As is usually the case, the New World Notes posts most shared on social media and/or picked up by larger media outlets this year offer a pretty good review of 2017's top highlights -- starting with:
Linden Lab Becomes First (And Only) VR Company To Join Tech Industry's Amicus Brief Against Trump's Muslim Ban (February): "... This also makes Linden Lab the first and so far only VR-focused tech company to join the brief. (That's not counting fellow signees Facebook, which own Oculus, or Google, which develops Daydream, or Microsoft, which develops HoloLens -- but those giants are not categorized by their VR products.) For all the billions of dollars invested in VR startups in the last few years, and general outrage in the VR industry over Palmer Luckey's covert Trump support, the Lab stands alone..."
Confirming Danah Boyd's Early Concerns, Studies Suggest Women Much More Likely To Get Motion Sickness From Using VR (March): "Back in 2014 just before the VR hype wave hit a new peak, renowned sociologist danah boyd expressed deep concerns based on her own early research that virtual reality literally made most women sick. 'I want folks to take what I did and push it further,' danah told me at the time. 'If researchers start to investigate this issue, I'll be ecstatic.' They have, and according to Science News, some new studies are backing up danah's earlier insights..."
Ozimals Ending: 1000s Of Beloved Virtual Bunnies Condemned To Permanent "Hibernation" Due To Cease & Desist Legal Order (May): "The owner of Ozimals, an extremely popular brand of breedable virtual bunnies and other pets for Second Life which once partnered with Linden Lab itself, is about to go defunct due to a real life cease and desist order... This is the dark side of the thriving virtual economy. Second Life content creators may now make more money than Second Life's corporate owner, but that revenue is often in jeopardy due to accusations of IP infringement between competing creators -- who sometimes come with a court order."
Website Tracks Just How Few VR Users There Are On Steam (June): "As of this writing (according to VRLFG) there's less than 2500 players total across all VR games on Steam (out of some 8-12 million concurrent Steam users). AltSpaceVR, which is perhaps closest to Sansar and High Fidelity in the social VR space, currently shows just 14 total players (23 total over the last 24 hours). There's an estimated 750,000-1.5 million owners of Oculus or Vive headsets now on the market, so you'd except at least 1% of them would be using their devices on Steam. But actual usage is well below 1%."
Six more below -- starting with my most read 2017 post by far:
Overwatch, Blizzard’s first-person shooter, is incredibly popular among girls and women. “In our data,” game demographics expert Nick Yee wrote in a recent blog post, “it is 16% female gamers. So that puts it at more than double the genre average for FPS games.”
QuanticFoundry, Nick’s analytics firm, has collected surveys of 300,000 gamers, which is where he gets this data. Overall, Overwatch is about as popular with female gamers as males: “As a raw count ranking of how many gamers mention Overwatch in the survey," he tells me, "the game is 7th among male gamers, and 12th among female gamers.”
16% percent may not seem like a lot, but for a game as popular as Overwatch, that means millions of extra players, compared to sausage-centric franchises like Call of Duty or Battlefield. And dollars: Since Overwatch has sold over 30 million copies, the game’s female user base is about 5 million -- who’ve given Blizzard roughly $250 million.
Is It "Racial Appropriation" for White People to Play as Black Avatars? (August): "... Recognizing the discrimination that real black people face in online worlds, sometimes even in player-listed locations, so much so that they often feel pressured to use a white/lighter skinned avatar and hide their real life race. So it is a form of privilege for someone who's white in real life to casually play with racial identity, and that should be acknowledged."
"If anyone in the tech and VR industry (not to mention the Second Life userbase) had any impression that Linden Lab was mainly walking away from SL to focus on Sansar, CEO Ebbe Altberg just sent out a mass e-mail announcing major updates to the 14 year old metaverse... Updating Second Life from its ancient connected server architecture to a cloud-based system could vastly improve the user experience. Ebbe adding that '[i]t may also allow us to introduce new products with more flexible pricing' is a strong hint at land discounts, because with cloud deployment, a given sim does not have to be 'online' if no user is accessing it -- so perhaps Linden Lab is planning to change land costs from a flat monthly rate to a 'pay per use' rate. (Just my interpretation.)"
Linden Lab Launches First Grid-Wide Game In Second Life - Think A Bit Like Pokemon Go, But In An MMO (September): "PaleoQuest and the like are single location games also published by Linden Lab. This new game, by contrast, is integrated into the entire virtual world, and invites users to hide creatures on their own land. (You know, like how RL store owners often hide Pokemon in their locations, to attract more foot traffic.) This game, by the way, is the one promised in Linden Lab's recent announcement to greatly expand and enhance SL..."
John Carmack: VR Developers Should Stop Chasing After More Ultrarealistic Graphics Because "We Are Running Out Of Moore's Law" (October): "As he puts it: 'Some of [my favorite VR experiences] are clearly very synthetic worlds where it's nothing but these cartoony, flat-shaded things with lighting but they look and they feel good.' At first he describes this as a practical, market-driven approach for developers, but very quickly after that, makes an interesting point about the coming limits of graphics simulation..."
Let's Watch the New Ready Player One Trailer & Wonder Why VR Goggles in 2045 Are Still Bulky & Ridiculous (December): "...Which leads me to think Spielberg intentionally made the VR goggles look huge and ridiculous to emphasize his trepidations with virtual reality -- how they cut people off from reality by literally blinding them to it. Because if they wore small and stylish sunglasses, some of the audience might miss that point."
I'm curious which of these posts will seem the most relevant in 2018. In any case, thanks to everyone who read and shared the love of New World Notes in 2017!