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Creative Clusters 2006, Newcastle: Virtual Worlds

Virtual Worlds, Real Culture

Over six million customers are signed up to World of Warcraft, and $900 million is being traded in virtual assets from games like Everquest and Lineage.

The Herald Tribune recently estimated that 100,000 young people in China earn their living as online gamers, killing monsters to recover treasure that they then exchange for real currency. These players are known as ‘gold farmers’, and you can earn more farming gold in Lineage that you can mining it in a real Chinese gold mine.

This famously led to widespread in-game vigilante activity last year, when gangs of American gamers, angry that the game was being corrupted, hunted down and killed Chinese gold-farmers, in scenes uncannily reminiscent of real-world nationalist trade wars.

In contrast, Linden Labs has put community, creativity and trading at the centre of their virtual world ‘Second Life’. Second Life’s economy is currently turning over $15 million a month, and has already given rise to virtual investment funds, stock offerings, and banking services. You can earn a real living in Second Life making virtual clothes, films and newspapers, speculating in virtual property and holding virtual events – as Radio 1 did this summer with its online version of the V Festival.

The growth of virtual worlds is starting to pose some very tricky questions about identity and culture, not to mention property ownership, currency exchange, taxation and employment.

We will only be able to scratch the surface of these issues in the two sessions we are devoting to virtual worlds, but we hope to persuade you that they are far more than entertainment. They are cheap oakley truly a new form of culture, a kind of collaborative fiction, The worlds may be virtual, but what emerges from them is real: real money, real creativity, and real relationships.

Our speakers are from two of the biggest players in the world of massively multi-player online role-playing games (or MMOs), both of whom will be showing us what life is like in their virtual worlds, and discussing its impact on the economy and on culture.

The Korean company NCSoft are makers of Lineage, the game that set the standard for immersion and adventure, and are one of the world’s top games companies. Stephen cheap oakley sunglasses Reid, Head of Game Services for NCSoft Europe will tell us what lies behind NCSoft’s slogan: Imagine the Next Life. Build the Next Game. Create the Next Culture.

Linden Lab’s Second Life is a phenomenon all of its own, with its virtual parties, film-makers and property speculation. We’ll be showing some short films recently made for Channel 4 by Nic Stacey and Rob Marchant, remarkable stories from the digital frontier.

If you are unfamiliar with virtual worlds we strongly recommend that you visit these websites, and google the comment about them around the internet, before the conference.