Games in court

This is a column about the growing amount of litigation found in the United States related to computer games. We all know about the preposterous case brought by Marvel Comics against City of Heroes for allowing its players to dress up as *GASP* superheroes. Then there is the story of Blacksnow Interactive, which apparently sells virtual goods in the real world. How does that work?Blacksnow are supposed to have some virtual sweatshops in Tijuana, where poor Mexicans play MMORPGs every day to produce goods that can then be sold on eBay (although Terra Nova claims that the story’s truth is doubtful). The column then asks whether we should regulate “virtual worlds”. I feel déja vu, again. We’ve been here before. Take these words:

“We now have this technology that allows people to create their own place, their own rules,” said Noveck. “We need to preserve it.”

This sounds familiar, a lot like the much maligned Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. The problem is that it assumes that the space is something new created by its users. This is not true, the spaces are owned and maintained by the companies. True, it is possible to establish player-run servers, but these are the minority and most people prefer to play the proprietary environments.

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