Category Archives: Virtual Reality

Video games being blamed for divorce as men ‘prefer World of Warcraft to their wives’


Game over: Increasing numbers of women who are filing for divorce have cited their husband’s obsession with video games as one reason for the split

Daily Mail | May 31, 2011

By Lydia Warren

A growing number of marriages are being wrecked by video game addiction.

More women filing for divorce are complaining that their husbands spend too long playing video games, according to research.

Of those wives who cite unreasonable behaviour for ending their marriage, 15 per cent believe their partners put gaming before them.

This has soared from five per cent a year ago, the study by Divorce Online found.

In particular, disgruntled wives blamed World of Warcraft, which allows gamers to create their own fantasy character for mythical adventures, and Call Of Duty, where gamers battle in various war zones.

The games have faced heavy criticism in the past for their addictive properties, with some claiming that World of Warcraft is more addictive than cocaine.

One wife who blames her husband’s obsession for the breakdown of their marriage is Jessica Ellis, 24, from London.

She said: ‘He was addicted to World of Warcraft but played other games now and then. The amount he was playing gradually increased until I could not take it any more.

‘When it became serious he was playing up to eight hours a day. I was constantly trying to get him to cut back but he didn’t think he had a problem until I told him I wanted to leave. But by that time it was too late.’

Ryan G Van Cleave, an expert on video game addiction, said many partners were unaware that gaming can become an addiction.

He said: ‘The problem spouses encounter with video game addiction is that the non-gamer doesn’t appreciate that it’s an addiction. This means it’s not a choice to spend so much time in a virtual environment versus time with the spouse and family. It’s a compulsion.

‘The reality is that with the proper professional support, a video game addict, like any other type of addict, can overcome the addiction.’

The study looked at 200 unreasonable behaviour petitions filed by women.

Divorce Online managing director Mark Keenan said his team carried out the research after noticing World of Warcraft was repeatedly cited by unhappy wives.

He said: ‘I was surprised by the result at first, but I would expect the number to be even higher next year.

‘The increase could be a consequence of people staying indoors more because of the recession, or it might be being used by men in particular as a means of escape from an already unhappy relationship.’

Chinese labor camp guards forced prisoners to play World of Warcraft in lucrative internet gaming scam


Chinese prisoners were forced into ‘gold farming’ – building up credits on online games such as World of Warcraft.

Labour camp detainees endure hard labour by day, online ‘gold farming’ by night

China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work

guardian.co.uk | May 26, 2011    

by Danny Vincent in Beijing

As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

“Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” Liu told the Guardian. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.”

Memories from his detention at Jixi re-education-through-labour camp in Heilongjiang province from 2004 still haunt Liu. As well as backbreaking mining toil, he carved chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw and assembled car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan. He was also made to memorise communist literature to pay off his debt to society.

But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment. The hard slog may have been virtual, but the punishment for falling behind was real.

“If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things,” he said.

It is known as “gold farming”, the practice of building up credits and online value through the monotonous repetition of basic tasks in online games such as World of Warcraft. The trade in virtual assets is very real, and outside the control of the games’ makers. Millions of gamers around the world are prepared to pay real money for such online credits, which they can use to progress in the online games.

The trading of virtual currencies in multiplayer games has become so rampant in China that it is increasingly difficult to regulate. In April, the Sichuan provincial government in central China launched a court case against a gamer who stole credits online worth about 3000rmb.

The lack of regulations has meant that even prisoners can be exploited in this virtual world for profit.

According to figures from the China Internet Centre, nearly £1.2bn of make- believe currencies were traded in China in 2008 and the number of gamers who play to earn and trade credits are on the rise.

It is estimated that 80% of all gold farmers are in China and with the largest internet population in the world there are thought to be 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country.

In 2009 the central government issued a directive defining how fictional currencies could be traded, making it illegal for businesses without licences to trade. But Liu, who was released from prison before 2009 believes that the practice of prisoners being forced to earn online currency in multiplayer games is still widespread.

“Many prisons across the north-east of China also forced inmates to play games. It must still be happening,” he said.

“China is the factory of virtual goods,” said Jin Ge, a researcher from the University of California San Diego who has been documenting the gold farming phenomenon in China. “You would see some exploitation where employers would make workers play 12 hours a day. They would have no rest through the year. These are not just problems for this industry but they are general social problems. The pay is better than what they would get for working in a factory. It’s very different,” said Jin.

“The buyers of virtual goods have mixed feelings … it saves them time buying online credits from China,” said Jin.

The emergence of gold farming as a business in China – whether in prisons or sweatshops could raise new questions over the exporting of goods real or virtual from the country.

“Prison labour is still very widespread – it’s just that goods travel a much more complex route to come to the US these days. And it is not illegal to export prison goods to Europe, said Nicole Kempton from the Laogai foundation, a Washington-based group which opposes the forced labour camp system in China.

Glorious Revolution: Chinese army develop first-person shooter game… with U.S. troops as the enemy


Training: Chinese troops hone their skills on the Glorious Revolution computer game

Daily Mail | May 20, 2011

The Chinese army have developed a computer game that sees their troops shooting at ‘enemy’ U.S. forces.

Glorious Revolution, which is used as a training tool for People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers, pits the Chinese army against the U.S. military in a ‘Call of Duty’ style first person shooter.

In a video report, Chinese soldiers can be seen storming buildings and shooting at ‘enemy’ troops as they exit a bunker, before destroying an Apache helicopter gunship.

A Chinese state media video report shows rows of PLA soldiers hunkered over computer screens as they play through missions of Glorious Revolution.

The use of computer games by governments and international organisations to train their people has become more widespread in recent years.

The game is similar to the U.S. army’s very own shooter, America’s Army, which is used as a recruitment tool.

In the same vein, the Pentagon has developed its own ‘thinking’ first person simulators that deliberately overload commanders with information to see how they cope.

PLA First Person Shooter: Glorious Mission

NATO also has its own game for negotiating with maritime pirates and even Hezbollah created a game called Special Force 2.

The news comes as it emerged the U.S. military are considering sending officers and cadets to China on study exchange programs.

Admiral Patrick Walsh said Washington is seeking to improve its relationship with the Chiese military, and an officer exchange program would provide a better understanding of Chinese culture, goals and thoughts.

‘There’s a strong effort here to improve the relationship,’ Adm. Walsh said on the sidelines of a global naval conference in Singapore.’

Despite this being the PLA’s first publicised foray into the world of first person shooters, reviews of the Chinese game have been broadly positive.

According to Wired magazine, one blogger who saw the game wrote: ‘The game itself looks pretty well-made.

‘Graphics definitely on par with at least the [Call of Duty] series.’

Despite the virtual nature of the game, one Chinese website warned the political and propaganda overtones it embodies could be damaging to trainees.

They wrote: ‘The game content and the values ​​embodied in military thinking … are very different.

‘Long-term use is not conducive to military education and training, and may even mislead officers and men.’

The game comes as President Barack Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates have been been in talks to help restore military-to-military relations between the two countries.

Early last year, China angrily cut off most of those contacts after the United States announced a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, the self-governing island that China considers a renegade province.

China has also expressed a desire for warmer military ties, most recently when the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, General Chen Bingde, visited Washington this week.

Scientists: Out-of-body experiences are products of confused minds


People close to death have described how they have floated from their bodies and looked back at themselves Photo: ALAMY

AAAS: Out-of-body experiences are just the product of a confused mind

Out-of-body experiences are not “spiritual” phenomenon but tricks played by a confused mind, claim scientists who fooled people into thinking they inhabited the body of a virtual human.

Telegraph | Feb 18, 2011

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent in Washington

Throughout history people have described how they have floated from their bodies and looked back at themselves, often when close to death or on the operating table.

The accounts have been so vivid that they are often cited as proof of the existence of the soul or Heaven.

But scientists now claim they have dispelled this myth by artificially creating an out-of-body experience using computers and cameras.

They believe the feeling of detachment occurs when the brain becomes confused by conflict between the senses – and is not proof of any “spiritual dimension” to existence.

Professor Olaf Blanke and his team at University of Geneva said they had “immersed” volunteers into the body of an avatar – a computer generated version of themselves.

Volunteers were asked to wear virtual reality goggles and then stand in front of a camera.

The subjects saw the cameras view of their back on screens in the goggles, computer enhanced to create a 3D virtual version or avatar.

When their back was stroked with a pen so was the virtual avatar in front of them, making them think that the virtual body was in fact their own.

In this way people became confused about their real and the virtual self – even though they were effectively two metres apart from each other.

Prof Blanke, who presented his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington, said: “Through vision and touch they lost themselves.

“They start thinking that the avatar is their own body. We created a partial out-of-body experience.

“We were able to dissociate touch and vision and make people think that their body was two metres in front of them.”

He said by inducing the out-of-body experience it proved it was more like a brain malfunction when sight, touch and balance become confused.

Dr Blanke said: “Instead of it being a spiritual thing, it is the brain being confused. Why do we think that it is spiritual when we don’t think a phantom limb when one is lost is an example of the paranormal.”

To take the research further they used sensors connected to the skull to find the areas of the brain most involved in deciding where it belongs.

These were found to be temporo-parietal and frontal regions – parts at the front and right side of the brain responsible for integrating touch and vision.

If these were damaged or somehow short-circuited it could account for the feeling of floating above your body often associated with an out-of-body experiences.

Aside from explaining out-of-body experiences, the work could have more commercial applications, said the researcher.

The technique could be used to make computer games even more exciting or projecting people into robot soldiers or surgeons.

They could even be used to treat eating disorders linked with a flawed body image, such as anorexia.

Out-of-body experiences most often occur during sleep or waking as well as through drug use, trauma and under anaesthetic.

They effect around one in 10 of the population.

Russian media links airport terror bombing to video game Modern Warfare 2


Russian state media says Modern Warfare 2 may have inspired a real-life attack. Players gun down unarmed civilians at a Russian airport, as terrorists.

Russian news links Modern Warfare 2 to airport bomb

Game questioned as an influence to recent terrorist attack

computerandvideogames.com | Jan 25, 2011

Russian television channel, Russia Today, has linked Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to yesterday’s terrorist bombing of Russian airport Domodedovo in Moscow.

Gamers will remember the controversy surrounding MW2’s ‘No Russian’ level, which has players taking control of an under-cover agent who’s forced to join a group of terrorists in an attack on a fictitious Moscow airport in order to maintain their cover. Players are not, however, forced to kill civilians.

“It may have seemed too gruesome and tragic ever to come true,” says the report from the government-funded Russia Today. “But far-fetched it is not, for this week’s events at Domodedovo International Airport are very real indeed,” it adds.

The report goes on to compare footage of the game level with footage of the explosion and aftermath at Domodedovo. “The game was released by the American company Activision in November 2009, and in just a few months, sales surpassed $1 billion worldwide,” adds the report.

It goes on to suggest that the game may have been a direct influence. Walid Phares, the director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – who also regularly contributes to Fox news as an expert on terrorism – told the channel: “Indeed it is a trouble to look at the game and reality. The issue is we need to know if terrorists or extremists are using these videos or DVDs or games to basically apply the model.”

Phares goes on to suggest that radical groups such as the “jihadists, Al-Qaeda or other kind” use games such as MW2 to “train”.

Media critic Danny Schechter added: “This is the way entertainment mirrors reality and reality mirrors entertainment, and there are people influenced by all this, even though the manufacturers always deny having any influence on anyone.”

The ‘No Russian’ level was removed from the Russian version of MW2.

Virtual ‘reality’ addicted couple raised avatar baby online while real life baby starved to death

Gamers’ Tot Dies of Starvation

The Sun | Mar 4, 2010

By RHODRI PHILLIPS

A COUPLE addicted to computer games let their real life baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online, cops said today.

The couple spent up to12 hours a day at internet cafes leaving their three-month-old daughter home alone at their apartment in Suwon, South Korea.

Cops say the couple had become obsessed with living online and neglected their real lives.

Related

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Matrix-style virtual worlds ‘a few years away’

They raised an avatar baby through their profiles on a Second Life-style game called PRIUS, while their real daughter was given just one bottle of milk a day.

Suspicious

Dad Kim Yoo-chul, 41, and mum Choi Mi-sun, 25, called the emergency services when they returned from one online session and found their daughter dead.

They told police: “We found she had passed away when we woke up in the morning.”

But cops became suspicious about how severely dehydrated the tot was.

A spokesman for the National Scientific Criminal and Investigation Laboratory, which carried out an autopsy on the girl, said: “She appears to have starved to death because she was not fed for such a long period of time.”

The girl was initially well cared for by her grandmother — but her health deteriorated after she moved back in with her parents.

She tragically died in September last year.

Cops tried to arrest the parents, but they disappeared after the baby’s funeral.

They caught up with them on Tuesday and they have since been charged with child abuse and neglect.

The parents told cops after their arrest: “Due to our sense of guilt, we have not been to a PC gaming room over these five months.”

It is thought the couple met in 2008 on an internet chat site.

Online games are massively popular in South Korea.

A 28-year-old man dropped dead recently after playing his favourite game Starcraft for 50 hours non-stop without eating and drinking.

Intel Wants Brain Implants in Its Customers’ Heads by 2020

Matrix creep: Mind Trip Intel wants into your brain. (Image Warner Bros.)

Researchers expect brain waves to operate computers, TVs and cell phones

PopSci | Nov 20, 2009

By Jeremy Hsu

If the idea of turning consumers into true cyborgs sounds creepy, don’t tell Intel researchers. Intel’s Pittsburgh lab aims to develop brain implants that can control all sorts of gadgets directly via brain waves by 2020.

The scientists anticipate that consumers will adapt quickly to the idea, and indeed crave the freedom of not requiring a keyboard, mouse, or remote control for surfing the Web or changing channels. They also predict that people will tire of multi-touch devices such as our precious iPhones, Android smart phones and even Microsoft’s wacky Surface Table.

Turning brain waves into real-world tech action still requires some heavy decoding of brain activity. The Intel team has already made use of fMRI brain scans to match brain patterns with similar thoughts across many test subjects.

Plenty of other researchers have also tinkered in this area. Toyota recently demoed a wheelchair controlled with brainwaves, and University of Utah researchers have created a wireless brain transmitter that allows monkeys to control robotic arms.

There are still more implications to creating a seamless brain interface, besides having more cyborgs running around. If scientists can translate brain waves into specific actions, there’s no reason they could not create a virtual world with a full spectrum of activity tied to those brain waves. That’s right — we’re seeing Matrix creep.