Excerpt from In Real Life, YA graphic novel about gold farmers


In Real Life is the book-length graphic novel adapted by Jen Wang from my short story Anda's Game, about a girl who encounters a union organizer working to sign up Chinese gold-farmers in a multiplayer game.

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Announcing "In Real Life": graphic novel about gold farming, kids and games


Yesterday, FirstSecond formally announced the publication of In Real Life, a graphic novel about gaming and gold farming for young adults based on my award-winning story Anda's Game, adapted by Jen Wang, creator of the amazing graphic novel Koko Be Good. Jen did an incredible job with the adaptation.

Kotaku conducted a Q&A with Jen and me about the book and its themes, and lavishly illustrated it with art and panels from the book:

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Death Knight Love Story: torrentable Warcraft fan-movie starring Brian Blessed, Joanna Lumley & others

Hugh Hancock writes, "'Death Knight Love Story,' is a World of Warcraft-based machinima fanfilm [ed: machinima is a form of animation made using video-game engines]. It was made using full 'Avatar'-style motion capture (using the same tech as X-Men First Class), with a score composed by a BAFTA nominated composer and voiced by Hollywood stars!"

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Chinese World of Warcraft crime-boss sentenced to two years


The leader of a clan of Chinese Warcraft fences has been sentenced to two years in prison and been fined $8,000 for buying stolen World of Warcraft logins, then logging into the accounts and selling off all their virtual gold and assets. They reportedly attacked 11,500 accounts and netted $10,800.

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Spies clean up in Eve Online

High drama from the world of Eve Online, where a week ago, a spy stole 400 billion ISK, and this week, a trusted player who was secretly a spy masterminded the destruction of a rare ship worth 390 billion ISK (the in-game currency, not to be confused with Icelandic Krona). Eve is notorious for high-denomination economic shenanigans, including a credit crunch, a massive Ponzi scheme, large-scale espionage, another Ponzi scheme, and more. Cory 15

In-game hyperinflation

Here's a totally amazing and fascinating story about hyperinflation crashing the economy of Blizzard's massively multiplayer online RPG Diablo 3. Blizzard blew its economic strategy for Diablo 3 by making the "sinks" (places where gold is taken out of the economy) unattractive, adding in real-money-for-stuff trades, and then letting a bug run wild. Before you knew it, players were loading up virtual wheelbarrows full of virtual gold to buy virtual bread:

This was demonstrated when, in a message board entry prefaced by stating “Sell Equipment before Patch 1.0.5 Hits!” (a patch is a piece of software added to an operational program or application as bugs are found, changes desired, or ways of improving performance discovered), a player warned that,

Blizzard just announced that the drop rates for [certain] items are going to be doubled … if you haven’t already, you should consider converting your current gear to cash … since real $ [are] the best hedge against gold devaluation[.][11]

If historical cases of hyperinflation — real, and now virtual — have one thing in common, it is the instinct among its victims to blame the symptoms rather than the disease. The Austrian economist Hans Sennholz noted that during the German hyperinflation, “intrigue and artifice” were believed to be at work.[12] Similarly, a handful of Diablo 3 players, frustrated about the decimation of their purchasing power, expressed increasing suspicion of manipulation and conspiracy theories.

[W]hy [are] certain items priced [s]o astronomically high? Many of them are not even that good yet cost 100’s of millions of gold. … I have about 45,000,000 gold saved up [and] check every few days to see if I can get any upgrades that are worth the gold, but … everything is vastly overpriced … clearly controlled by the gold sellers.[13]

In case you missed it, I wrote a book about this.

A Virtual Weimar: Hyperinflation in a Video Game World (Thanks, Tom Keller!)

Space station cake from EVE Online


This amazing EVE Online Gallente Space Station cake was created by Duff Goldma of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, MD. It's unquestionably the greatest MMORPG space-station cake I've ever seen.

Dock Your Fork in This Gallente Space Station Cake

Dad hires in-game hitsquad to kill his son's characters

The Chinese website Tencent reports that a father got so upset with his son's nonstop MMO playing that he hired an in-game hit-squad to kill his son's character whenever it spawned, in the hopes of discouraging the young man from playing. Here's some of Kotaku's English summary, by Eric Jou:

Unhappy with his son not finding a job, Feng decided to hire players in his son's favorite online games to hunt down Xiao Feng. It is unknown where or how Feng found the in-game assassins—every one of the players he hired were stronger and higher leveled than Xiao Feng. Feng's idea was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job.

Despite being sick of getting killed every time, Xiao Feng decided to stick up to his father and tell him how he felt. He was quoted as saying, "I can play or I can not play, it doesn't bother me. I'm not looking for any job—I want to take some time to find one that suits me."

Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing (via Super Punch)

Warcraft-playing Maine senate candidate wins, despite opponents anti-orc smears


Remember Colleen Lachowicz, the Democratic candidate for the Maine senate whose GOP opponent attacked her for playing World of Warcraft?

She won.

Here's Robert Long on the Bangor Daily News:

Gamers from around the world soon rushed to her defense, making more than $6,300 in contributions via the website ActBlue to two political actions committees that supported her campaign. Those donations prompted the Maine Republican Party to file a complaint against Lachowicz with the Maine Ethics Commission.

The commission determined Nov. 1 that Lachowicz, a Maine Clean Election Act candidate, did not coordinate with the PACs for the fundraising and voted 5-0 not to proceed with an investigation.

As of Tuesday, outside groups had spent more than $184,000 on the contest, according to Maine Ethics Commission figures. That’s the fifth highest amount of outside spending for a 2012 Maine Senate race, according to the commission’s data. Of that total, more than $81,000 was spent to oppose Martin.

‘World of Warcraft’ candidate vanquishes opponent in Waterville (via Kotaku)

Peer rewards for good behavior take a bite out of trolling and griefing in MMO


The Mary Sue's Becky Chambers rounds up the coverage and analysis of an anti-trolling/griefing experiment in League of Legends, a massively multiplayer online RPG battle arena. League's management hired a team of social scientists who designed a system of peer-rewards that allowed users to hand each other publicly visible points for positive, friendly interactions (there was already a system of reporting bad behavior and meting out punishments, but it wasn't working very well). Unlike previous attempts to use public reward to improve behavior, this one was not yet turned into a back-scratching system where friends just vote one another up, and has reportedly resulted in massive improvements in the quality of group interactions.

Ten days after Honor went live, an update from Dr. Lyte appeared on the official LoL blog, detailing the global changes they’d noticed in reported bad behavior:

Negative Attitude reports: -29% in normals and -11% in ranked
Offensive Language reports: -35% in normals and -20% in ranked
Verbal Abuse reports: -41% in normals -17% in ranked

Check that out. Ten days of a voluntary system that grants nothing more than a tiny perk for being amiable, and folks were already cleaning up their acts. Of course, these stats only show a decline of reported incidents, which, while encouraging, is could be different than how things look down in the trenches. As LoL is not part of my repertoire, I took to Twitter earlier this week to get the word on the street. Lo and behold, players are indeed noticing a difference.

I first got some feedback from a player named Paige, who cites LoL as her favorite game despite the “negativity and hostility” within the community. In her opinion, Honor is a welcome addition. “Players seem to be making more of an effort to be just generally friendly,” she wrote in an email, noting that she’s seen a slight improvement in cross-team chat. She also pointed out that this hasn’t prevented insults from flying when a match goes badly, but nonetheless, she’s glad for a way to give props for good behavior.

So Far, So Good: League of Legends Takes An Honorable Approach To Improving Player Behavior (via Techdirt)

Maine GOP attack-flier condemns Democratic candidate for playing an orc rogue in online game


A flier distributed by the Maine GOP attacks Democratic state senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz for playing an orc assassin rogue in World of Warcraft, using quotes she's made about the virtual violence her imaginary fairy-tale creature gets up to in order to imply that she is unfit for office. Timothy Lee has more on Ars Technica:

"I love poisoning and stabbing! It is fun," the flyer quotes Lachowicz as saying. The candidate is apparently a regular commenter at DailyKos, a liberal blog. And the Maine GOP has mined the site looking for what it regards as damning comments. Most of Lachowicz's remarks were posted in 2009 or 2010, most likely before she began her current campaign for office.

"I can kill stuff without going to jail," she wrote in December 2009. "There are some days when this is more necessary than others." The flyer points voters to a website, called "Colleen's World," that highlights more cases where she describes virtual violence she committed in the online world.

Candidate for Maine State Senate attacked for Warcraft character

Realm of the Mad God: NES-level graphics and modern MMO compulsion loops

On Play This Thing! (my favorite games-review site), Greg Costikyan reviews "Realm of the Mad God," a strange blend of vintage graphics and contemporary, MMO-inspired gameplay.

Realm of the Mad God takes the compulsion loop of a conventional MMO and boils it down to its essential nutrient broth, eschewing all the frippery and getting down to what such games are all about: Kill, loot, level-up, kill some more.

With NES-level pixellated graphics, frenetic top-down shooter play with WASD movement, and permadeath, it feels like a game from another era, yet informed by the tropes and techniques we've come to expected in dikuMUD-likes; games from another era are not, obviously, browser-games and massively multiplayer. It's a game that might have been developed in 1985, if we had an Internet in 1985.

Realm of the Mad God