On Wednesday, the first news bureau of an existing, real life newspaper will open in the virtual world Second Life. Reuters will join current Second Life news sources such as New World Notes, the Second Opinion, and the Metaverse Messenger.
Second Life, alone of all the virtual worlds, seems to be attracting a number of these mashups of virtual and real world interests. News, business, academics, and even non-profit organizations are establishing virtual locations in a land of bits. And apparently, paying employees to do so.
What does it mean for modern society and business to work and play in a world that you can't touch? How will it change our view of reality - and of people? In a world whose size new rivals a small city in terms of population but with growing cultural diversity (think a small version of New York City or London or Paris), how do we establish social norms?
Here's a nice little tidbit about using games in hospital pediatrics units: http://www.joystiq.com/2006/10/11/get-well-gamers-foundation-expands/
Those games that make time "just fly by" in my world also help hospitalized children manage the pain (and boredom!) of long stays.
Get-Well Gamers and Child's Play charities operate throughout the country, providing consoles and games to children in long-term hospital-stay situations. They need donations, especially age-appropriate games, so check out the article at Joystiq and consider donating items you no longer play.
This is an encouraging article from the BBC regarding the growing interest in women and girls who play - or may want to play - video games: All women gamers, please stand up.
While it seems crass to care only about a market segment, that is the name of the game (no pun intended) when it comes to pouring money into a commercial product. Just as it took time for the sporting equipment and apparel enterprises to come around and court women with clothes and equipment that fits, the video game industry is belatedly reaching out to the female half of the species.
While I don't appreciate pink consoles any more than I like pink boxing gloves (no lie - they exist), I hope this trend will help expand the selection of available types of games and get us off the formula treadmill.
So, read the article from the BBC, and make sure that you scroll down to read the comments posted by many, many women who are claiming the title of "gamer."
While it is certainly easy to fall prey to the tendency to over-hype the "serious" uses of games, Lisa points to both research and anecdotal evidence that indicates ways in which video games and virtual worlds encourage players (using the term loosely) to develop abilities ranging from increased literacy, effective communication and teamwork, and (despite stereotypes of anti-social gamers) greater sociability.
Admittedly, research in this area of "soft skills" is at a beginning stage, with much of the evidence in the form of anedotes, but the increasing volume of data is encouraging. Read Lisa's blog for more details and check out the latest issue of Games and Culture for more articles on how massively multiplayer games are having a positive impact on our lives.