Virtual Policy 08 Conference – Car boot sales and micropayments

Ren’s BERR sponsored virtual policy ’08 event the past two days has been a very intense and informative time. Aside from catching up with some of the metarati there has been a meeting of minds from all sorts of places. Companies, government bodies, lawyers, regulators, standards bodies, games companies and educators.
Virtual Policy '08
The crux of the conference was to discuss how various govenrment and governence bodies could be brought up to speed on some of the issues around subjects related to all forms of virtual world (and related) environments.
There were numerous presentations around IP law, child protection, financial transactions and governance frameworks as well as general innovation (Jim’s panel that I spoke on)
I found alot of the content very interesting, more as a user and someone experienceing the diffuculties surrounding the global and esoteric nature of both games and virtual worlds, combined with the needs of business, consumer protection and morality.
Nothing was black and white in its description. The aim of the conference was to indicate that in multiple fields of interest to help form some sort of approach to take to all this.
I did particulalry enjoy hearing Richard Bartle speak. He is obviously the co-inventor of all things virtual worldy. Hearing his free ranging speech with his experience and perspective was very cool. I think I agreed with much of it in general, though as with all oppinions there were a few things that were there to provoke dicussion. Richard was right to point out the important of games. The business of games is something that is still regarded as a dirty word. However he did indicate that that was changing generationally. Anyone born after 1969 (or slightly earlier in my case) will pretty much have been exposed to games. They are not all mad axe murderers, and are now raising their own kids. So populist press and politicians who continue to rail against gaming as a valid form of activity will very soon be pushed into obscurity.
Richard Bartle at VP '08
Richard also made his points about some virtual worlds like Second Life are places not games. In particular I liked the quote “Second life is a place, its like Luton, you can play games in Luton but Luton is not a game”. This analogy got more comical in a later panel on the financial implications of virtual worlds. The current virtual economy relative to the enite economy is very small (though growing very fast). At the moment the virtual economy is “Like a car boot sale”. So Second Life is a car boot sale in Luton. (That takes some of the trendy sheen from it, but it made me laugh)
Also intresting was that many of the closed sessiosn I was in were under chatham house rules (which is why I am only really reporting on the more public conversations and sessions). An off the record, but on the record set of conversations.
These sessions forced me to consider a great many dilemmas, and also to formulate some sensible discussion. It felt very West Wing to discuss things that clearly can’t co-exist as ideas, yet the practicalities of life mean they do.
I did suggest an idea that needs to be expanded upon around micro payments. This relates not only to virtual worlds, but to the growing number of small web2.0 startups and cloud computing based startups.
Currently to set up anything to take any sort of payments and offer service has a whole host of excessive regulation and costs associated. This is for good reasons, but does not fit with the need to sell a digital service for fractions of a pence to millions of people. The Long Tail has not reached financial and business governance. One reason Second Life has been so interesting for people is precicely that, there is an evironment to do micro payments (but in the environment).
This allows innovation and experimentation without huge outlay or hassle.
If a government or country or organization was able to be a haven for the fledgling industries that wanted to deal in micropayments, without the immense hassle (whilst still maintaining elements of business and consumer protection) they could stimulate an entire economy and entreprenaurial spirit.
If I have a quick idea, and I want to host it, sell it and see how it grows I have only 2 real options today. 1) Set a large price (£5-£10), like a subscription for a service or 2) Use a freemium model until people want to pay the subscription and hit 1)
There is not a suitable technical and legal and supported framework in wide spread use to allow me to 3) Set up a service charging 0.001p for each access to it.
There are issues to be addressed here, but I think this is what the world might need. In a way this is interoperability for money.
It was also good to catch up with some people I only have met on twitter or in Second Life. Dizzy Banjo, Mal Burns to name but two. It was also great the event was streamed into SL for other people to enjoy and interact by asking question (atleast on our panel 🙂 )
Finally in my mini brain dump, I was interested to catch up with Chritsian Renaud on his latest endeavour, whilst discussing leaving the shackles of corporate life and of course Roo’s move too.
Xianrenaud is now the CEO of Technology Intelligence Group applying insight to very early emerging technologies by gathering industry heavy weights together.
It is always interesting for a Linden to be at these events too. In this case Babbage on the right below. They have to cope with both adoration, suspicion and competition from so many people.
As well as some gaming greats, like Eve-Online being represented I learned of an MMO that I had not come across, Roma Victor. The MMO games often touch on areas that maybe the more place like VW’s dont. e.g. in Eve you are supposed to rob and steal, basically be a space pirate (massive over simplification there). In Roma Victor you are in an accurate recreation of a time gone by, so some bad things happen that may offend, though have been represented in films and books and tales for years.
The make up of the conference was very diverse and all the better for it. Ren Reynolds (on the left below) contacts and interests and shoes made this all possible, so once again thanks Ren.
Ren and Jim

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About epredator

Director of metaverse and emerging tech consultancy Former IBM Consulting IT Specialist with 18 years at the company Games player epredator xbox live tag. epredator potato in second life

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