” he said. World of Warcraft is a game set in medieval times in which the protagonists can take on the roles of dwarfs, elves and wizards. There is no shooting in this game.

"In heated debates there can easily be some confusion,“ Rosenfelder said.

Ross-Luttmann also hopes to begin a secret shopper program in order to evaluate video game rating enforcement by German retailers.

Via: GameCulture

If You Die, Who Will Tell Your WoW Guild Friends?

March 16, 2009 -

Online game guilds and clans often become something of a second family for devoted players.

But if a WoW gamer unexpectedly dies, how will fellow guildies know?

The Associated Press looks into the issue:

When Jerald Spangenberg collapsed and died in the middle of a quest in an online game, his daughter embarked on a quest of her own: to let her father's gaming friends know that he hadn't just decided to desert them.

It wasn't easy, because she didn't have her father's "World of Warcraft" password and the game's publisher couldn't help her. Eventually, Melissa Allen Spangenberg reached her father's friends by asking around online for the "guild" he belonged to.

The AP notes that some hardcore MMO types are leaving detailed instructions in the event of their demise. There are even online resources that have been created for the purpose:

David Eagleman... set up a site called Deathswitch, where people can set up e-mails that will be sent out automatically if they don't check in at intervals they specify, like once a week...

If Deathswitch sounds morbid, there's an alternative site: Slightly Morbid. It also sends e-mail when a member dies, but doesn't rely on them logging in periodically while they're alive. Instead, members have to give trusted friends or family the information needed to log in to the site and start the notification process...

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Chinese Govt. Blocking Release of WoW: Wrath of the Lich King

March 11, 2009 -

World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King has encountered some bureaucratic stumbling blocks on its way to the lucrative Chinese market.

JLM Pacific Epoch reports that WLK has been rejected twice by Chinese regulatory officials:

The applications were rejected due to content that didn't meet requirements, including a city raid and skeleton characters; the submitted version did not contain WLK's Death Knight first hero class, said the insider.

WoW game developer Blizzard Entertainment recently deleted a link on the game's North American site to the site's simplified Chinese version, said the report.

And, as Massively notes:

World of Warcraft has undergone changes specific to the Chinese market in the past, namely removing skeletons altogether in order to receive approval to operate the game in mainland China.

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Swedish Youth Advocate: WoW is Crack Cocaine of Game World

February 28, 2009 -

A youth advocate in Sweden has likened World of Warcraft to crack cocaine in terms of its supposed addictiveness and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health has endorsed that view.

As reported by the UK's Daily Mail, Sven Rollenhagen of Sweden's Youth Care Foundation has authored a report describing WoW in ominous terms:

The most dangerous game on the market... There is not a single case of game addiction that we have worked with in which World of Warcraft has not played a part...

It is the crack cocaine of the computer game world. Some will play it till they drop.

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Could Playing WoW Help Conserve Energy?

February 20, 2009 -

Could your addiction to World of Warcraft help green up the planet?

Possibly, according to Prof. Byron Reeves of Stanford. Appearing recently on the Living on Earth radio program, Reeves suggested that Smart Meters, which monitor household electricity usage, could be linked to WoW:

So imagine that you're in your home, you're signed into [the] game… and you make a decision in the game to turn off the lights in an unused bedroom [in real life]. As soon as you do that, the Smart Meter recognizes that, sends the information through the network to your computer and your house [in the game] turns a shade of green that it wasn't before.

 

And if I'm using less electricity, my team might do well. I get gold pieces and points… whatever the game designers think is fun. You get feedback in an entertainment game about what you're doing in the real world.

GP: There is, of course, no player ownership of houses in WoW, at least not at this time. The prof was apparently brainstorming possibilities that could be applied to MMOs in general. That's an old screenshot of my WoW character, by the way...

Via: Kotaku

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Better Citizenship Through WoW?

February 11, 2009 -

Can playing World of Warcraft make you a better citizen of the real world?

Perhaps.

A study by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Constance Steinkuehler found that WoW players were more likely to listen to and reason things out with their fellow Azeroth residents.

Steinkuehler spoke on the benefits of digital worlds at a museum in Madison last night. As reported by the Capital Times, her remarks included:

Learning how to navigate [the online world's] diversity is "in the big scheme of life" about citizenship, she said...

Video games... push social norms and practices because those things are necessary to succeed at highly complex MMOGs like World of Warcraft, Steinkuehler said...

 

Her work included analysis of message boards where World of Warcraft players get together... She found that 65 percent of the discussion was "evaluative" vs. 30 percent "absolutist" -- "My idea is right and not open to discussion" -- and 5 percent "relative" -- it's just opinion and no one is right.

In contrast, she said studies have found that the U.S. population is only 15 percent evaluative, 50 percent absolutist and 35 percent relativist...

Steinkuehler likened the efforts of gamers to President Obama's neighbor-to-neighbor tool where, for example, volunteers surveyed their neighborhoods and updated the campaign's database.

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Man Charged With Molesting 14-year-old Girl He Met Playing WoW

February 10, 2009 -

A 23-year-old Ohio man has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl he met while playing World of Warcraft.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pennsylvania State Police offer this account:

Daniel Joseph Czelusniak, 23... and the girl made first contact about four years ago on the Internet while playing [WoW] At the time, the girl claimed to have been 14 already.

Last March, the suspect traveled to Bedford County to meet her. He learned she actually was 14, but the two proceeded two months later to have a physical relationship, police said...

The relationship ended last September after the girl's mother found a cell phone the suspect bought for the girl. The mother questioned her daughter, confronted Mr. Czelusniak, and notified police.

GP: We've had a scary run of such cases of late...

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FCC Commish Who Blamed WoW for College Dropouts Resigns

January 6, 2009 -

Last month GamePolitics broke the news that FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate blamed World of Warcraft as a leading cause of college dropouts: 

You might find it alarming that one of the top reasons for college drop-outs in the U.S. is online gaming addiction - such as World of Warcraft - which is played by 11 million individuals worldwide.

Spong now reports that Tate, an appointee of President George W. Bush, has resigned her post.

Although Tate's World of Warcraft remarks riled many in the game community, the move would seem to have more to do with the changing of the guard at the White House and less with her views on WoW.

UPDATE: We've learned from a reliable source that Tate did not resign. Actually, she was nominated by President George W. Bush for a new term but was not confirmed by the Senate, which opted not to act on her nomination. 

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NFL Punter Adding Warcraft to Name?

January 2, 2009 -

Chris Kluwe, who punts for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, is a big-time World of Warcraft player.

In fact, he told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune that he has given some thought to adding Warcraft to his name. For pay, of course. Kluwe, who does a local radio program, commented on his gaming:

I think more people like to hear me talk about playing video games than football. I've played video games since I was 4 years old. I play them a lot more than I kick a football. I kick the ball about 45 minutes a day. I play video games about five or six hours a day. But that's OK. I don't watch TV...

 

Back when [Bengals receiver] Chad Johnson changed his name to Ocho Cinco, I told the guys at [radio station] 93X that I was going to change my name to Chris 'World of Warcraft. They said that's too long. So they started calling me Chris 'Warcraft.' I could make a lot of money if I changed my name to that.

GP: Personally, I'm hoping that Kluwe is thinking about WoW instead of his punting chores on Sunday when the Vikes host my beloved Iggles (that's the official Philadelphia pronunciation) in the playoffs.

Via: Kotaku

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Teen Makes Phony Suicide Threat to Blizzard Rep, Gets Arrested

December 31, 2008 -

A 17-year-old Ohio gamer found himself in hot water after he allegedly threatened to commit suicide while talking to a Blizzard rep about an online game (presumably, World of Warcraft).

The Middletown Journal reports:

The teen was having an online conversation with a representative of Blizzard Entertainment, an online video game company, when he typed that "he was suicidal and that the game is the only thing he has to live for," according to the report.

The company representative called 911.

The juvenile told police it was a joke "to try to get what he wanted for the game," according to the report. He was then handcuffed and placed in a patrol car.

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WoW's Top Political Moments

December 28, 2008 -

If you thought that World of Warcraft was apolitical, think again.

WoW Insider recalls the popular MMO's top political moments of 2008:

  • The New Year's Day Ron Paul campaign rally (covered in person by GP)
  • Gay & lesbian WoW guilds
  • In-game issues of sexism and racism
  • Obama gains presidential achievement
  • WoW-themed parody of Iraqi tossing shoe at President Bush (covered on GP)
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Georgia City Wants to Develop a Virtual World Interface

December 18, 2008 -

Uh, I'd like to pay my property tax, sign up for trash collection and could the police department do something about that Orc who lives around the corner?

Well, it's not quite like that, but the City of Decatur, Georgia is evaluating the use of a virtual world interface to "encourage community networking, improve civic engagement, and promote economic development."

The project even has a name: Virtual Decatur.

A website devoted to Virtual Decatur references Second Life and World of Warcraft, although not necessarily as models. From the site:

Virtual Decatur will provide an environment in which residents, businesses, institutions and visitors can interact and connect...  it is it is imperative that the project go beyond the features of traditional virtual environments.  The overarching purpose of this project is to allow users to interact with the City in new and innovative ways that are not possible in the real world.

Possible features of the proposed Virtual Decatur might include:

    • Opportunities to gather citizen input on policies, topics of interest, city services, and happenings
    • A Virtual City Hall Tour with multimedia capabilities.
    • Opportunities to earn coupons for use in real stores/retail establishments.
    • Streaming video of public meetings, ideally with a chat room feature that allows viewers to comment.
    • Access to visitors information (store hours, directions, weather, etc.)

A Request for Information (RFI) is available for download, with proposals due by February 13th. Among other requirements, the city expects Virtual Decatur to be "avatar-based" as well as "fun and intuitive."

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Are Employers Discriminating Against WoW Players?

December 17, 2008 -

Although the information is sketchy, at best, an exchange on the f13.net forums suggests that some employers may be discriminating against those who play World of Warcraft:

The anonymous poster is known only as "Tale":

I met with a recruiter recently (online media industry) and in conversation I happened to mention I'd spent way too much time in the early 2000s playing online games...

He replied that employers specifically instruct him not to send them World of Warcraft players. He said there is a belief that WoW players cannot give 100% because their focus is elsewhere, their sleeping patterns are often not great, etc. I mentioned that some people have written about MMOG leadership experience as a career positive or a way to learn project management skills, and he shook his head. He has been specifically asked to avoid WoW players...

No WoW-hating companies are named. On the other hand, a firm that outright dismisses the WoW crowd de facto shrinks its global applicant pool by - what - 12 million potential employees?

They can't all be addicts.

Via: Raph Koster

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Penny Arcade's Child's Play Charity Auction Brings in $200K

December 12, 2008 -

This week's Child's Play Charity Auction Dinner raised more than $200,000 for worthy causes, reports Gabe of Penny Arcade.

Among the items auctioned off was the rather impressive statue at left depicting an Orc from World of Warcraft on his mount.

Simply awesome - both the event and the statue...

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FCC Commissioner Terms WoW a Leading Cause of College Dropouts

December 10, 2008 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on concerns by University of Minnesota Duluth officials that compulsive World of Warcraft play was causing some students to flunk out.

Those concerns have been echoed by Federal Communications Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate (left).

The FCC commissioner commented on WoW during a speech on telecom policy and regulation delivered to the Practicing Law Institute on December 5th:

With the explosion of educational resources available online, one might think parents would be 100% pleased with the internet’s role in their children’s lives. But surveys show just the opposite: a late 2006 survey that showed 59% of parents think the internet has been a totally positive influence in their children’s lives-- down from 67% in 2004.

 

You might find it alarming that one of the top reasons for college drop-outs in the U.S. is online gaming addiction - such as World of Warcraft - which is played by 11 million individuals worldwide.

Document Dump: Read Tate's (mostly non-game-related) speech here.

GP: Big thanks to Steve Augustino for the heads-up!

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WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

December 9, 2008 -

Is it okay to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay?

Is it okay to torture an emotionless animated character in The Torture Game?

Is it okay to carry out a World of Warcraft quest that requires the player to torture a prisoner?

boingboing reports on the controversy generated by one Richard Bartle, himself the inventor of the MUD genre. It seems that Bartle recently came across a mission in WoW's Wrath of the Lich King expansion that gave him pause:

Basically, you have to take some kind of cow poke and zap a prisoner until he talks.

I'm not at all happy with this. I was expecting for there to be some way to tell the guy who gave you the quest that no, actually I don't want to torture a prisoner, but there didn't seem to be any way to do that. Worse, the quest is part of a chain you need to complete to gain access to the Nexus, which is the first instance you encounter (if you start on the west of the continent, as I did). So, either you play along and zap the guy, or you don't get to go to the Nexus.

I did zap him, pretty well in disbelief — I thought that surely the quest-giver would step in and stop it at some point? It didn't happen, though. Unless there's some kind of awful consequence further down the line, it would seem that Blizzard's designers are OK with breaking the Geneva convention.

GP: Kotaku reports that the quest at issue is The Art of Persuasion. The in-game instructions for the quest are as follows:

It is fortunate you're here, <race>.

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain 'extreme' measures - even in desperate times such as these. You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

Do what you must. We need to know where Lady Evanor is being held at once! I'll just busy myself organizing these shelves here. Oh, and here, perhaps you'll find this old thing [torture device] useful....

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Is WoW Trashing Some College Students' Grades?

December 9, 2008 -

Are World and Warcraft and other MMOs leading some college students to neglect their studies?

An academic advisor at the University of Minnesota Duluth thinks so. A report in the Duluth News-Tribune cites comments from UMD's Vince Rapesh:

"I accused one of them of coming in loaded from smoking dope, he looked so bad,” Repesh said. But the student had been up all night playing a computer game.

 

During freshman orientation this year, three of the 70 students Repesh talked to in groups about computer use had been to counseling for problematic gaming, one because he was too competitive to stop.

 

“I tell parents during talks, I believe it’s one of the hidden causes for kids to fail that nobody knows about it,” he said.

UMD Chancellor Kathryn Martin added:

These are very, very bright kids, and if you can’t get them back on track, you’ve lost a lot of potential.

Via: Our sister-site GameCulture

 

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"Morally Responsible" Investment Firm Goes Gay Bashing in Games

December 2, 2008 -

The Timothy Plan, a Florida investment firm which bills itself as "conservative Christian," is warning holiday-shopping parents away from what it calls the 30 "most offensive" video games.

While the usual suspects (GTA IV, Saints Row 2, Blitz the League II) make the list, there are some surprises as well, including the T-rated Bully: Scholarship Edition and World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

In its game rankings, the organization displays an obvious anti-gay bias. While it evaluates titles for sex and nudity, a gay/lesbian rating is also included, meaning that a game with a gay sexual encounter might get a double whammy when compared to a game where the sex is of the straight variety. This effect, for instance, pushes Fable II onto the group's most offensive list. Along that line a report prepared by the Timothy Plan contains this rather bizarre comment:

Army of Two: Homosexual Encounters: ...Somewhat homo-erotic undertones between the two main characters are present.

WoW made it onto the dirty thirty, thanks to a high "addiction" rating as well as a high rating for alcohol use (curse you, Noggenfogger elixir!).

How the group determined the addiction rank is really quite unfathomable. WoW received a 3, for example, the worst possible rating, while Lord of the Rings Online got a 1 and Age of Conan a 2. In fact, all of the MMOs were tagged for addiction as well as some multiplayer games like Halo 3. A few games (The Darkness, Devil May Cry 4) were punished for "demonic" references.

Timothy Plan president Art Ally (left) comments:

Many, if not most, parents who buy their kids video games really don't know the extent of sex and violence imbedded in them. From drug use, prostitution, murder and mayhem to vulgar profanity and blasphemy these games have become a powerfully negative influence on our kids...

 

I believe, if parents would take a moment to look at the report we've created, their game selections would be quite different.

The group maintains a corporate "hall of shame" which includes game publishers EA, Take-Two and Microsoft. The Timothy Plan also offers to screen your portfolio to see if any of your mutual funds have investments in shameful companies.

So helpful!

Document Dump: Get the Timothy Plan's game score card here. The group's press release with holiday shopping warnings is here.

Obama's FCC Transition Team Has MMO Background

November 19, 2008 -

The co-chair of President-elect Barack Obama's FCC transition team is a World of Warcraft geek.

That word comes by way of GigaOm, where Wagner James Au writes that Wharton Prof. Kevin Werbach (left), a Net Neutrality advocate is steering the Obama team's takeover of the FCC (presumably between WoW raids).

In fact, Werbach belongs to a pair of WoW guilds. He wrote of his gaming in a 2006 blog post:

I play Warcraft because it’s fun. It’s taking time away from watching TV, reading books, and other entertainment pursuits. But I’m also playing because I believe MMOGs will be one of the primary forms of social software for the next decade. Defined broadly, they may become the dominant form of social software. And you can’t understand games without experiencing them first-hand...

 

What [WoW] does is provide an incentive for people to develop new software and ideas for collaborative production. Many of those ideas will translate to other group activities, including those within the business world...

As Au notes, Werbach's WoW experience is a plus, since online gamers have a major stake in the Net Neutrality issue. Also of note, Werbach's co-chair, Michigan Prof. Susan Crawford, is an admirer of Second Life:

Professor Crawford, a board member at ICANN, also counts herself “a huge fan of Second Life” for the way it lets users retain IP rights to their content (though she confesses to difficulty when it comes to moving her SL avatar around.)

GP: We're dying to know - does Werbach play Horde or Alliance?

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Swedish Teen Collapses After Lich King Binge

November 17, 2008 -

Swedish News service The Local reports that a 15-year-old gamer from western Sweden went into convulsions on Sunday after a 24-hour WoW binge.

According to the report the boy and some friends were playing the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion. The 15-year-old's father described the scene:

They played all day and all night. Maybe they got a few hours of sleep. They ate a little food and breakfast at their computers. [When the boy went into convulsions] we were terrified and called rescue services...

Doctors said that sleep deprivation and lack of food likely contributed to the collapse of the boy, who is expected to recover fully.

Not unexpectedly, the mainstream press is linking the episode to game addiction. Britain's The Times quotes child psychiatrist Dr. Richard Graham: 

Some of my clients will discuss playing games for 14 to 16 hours a day at times without breaks and for those the consequences are potentially very severe. The problem with World of Warcraft is the degree it can impact and create a socially withdrawn figure who may be connecting with people in the game and is largely dropping out of education, social opportunities.

 

One young man described vividly to me a sense that having achieved very high success in the game, when he switched off he felt downgraded.

 

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Fix This: Wait Times Render Some WoW Servers Unplayable

November 17, 2008 -

Like millions of other WoW fans, I eagerly awaited last week's release of the Wrath of the Lich King WoW expansion. But this one should perhaps be named Wrath of the Server Queue, instead. Players attempting to log on at the most popular times may find themselves queued for up to two hours.

On the Mal'Ganis server, this has happened to me several times already, and Lich King has been out for less than a week. Judging from posts on the official WoW forum, many other players are frustrated by this turn of events as well. The queues are particularly annoying given that, in addition to the expansion's $39.99 price tag, gamers are paying a $15 per month subscription fee for their accounts.

Most Lich King buyers certainly expected to play, not wait in line, for their money.

The release of the much-anticipated WoW expansion has undoubtedly led to the reactivation of numerous dormant WoW accounts (like mine), but Blizzard needs to adapt to the influx and make adequate server provisions. Yes, they have offered some limited options to transfer one's character to a less populated server for free (normally this service costs $25), but it's not enough to deal with the crush of would-be adventurers.

Blizzard is raking in the greenbacks, as they deserve to for fine products like WoW and Lich King. But consumers deserve to play when they want.

Blizzard needs to fix this.

41 comments

Blizzard, Microsoft Wield Banhammer

November 13, 2008 -

Microsoft has banned a number of Xbox Live users whose 360s were modded, according to XBL front man Major Nelson:

In our our continued effort to keep gameplay safe and secure for our community of more than 14 million members, Microsoft has taken action against a small percentage of Xbox 360 consoles that have been illegally modified in order to play pirated games.

 

You should know that modifying your Xbox 360 console is also a violation of the Xbox LIVE terms of use, will void your warranty and result in a ban... The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive, both from manufacturers and the local companies that support them.

Via: Amazon Game Room

In more banning news, Destructoid reports that Blizzard has said goodbye to some 350,000 Battle.net accounts for Starcraft and Diablo II.

At issue? 

Players using third-party hacks. The good news is that the cheaters were banned. The bad news is that Blizz might let them back in after 30 days.

 

63 comments

Is GameStop Lich King Ad Really Supposed to Read This Way?

November 8, 2008 -

So, GP just cruised over to GameStop's website to grab a couple of box shots for the EA lawsuit article, and our gaze immediately fell up this ad for the upcoming WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King:

The Lich King, full of anger, vexation and, some might even say, wrath, brings a dark threat to Azeroth.

 

This expansion opens up the Lich King's icy domain of Northrend, with the Borean Tundra, where the Packers play, and the Howling Fjord, which is what you get when you drive with the windows of your Taurus cracked open.


Get it first with In-Store Pickup!
PC - $39.99

Did someone forget to change some filler text in the ad, or is GameStop simply having a larf?

UPDATE: I'm hearing from some readers that GameStop has a bit of a history for this sort of thing.

54 comments

Awesome MMO Calendar Benefits Sick Kids

November 4, 2008 -

The fabulous MMO Calendar is back for 2009.

If you are into MMOs, do yourself a favor and grab one. They're just $12.95 and proceeds benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

They tend to sell out quickly, so don't wait too long to order.

Here's some info from the MMO Calendar press release:

With the help of some wonderful MMO developers we have put together our 3rd annual one-of-a-kind calendar featuring autographed artwork from the hottest released and upcoming MMO's!

MMO Calendar 2009 proudly includes:

    * Age of Conan
    * DC Universe Online
    * Dofus
    * Eve Online
    * EverQuest II
    * Free Realms
    * Guild Wars
    * Pirates of the Burning Sea
    * RuneScape
    * The Agency
    * Warhammer Online
    * World of Warcraft

...As always, 100% of the proceeds of the sale of MMO Calendar go directly to the amazing people at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, helping them in the fight for children's lives. Is there a more noble cause anywhere?

7 comments

World of Warcraft: Red or Blue?

October 31, 2008 -

If World of Warcraft was a U.S. state, its 11 million players would give it the eighth largest tally of electoral votes.

That being the case, which candidate will carry Azeroth on election day? Do the polls show a split between Alliance and Horde voters? Between Dwarves and Night Elves?

In the video from Machinima.com comedian Rich Kuras polls WoW players on their presidential preferences.



 

17 comments

 
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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
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
 

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