Blocked by Facebook – Personal Journeys – Help John with his Art Project

January 17, 2009

Hello everyone,

Well, I guess the automated powers that be at Facebook have blocked me from sending out anymore Friend Requests to fellow Emily Carr University students/faculty/associates linked in to the school groups that can be found when you do a search. I can understand why they have such automated features, but it’s frustrating to be lopped into the same category as spammers, phishers or other types of crooks.

Because of this, I am asking for your help. If you feel that this project has merit and is worth the effort to bring in others to tell their stories as well, I would like to ask you to invite your friends to join the event. The future of this project is now in your hands as I cannot do it without you. Please help me in seeing this project become a reality because it means so much to me and I know that it means a great deal to you as well.

Sincerely,

John DeVeaux

– Here is the link to the Facebook event page -Personal Journeys – Help John with his Art Project

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=46093168338

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As a gift to everyone, please go to:

https://flashaddict.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/shot-by-shot-analysis-of-the-music-video-glosoli-by-sigur-ros/

The lyrics are sung in Icelandic, yet one need not know what the words mean in order to interpret the value and depth that they and the imagery convey. I actually don’t want to know what the lyrics translate to in English because it would take away the beauty and serenity that I found interpreting it myself.

Enjoy!

Instructions:
1. Watch the full video without pause to understand the essence of the piece.

2. Read through my shot-by-shot written breakdown.

3. Watch the video again and take in a new personal understanding of the imagery.

4. Rewind and go back to individual shots and if you feel inspired, write down what they mean to you and compare them to mine.

5. Smile and feel a sense of peace = All will be OK.

John

Please be kind to my film terminology – there were so many terms that we learned last semester, that it was a bit of information overload and I may have mixed some up 🙂

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PS After spending 15 minutes trying to find out how to actually send an email to Facebook customer service, I sent them the following letter asking for their help as well:

To whom it may concern,

I was just recently blocked from sending friend requests on Facebook. As a result of that, I felt it would be prudent that I send you an email to let you know that I am not some dirty old man trying to prey on young children, nor am I a nefarious crook trying to swindle little old ladies out of their life savings.

I understand that you guys have to have set TOS standards and I know why I was tacked onto the list of possible spammers/crooks by sending friend requests. I have been in your shoes as I have worked many customer service gigs, most importantly when I worked for eBay in their investigations department and had to respond to complaints sent in my members about other members, with spam being one of the biggest issues reported.

That being said however, I am just an aspiring art student struck by inspiration and in the process of trying to invite people to join my Art Project as I feel that it is a great event to participate in. I am not trying to sell anything, I am just asking people to share their stories with me and am sending Friend Requests to my fellow art students and art enthusiasts (people who would want to participate in such an event). I’m not asking for much here, but please check out my event page and see for yourself “Personal Journeys – Help John with his Art Project.” I’m not a bad guy, I’m just trying to create a beautiful piece of art and to allow people to tell others their story.

Please let me know where I can go from here – I need your help.

Sincerely,

John DeVeaux

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Tales of the Past III – by Martin Falch

January 15, 2009

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I will be showing clips from and talking about Tales of the Past III, a Machinima Film based on the video game World of Warcraft to my Video Art class at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design tomorrow for our Previous Inspiration Presentation project.
– FlashAddict

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Tales of the Past III, by Martin Falch is the ultimate achievement in fan-made Machinima Film based on the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, World of Warcraft. Martin spent over a year and a half single handedly piecing together the overall visual majesty of the film, from screen capturing from the game itself, editing hundreds of hours of footage, painstakingly doing all of the special effects, to labourously directing dozens upon dozens of other virtual actors on live game servers for massive group sequences. He also had professional voice actors volunteer their time and efforts to help piece together the emotional tone of the characters and organized an incredible array of songs for the soundtrack that effortlessly leads from sequence to sequence.

While most World of Warcraft Machinima Films are rudimentary and poorly strewn together with freeware software, Martin Falch has set the bar for all aspiring Warcraft Machinima auteurs to shoot for, myself included.

Opening Scene:

The Ashbringer:

These are the Duranin:

Final Battle:

Trailer:

Movie Plot and Download Links:
Since the death of Yimo and the shattering of the Orb of Visions, the Horde and the Alliance have accepted an unstable peace agreement. However, old hatreds stand in the way of cooperation and at the same time, chaos erupts as the Lich King finally takes action. In the meanwhile, Blazer travels to Northrend to hunt down Mograine, the Death Knight, and retrieve the legendary blade that may decide the fate of Azeroth – The Ashbringer…

After 1,5 years of production, Tales of the Past III is finally complete. Having spent an average of 3 hours every single day on the movie, there have been times where this whole project was frustrating rather than enjoyable. However, looking back on the whole project, I’m glad that I started and I’m glad that I managed to get through it! Also, having watched the entire movie, I’m really satisfied with the outcome and I hope you feel the same way! Now, since the movie is huge, I hope you’ll take your time to read through the block of text here!

http://warcraftmovies.com/movieview.php?id=53953

Milestones:
Martin Falch is number 4 on the all-time Warcraftmovies.com download list currently at 2,361,104 total downloads.

http://warcraftmovies.com/halloffame.php

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1.000.000 downloads
Posted: 28 July 2008 @ 09:39 (CET)

Hey people! Just wanted to inform that TotPIII has now reached 1 mio downloads on Warcraftmovies.com, making it the second movie ever to archive this (number 1 being Leeroy) – I just want to say thanks to all the people commentning on it and sending me mails, it’s been awesome with all the support and nice words. Also a big thanks for the people informing their friends/guilds/forums about it in order to spread the movie around!

I’ve mentioned this before, but hopefully I’ll be able to make new story line machinimas later on, perhaps some relevant opportunity comes up for the case – having just watched the most brilliant film I watched in a long time, The Dark Knight, it’s a bit tempting to get back to machinimating. However, until then I hope you’ll enjoy the little Synergy Contest submission I’ve made, which should be up today – I’ll post the link here when it is. As mentioned it won’t be anything fancy, but it’s a bit different from what I’ve tried making before and the whole thing about following someone elses script has been both a challenge and interesting!

Again, thanks alot for all the support!

– Martin

http://www.talesofthepast.com/

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Soundtrack:

“I was… the Ashbringer.”

* (0:38/–:–) Legendary – King Arthur Soundtrack – 02 – Woad To Ruin

* (–:–/6:00) The Blade – King Arthur Soundtrack – 04 – Hold The Ice

* (–:–/–:–) The Ashbringer In Battle – Pirates of the Caribbean 2 – Hans Zimmer – 08 – a family affair

* (–:–/–:–) Betrayed – 01 – Age of Music

Discord

* (–:–/–:–) Saurfang’s Challenge – Hans Zimmer- The Contender (Main Theme)

* (–:–/–:–) Rexxar’s Journey – Trevor Rabin – Armageddon – Launch

The War Begins

* (–:–/–:–) Council of War – The Elder Scrolls 4 Oblivion Main Title Music

* (–:–/–:–) Two beers per kill – Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s chest – 07 – Two hornpipes (Tortuga)

* (–:–/–:–) eternal_silencetheme_ngm_by_mike_cameron_force

* (15:16/16:44)”No! He must no scape!” – 10 – The Peacemaker – Devoe’s Revenge Take 3 Take 2.wav ; Hans Zimmer – Devoe’s Revenge

* (–:–/–:–) X-Ray Dog – Clash Of Arms(1)

* (–:–/–:–) The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) – 09 – Hans Zimmer – Red Warrior

* (–:–/–:–) Edgen+discovery

* (–:–/–:–) Movies – Hans Zimmer – The Last Samurai – Spectres In The Fog

* (–:–/–:–) “To Hell With This Mission”-The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) – 03 – Hans Zimmer – Taken

* (22:40/24:50) Starsailor – Way to Fall

* (–:–/–:–) 01 – Danny Elfman – Introduction

* (–:–/–:–) Mograine – Immediate Music – Epicon (Hybrid)

* (27:43/29:46) Harry Gregson Williams – Metal Gear Solid 1 End Title: The Best Is Yet to Come

* (–:–/–:–) Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – 06 I See Dead People In Boats

* (–:–/–:–) Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – 02 Singapore

* (–:–/–:–) Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – 03 At Wit’s End

* (–:–/–:–) Serphentos and Rexxar Travel – 10 – In Search of the Grail

* (–:–/–:–) Saurfang and Rexxar – Theme – Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

* (–:–/–:–) Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – 11 I Don’t Think Now Is The Best Time

* (38:10/40:46) Ambush – Saw Soundtrack – Final theme

The Emerald Dream

* (40:58/43:20) Quite A View – Star Wars Episode II – Attack Of The Clones – 02 – Across The Stars (Love Theme)

* (–:–/–:–) “This is why I chose you!”13_-_Hans_Zimmer_-_Barbarian_Horde

* (–:–/–:–) Metal_Gear_Solid_LegendoftheSnake_OC_ReMix

* (–:–/–:–) Memories – Naruto OST – 08 Sadness and Sorrow

* (46:00/46:40) Gronn Slayer – Naruto – Strong And Strike

* (–:–/–:–) Naruto – Main Theme

* (–:–/–:–) Warcraft 3 – Comradeship

* (–:–/–:–) “Let us cast it, into the flames of Blackrock Mountain!” – Lord of The Rings – Main Theme

* (–:–/–:–) The Plan – Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – 05 Up Is Down

* (52:42/55:37) Coco Lee – A Love Before Time (Mandarin)

* (55:45/59:26) The Final Trial – Godspeed You Black Emperor – Moya

Armies Unite

* (–:–/–:–) Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater (Soundtrack) – 211 – Norihiko Hibino – Last Showdown

* (–:–/–:–) Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater (Soundtrack) – 210 – Harry Gregson – Williams – Lifes End

* (–:–/–:–) King Arthur Soundtrack – 05-Another Brick in Hadrian’s Wall

* (1:03:50/1:05:03) Monori In Death – Nightwish – End Of All Hope

* (–:–/–:–) Immediate Music – 48 – Orch & Choir Rise – 3

* (–:–/–:–) 31 – Asteroid Chase – The Shuttle Crash

Final Push

* (–:–/–:–) Too late… – Naruto (Orochimaru’s Theme)

* (–:–/–:–) The Lich King’s Power – Naruto 15 – Orochimaru’s Fight

Blazer, returned as the Ashbringer

* (1:07:40/1:09:45) Return of the Ashbringer – Hans Zimmer – King Arthur – Hans Zimmer – Crimson Tide Theme

* (–:–/–:–) Ash and Frost Part 1 – X-ray Dog 50 – Tightwire Orchestral

* (–:–/–:–) Ash and Frost Part 2 – Immediate Music – Blasphemy 2.0 (Choir)

* (1:13:50/1:14:30) Remember Them When in Hope you Doubt – Immediate Music – With Great Power

* (1:14:32/1:14:55) “If you think that’s cool…” – Immediate Music – Desperate Hour

* (1:14:56/1:15:28) Phoenix and Frost Wyrm – Immediate Music – Serenata (Choir)

* (1:15:29/1:15:53) “Nice One!” – Immediate Music – Liberation! (Choir)

* (–:–/–:–) “I smell demons coming…” – X-Ray Dog 44 – Secret Agent

* (–:–/–:–) Monóri vs. Serphentos – Soundtracks – Mission Impossible 2 – Hans Zimmer – Injection

* (–:–/–:–) X-Ray Dog 21 – Big f’n Drums

* (–:–/–:–) “No match for me!” – Immediate Music – With Great Power

Victory of the Ashbringer

* (1:17:05/1:18:10) Retribution – Trust Company – Downfall

* (–:–/–:–) Arthas Reborn – Batman Begins Soundtrack – Corynorhinus

* (–:–/–:–) Blazer’s Final Sacrifice – Metal Gear Solid 3-End theme Harryson Gregson Williams

* (–:–/–:–) “Honor Them!” – Theme Songs – Naruto – Hokage’s Funeral Scene

* (–:–/–:–) “We had a deal…” – King Arthur Soundtrack – 02 – Woad To Ruin

* (–:–/–:–) The Tale Ends – TavernAlliance02

* (–:–/–:–) 04 – Danny Elfman – The Story…

* (–:–/–:–) 10 – Danny Elfman – The Tree of Death

* (1:26:06/1:27:58) Credits – Nightwish – Ghost Love Score

http://www.wowwiki.com/Server:Dunemaul_Europe/Tales_of_the_Past#Soundtrack_TotP_III


The taxman cometh? IRS urged to tax virtual worlds, economies

January 13, 2009

The Internal Revenue Service should start taxing the fledgling virtual economy in Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds according to Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. In her annual report published on the IRS website, Olsen said that there are still a number of issues that the IRS should “proactively address” before they get out of control. And now that it’s on the IRS’ radar, it’s likely only a matter of time before Uncle Sam tries to figure out some way to get a cut of your gold.

As most of our readers know, a number of virtual worlds involve the trade of real money for various virtual products and services inside of the game(s). And wherever people are spending money, someone is making it. Entrepreneurs are making fat cash off the sale of virtual land, clothing, sex toys, and everything in between in Second Life and other games, and now Olson wants the IRS to go after them.

“Economic activities associated with virtual worlds may present an emerging area of noncompliance, in part, because the IRS has not issued guidance about whether and how taxpayers should report such activities,” Olson wrote in her report. She points out that almost all income is subject to tax—even prizes, winnings, and barter exchange. She also acknowledges, however, that tracking and reconstructing so many tiny transactions would be a huge burden, and that attempting to place a value on virtual transaction could present serious challenges.

She urges the IRS, however, to establish guidelines on whether (and how) taxpayers should report their activities even if only to help taxpayers better understand what’s going on. “IRS guidance could improve taxpayer compliance even if it simply clarified that in-world transactions are not taxable,” Olson wrote. “To its credit, the IRS has recently identified a number of issues presented by Internet auctions of virtual property and other aspects of virtual worlds. However, the IRS should consider doing more to help taxpayers comply with their tax obligations by quickly issuing guidance addressing how to report economic activities in virtual worlds, as well as in other emerging areas of economic activity.”

This isn’t the first time the concept of taxing virtual worlds has come up. Since at least 2003, people both on- and offline started looking at the tax implications of virtual economies, and Dan Miller, senior economist for the congressional Joint Economic Committee, started entertaining the idea of taxing MMORPGs in 2006 after diving into the world of online gaming himself. As noted by Silicon Alley Insider, however, collecting taxes from virtual world activities could very well put a serious hamper on the virtual economy. No one likes to jump through bureaucratic hoops just to play an online game, after all.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20090112-taxpayer-advocate-urges-irs-to-tax-economy-in-virtual-worlds.html


Pentagon Researcher Conjures Warcraft Terror Plot

January 9, 2009
By Noah Shachtman September 15, 2008 | 7:22:00 PM

Osctoavs1

The American military and intelligence communities are increasingly worried that would-be bin Ladens might gather in a virtual world, to plan a real-life attack. But the spies haven’t given many details, about how it might be done. Now, a Pentagon researcher has laid out how such a terror plot might unfold. The planning ground is World of Warcraft. The main target of this possibly nuclear strike: the White House.

There’s been no public proof to date of terrorists hatching plots in virtual worlds. But online spaces like World of Warcraft are making some spooks, generals and Congressmen extremely nervous. They imagine terrorists rehearsing attacks in these worlds, just like the U.S. military trains with commercial shoot-em-up games. They worry that the massively multiplayer games make it incredibly easy to gather plotters from around the world. But, mostly, virtual worlds are nerve-wracking to spies because they’re so hard to monitor. The accounts are pseudonymous. The access is global. The jargon is thick. And most of the spy agencies’ employees aren’t exactly level-70 shamans.

In a presentation late last week at the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Conference in Washington, Dr. Dwight Toavs, a professor at the Pentagon-funded National Defense University, gave a bit of a primer on virtual worlds to an audience largely ignorant about what happens in these online spaces. Then he launched into a scenario, to demonstrate how a meatspace plot might be hidden by in-game chatter.

In it, two World of Warcraft players discuss a raid on the “White Keep” inside the “Stonetalon Mountains.” The major objective is to set off a “Dragon Fire spell” inside, and make off with “110 Gold and 234 Silver” in treasure. “No one will dance there for a hundred years after this spell is cast,” one player, “war_monger,” crows.

Except, in this case, the White Keep is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “Dragon Fire” is an unconventional weapon. And “110 Gold and 234 Silver” tells the plotters how to align the game’s map with one of Washington, D.C.

Osctoavs2

Osctoavs3

The fictional plot was originally developed by Dan Arey, for the Director of National Intelligence’s Summer Hard Problems workshop, or SHARP. And its details are a little fuzzy. The terminology doesn’t match World of Warcraft lingo, all that precisely. There is no “White Keep” in World of Warcraft; “Dragon Fire” is a spell in EverQuest, the old-school role-playing game, not WoW. But the banter is reminiscent enough of World of Warcraft talk, to give outsiders an idea of how such a conversation might go down — and how hard it would be to identify.

Steven Aftergood, the Federation of the American Scientists analyst who’s been following the intelligence community for years, wonders how realistic these sorts of scenarios are, really. “This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It’s the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. With that orientation, they’re always going to give more weight to a particular scenario than an objective analysis would allow,” he tells Danger Room. “Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything. But is it a significant augmentation? That’s not obvious. It’s a scenario that an intelligence officer is duty-bound to consider. That’s all.”

Toavs, for one, believes that spies will have to spend more time in virtual worlds like WoW, if they want to have a hope of keeping tabs on what goes on inside ’em. Which means, some day soon, we might find secret agents in World of Warcraft, along with the druids and orcs and night elves.

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/09/world-of-warcra.html


Father appalled by virtual audience to son’s death

November 24, 2008

– a follow-up from the story I posted the other day about the young man who committed suicide with his webcam running, while many people watched it online…

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Sarah Larimer, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MIAMI – The father of a U.S. college student whose suicide was broadcast live over a webcam said Saturday he was appalled by the virtual audience that egged on his son and called for tougher regulation of Internet sites.

Abraham Biggs said those who watched and the website operators share some blame in his 19-year-old son’s death.

“I think they are all equally wrong,” he said.

“It’s a person’s life that we’re talking about. And as a human being, you don’t watch someone in trouble and sit back and just watch.”

Police found Abraham Biggs dead in his father’s bed Wednesday, 12 hours after he first declared on a website for bodybuilders that he planned to take his own life. He took a fatal drug overdose in front of an Internet audience. Although some viewers contacted the website to notify police, authorities did not reach his house in time.

Biggs, who has said he was at work during the episode, said he had not known about his son’s online presence.

“I think after this incident and probably other incidents that have occurred in the past, they all point to some kind of regulation is necessary,” Biggs said.

“I think it is wrong to have this happen for hours without any action being taken from the people in charge. Where were they all the time?”

The younger Biggs posted a link from the website to Justin.tv, which allows users to broadcast live with their webcams.

A computer user who claimed to have watched said after swallowing some pills, Biggs went to sleep and appeared to be breathing for a few hours while others cracked jokes. Some users told investigators they did not take him seriously because he had threatened suicide on the site before.

Biggs father said he believes the webcast was a cry for help.

“But rather than get help, he was ignored,” Biggs said.

“I would not want to see anything like that on the Internet and not try and get help for that young man. I think that’s what the average person would do.”

“Any normal person would do. I’m really appalled.”

Pembroke Pines Police Department Sgt. Bryan Davis said no new information on the case was available Saturday.

Biggs Sr. said funeral arrangements have not yet been set for his son, who he said loved helping others.

“He was a good kid. Good kid,” Biggs Sr. said.

“It’s a shame I wasn’t there to help him. It’s a big loss to me. I wish I was there to help him – since nobody else would.”

Miami lawyer William Hill said there is probably nothing that could be done legally to those who watched and did not act. As for whether the website could be held liable, Hill said there doesn’t seem to be much of a case for negligence.

“There could conceivably be some liability if they knew this was happening and they had some ability to intervene and didn’t take action,” said Hill, who does business litigation and has represented a number of Internet-based clients.

But “I think it would be a stretch.”

An autopsy concluded Biggs died from a combination of opiates and benzodiazepine, which his family said was prescribed for his bipolar disorder.

“Abe, i still wish this was all a joke,” a friend wrote on the teenager’s MySpace page.

In a statement, Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel said: “We regret that this has occurred and want to respect the privacy of the broadcaster and his family during this time.”

It is unclear how many people watched it happen. The website would not say how many people were watching the broadcast. The site as a whole had 672,000 unique visitors in October, Nielsen said.

Biggs was not the first person to commit suicide with a webcam rolling. But the drawn-out drama – and the reaction of those watching – was seen as an extreme example of young people’s penchant for sharing intimate details about themselves over the Internet.

http://www.mytelus.com/ncp_news/article.en.do?pn=home&articleID=3042645


‘Second Life’ ends couples’ first marriage

November 14, 2008

LONDON (AFP) – A woman is to divorce her husband after discovering he was having a virtual affair within the online game “Second Life,” newspapers reported Friday.

Amy Taylor, 28, met her husband David Pollard within the game in May 2003, and six months later, she moved into his home in Cornwall.

The couple married in July 2005, while their “Second Life” avatars Dave Barmy and Laura Skye — younger, slimmer versions of their real-life selves — also held an online ceremony for their virtual friends.

After a rare break from the computer, however, Taylor returned to find her 40-year-old husband in an intimate, albeit virtual, position with an online prostitute within “Second Life”, which she said was the “ultimate betrayal”.

“I was so hurt,” she was quoted as saying in The Times, adding that theirs was a “very serious marriage”.

“I just couldn’t believe what he’d done. It’s cheating as far as I’m concerned, but he didn’t see it as a problem and couldn’t see why I was so upset.

“He said I was just making a big fuss and tried to make out it was my fault for not giving him enough attention.”

Second Life is an online role-playing game with more than 15 million users, in which players can create virtual avatars and interact with other gamers, or the environment.

The game has its own virtual economy, in which online currency can be exchanged for real-world US dollars, and several major businesses have set up “branches” within the game, while others operate entirely within it.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Taylor claims that Pollard is now engaged to the woman he was having an online tryst with, despite never having met her.

She has, meanwhile, found a new love, through fantasy online role-playing game “World of Warcraft”.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/081114/world/lifestyle_britain_family_divorce_internet_offbeat
– the last part made me seriously laugh hysterically lawlz


Virtual Morality

October 17, 2008

I came across this essay yesterday and I think it definitely fits within the realm of our class discussions – when it comes to online / video game universes:

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“Either we will be forced to concede that as long as no ‘other’ is being harmed, people are free to do absolutely anything (torture, rape, molest, murder, etc.), or we will conclude that morality does indeed have a place in virtual worlds.”

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VIRTUAL MORALITY

Technology is dragging morality into some deep and murky philosophical waters, forcing us to reexamine our understanding of it as many of us choose to become actors in virtual worlds. By putting choice and consequence in closed virtual worlds where we can kill without harming others or facing punishment ourselves, we are forced to reconsider the case for moral behavior. New videogames such as Grand Theft Auto IV and online communities such as Second Life, invite an increasingly large percentage of society to participate in fantasy worlds where we are invited to experience life without rules – to be the bad guy or the sexual deviant. The implicit suggestion of these products is that, like gravity, morality does not necessarily exist in a virtual world. Morality and consequence can be switched off. Anything goes. It’s an attractive proposition, one that undoubtedly contributed to the record breaking sales of Grand Theft Auto IV, which took in over $500 million in its first week. Morally questionable behavior provided by the game now includes lap dances, sex with prostitutes, killing prostitutes, killing cops, and of course, stealing auto

Although Grand Theft Auto IV allows you to kill anything that walks, you cannot (yet) sex anything that walks. Sex in the game is restricted to prostitutes who willingly engage. This design choice has allowed the game maker, Rockstar Games, to negate some particularly unsettling in-game situations such as virtual rape or virtual pedophilia. Though I believe there would be a public outcry if such morally repellent things were included in the game, explaining exactly why virtual sex and murder are acceptable – while virtual rape is not – is a difficult argument.

The issue typically discussed around violent games such as Grand Theft Auto is that the violence or sexual behavior of the virtual worlds will surface in the real world – that violent games will eventually create violent people who do horrific things (videogames were repeatedly blamed following both Columbine and Virginia Tech. massacres, for instance). But there is another concern that has gone largely unaddressed that will become increasingly perplexing as videogames create better, more immersive models of reality: am I free to do anything I want in a virtual world, or are some things inherently wrong?

The Matrix Revolutions hints at the complicated relationship between morality and virtual reality through a subplot involving a husband, The Merovingian, and his wife, Persephone. Set in a future age where simulations of people – programs – are largely indistinguishable from real people, the Merovingian has a sexual tryst with a stunning blonde-haired program. Persephone takes revenge on her husband for his sexual dalliances by betraying him to the story’s protagonists. In the scene of his betrayal, The Merovingian confronts Persephone, demanding to know the cause of her disloyalty. Persephone suggests her cause was her husband’s own sexual disloyalty. Unable to refute her claim, the Merovingian points out that he has not been with a woman, he has been with a computer program. “It’s just a game,” he says. The essence of his argument is that morality is meant for governing how people interact with people, not how people interact with machines. Persephone offers no counterargument, and none is required. Regardless of any philosophical arguments, she feels offended by her husband’s infidelity. This is one example, albeit a fictional one, which dispels the notion that virtual behavior has no real-world consequences.

Liberty City, the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto IV, is a much simpler virtual reality than that of The Matrix, but the essential questions of the role of morality within it still apply. The Merovingian’s argument for sexual infidelity – it’s just a game – is presumably the same argument used to justify Grand Theft Autos IV’s virtual lap dances and killings. To be sure, the killing of a fictional character in a videogame cannot be judged on the same moral grounds as the killing of a person in the real world, but The Matrix suggests that morality and consequence cannot simply be ignored in virtual worlds.

The 2002 film Minority Report, based on Phillip K. Dick’s short fiction, also projects a future in which there is a convergence of sexuality and technology. Minority Report imagines brothels of the future where people purchase sexual fantasies made possible via technology. The film doesn’t explore the moral implications of such technological innovation, but rather provides a picture of how technology can complicate our ideas about sex and what constitutes moral sexual conduct. In the wake of this kind of technological innovation, individuals as well as entire religious bodies will be forced to clarify exactly what it means to be faithful to one’s partner. A second, perhaps more difficult question, also quickly follows: what kinds of fantasies should be condoned?

This question was recently debated in the online community of Second Life when it was found that certain members who presented themselves to the online world as children were engaging in virtual sexual acts with adult characters. This may have been allowed to go on, except that some actual child pornographic material was uploaded into the virtual world. Something interesting happened when Second Life’s creator and controlling company, Linden Lab, issued a warning that such activity would not be tolerated. Some of the participants became angry, suggesting that Linden Lab has no business moderating the kinds of fantasies consenting adults participate in. It’s a fight between people who see no moral boundaries in virtual worlds, and those who maintain that there is a place for morality in virtual worlds.

Religion takes an entirely different approach to morality than the model which governs society. Our legal systems attempt to enforce a moral standard upon the way people interact with each other. The purpose of state-imposed morality is to prevent harm. While secular morality condemns actions that harm others (precisely because they harm others), religion is more concerned with what offends God. From a religious perspective, harming your neighbor is wrong not only because it causes your neighbor pain, but also because your action makes God angry. This perspective shifts the gaze of morality from other to God. The first five commandments of the Decalogue do not address the mistreatment of one’s neighbor (e.g. lying, stealing, murdering, committing adultery), but rather man’s approach to God (e.g. creating idols, taking the Lord’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath day holy).

When Jesus began teaching and interpreting the moral code of the day, he radically redefined adultery, translocating the sin from the physical realm of actions and words to the virtual world of the mind and imagination. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” What Jesus teaches is that God is concerned not only with what plays out in the physical world of actions (reality), but also with what takes place in the virtual world of our minds. A sociological approach to morality judges murder wrong because it harms an innocent person. A theological approach to morality finds murder sinful not only because of the physical act, but also because God is offended by an angry mind as well as violent hands. The humanist or secular view of morality is concerned only with what we do. True religious morality is concerned not only with what we do, but with who we are, with what we desire to do.

In virtual spaces, questions of moral behavior seem to have been passed over entirely, perhaps because, until recently, few games have been specifically designed to allow people to virtually participate in morally reprehensible behavior. The record-breaking sales of the Grand Theft Auto series guarantee that this will soon change. Such a huge market for the game has shown that there is a collective desire to immerse oneself in virtual misbehavior. The market demand for virtual lawlessness guarantees that developers will soon be rushing to the marketplace with games that offer increasingly realistic worlds and potential for morally suspect behaviour. How we will act in those worlds, and whether we object to their content, will stem from our understanding of the source of morality. Either we will be forced to concede that as long as no ‘other’ is being harmed, people are free to do absolutely anything (torture, rape, molest, murder, etc.), or we will conclude that morality does indeed have a place in virtual worlds.

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/80/virtual_morality.html