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A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Blame Game
Online gaming and code breaking

There are two stories that appeared recently, one in the Independent (16 Jan. 2004) and one today on the BBC. The Independent is talking about the ousting of a user from Sims, because he was publishing an online journal that was talking about "news" of the online community. Peter Ludlow, a philosophy professor who is doing research in online communities was considered a threat from Electronic Arts who own the game and was thrown out as the news in his newspaper were reflecting the anarchic state of the game, which was bad publicity for attracting new users.

Today it was revealed that "Half Life's" (perhaps the most advanced video game to date) release, was again postoponed because someone stole a big chunk of the code and put it on the internet. The FBI are apparently involved in resolving this crime.

There are far too many things that happen online and, to me, are scary in the sense that too many people take them seriously. Code theft of course is a crime plain and simple, but after you read the Independent article on the Sims and the BBC Article about half life, I would like to ask you:

Would you agree or disagree with me that the only thing that has changed since the middle ages is the technology with which power and fantasies are played out? Is there not a new elite in society, those who have the "electronic" political power (as in the Sims), or those who have the "technical" expertise (like the Half Life code thieves), that rule what is increasingly to many closer to heart than real life? Or are these simulation worlds online real life repackaged?

In the middle ages, nobility had games where they used servants or slaves so it would be ok to kill them. Now we use pixels... we kill the pixels or we steal the pixels, but there is no refinement in our tastes and culture... or is there?

de

Link to the Independent article
Link to the BBC Story
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