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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Virtual Drugs For A Virtual World

Utherverse, the company behind Red Light Center, the world's second most populated virtual social world, has introduced a new feature that allows members and guests to visit an Amsterdam-style smoking room and toke from a hookah to experience a 'virtual high.'

Utherverse said that its move comes on the back of what it calls a new and highly controversial trend coming out of the video game industry, namely virtual drugs. It pointed out that, in 2005, the video game Narc was the first to introduce street drugs into video games to provide players with 'powers.'
-- Utherverse introduces virtual drugs to online game world

Firstly - I don't know if that's technically accurate. Drugs played a part in Deus Ex well before Narc and I'm sure that there were others before that. It might have cranked it up a notch, but I'm not sure by really how much.

Secondly - what's the point of "chemical enhancement" for a social game like RLC? Does it give you beer googgles? I have to really doubt that this:

Users of this feature have reported the experience of smoking marijuana in the game to be "surprisingly realistic."

"The response from our community has been overwhelmingly positive," noted Brian Shuster, CEO of Utherverse. "We're offering a neat experience that's totally safe and legal." really all that accurate. If it is - that's pretty impressive and I don't know why they'd waste their time supporting an MMO. Just sell a weed screensaver for $50 a pop and rake in the cash.

Which really leads to the obligatory David Walsh quote as making NIMF seem that much more out of touch:

For example, psychologist David Walsh, spokesman for the US National Institute on Family and the Media, claims drug use in games creates curiosity and allure for players. "Games are interactive and psychologically powerful. Now we have a game that glorifies drug use. Where do we draw the line?" he stated.

Generally, I respect what NIMF is trying to do - but sometimes it's like Walsh can't help but make connections between non-existent points. RLC is an adult only game not available in stores. I'm not sure what is probably little more than a graphics filter really counts as glorification. In the time it took me to write this, MTV probably aired at least 10 different things more "problematic" for kids than this ... and I've probably honestly given RLC just what it wanted - some free publicity.

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Anonymous said...

Not to mention all the kid's cereal ads which portray the consumption of cereal leading to halucinatory effects.

Josh said...

That crazy rabbit.