Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chinese Editorial Calls for Increased Regulation of Virtual Goods

An editorial on China View has some rather harsh words for the online gaming industry in China, specifically for those in the "black market" of virtual goods. The sibling to the gold farming issue in China is the theft and resale of virtual goods.

The article brings up a number of interesting points, but also seems to confuse the "virtual theft" concept with the "gold farming" one, although both issues have been met with cries for regulation, along with the already regulated "underage gaming" issue in China.

The editorial, however, leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is always positive to see people outside the gaming establishment finally realize and accept that these virtual goods, be they land in Second Life or an Infinity Blade in World of Warcraft, do have a "value." Moreover, the idea of protecting players from theft is definitely a positive one. On the other hand, the idea of additional government regulations never seems to be the most appropriate approach. While this could be in China rather than the US, I still can't help but feel the regulations are inappropriate.

The major difficulty would be the near impossibility of government alone policing those systems, but on the flip side, the game providers lack any real enforcement tools if and when they can track virtual wrongdoings. The logical outcome would be a necessity for cooperation between government and game providers, but I think the mandates should come from the game providers, not the government. After all, the government does not seem to, on a basic level, understand these games. This would only lead to ineffective legislation that would breed resentment in the gaming community or lead to a downward trend in the games overall.

Regardless of your stance on game regulation, the wisdom of self regulation is evident in many industries, from law to medicine. In this case, where a real crime is involved, similar cooperation has worked for other industries. Of course, only time will tell if any actual regulation is attempted, but given the trend to monetize virtual worlds, some sort of "law enforcement" is almost inevitable.

[Via GamePolitics]

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