Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Review: Settlers of the New Virtual Worlds

So I've just finished Settlers of the New Virtual Worlds, by Erik Bethke & Erin Hoffman. It's actually both written and edited by them because the bulk of the book is a collection of essays by others.


The book's focus is on the evolving world of MMOs and virtual worlds, and how their progress and evolution is going to demand they transcend the current one-sided state of their EULA's, grant users (scratch that, residents) rights, and discusses many of the issues involved in doing so.

In short, it's a must read for anyone in the games industry - not just in the business of MMOs - and for anyone that is interested in the future of the medium. The book contains many provocative ideas. Not all are great, but that it will spur thought and discussion is reason enough to recommend it.

Among my favorite bits:
  • Raph Koster's piece on a declaration of player's rights (borrowing heavily from the 1789 French Declaration of Man and the Citizen and from the US bill of rights).
  • Ren Reynolds' piece on issues with claims with virtual property and IP in which he compares with precedents in both US and UK law and shows just how murky the water might be.
  • Erik Bethke's opening and closing pieces in which he seems to be putting his money where his mouth is, as he's taken some bold steps with his own EULA, for GoPets, which he runs.
There are some not so good bits as well (I won't name them) but you shouldn't let them stop you from picking up the book.

My only complaint was that there wasn't one of the essays that attempted to tackle the issue of virtual property as a sort of promisory note of service, as I've alluded to before*.

Anyhow, pick it up. Good read.

* One additional thought on the 'promise of service' idea. It's occurred to me in re-reading my earlier post in current economic times, that this is not unlike a sort of derivative. I have to think about that a little before expanding on it.

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