以下はごく一部の方向け。DiGRA2007最初の基調講演はIndiana University BloomingtonのEdward Castronova准教授。講演の前の日に来日して講演の翌日に帰国というとんでもないスケジュール。というわけで、夕飯をご一緒することになった次第。
東大の近くのワインと地鶏の店、なのだがみんなビール。Serious Game Japanの藤本さん、HIITから早稲田に来ているViliさん、シークレットガーデンの石山さんと。
講演は、出た人のレポートがどこかで上がるかと思うが、コインを使った「共有地の悲劇」ゲームをその場でやってみせたりといった面白い内容。同時通訳の人たちとは事前に打ち合わせをしたんだが、やはりゲームの話自体についていけないようで、話の進みが速くなるとかなり厳しい状態。後で聞いたら、大学では「game theory」と「theory of games」を融合させて教えるというなんともハードルが高そうな（教える側にとって、ということ。わかる人にはわかると思うが）授業をやってるとか。
秋に新著が出る由。石山さんの「ダイナスティア」の話には興味津々の様子。びっくりしたのはJoshua Fairfieldの話をよく知ってたこと。なんでもCastronovaの奥さんとFairfieldの奥さんが仲良しなんだそうで（それいったい誰よという人にはぜんぜんわかんないだろうなぁ申し訳ない。これに関連した面白い話は別の機会に）。そのほかにも仮想世界制作ツール「Multiverse」を使って仮想世界を作ろうとしていたがうまくいかなかった話とか、「Web2.0 professor」の話とか、いろいろあったのだが、これまた別の機会に。とりあえず、ご本人は今回の来日に満足のご様子だったのでひと安心。
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Now I would like to introduce to you the first keynote speaker of this conference, Professor Edward Castronova of Indiana University Bloomington. As many of you know, he has been playing a leading role in the field of economic analysis of virtual worlds of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs).
I don’t think he was the first online game player who noticed that an economy had emerged in an online game world. Similarly, I am not sure whether he was the first economist who applied economic models to online games in thinking about what was going on in these worlds. However, I do believe that he was at least one of the economists who first found that these virtual worlds could be a subject of serious economic analysis, and was indeed the first economist who actually devoted his time and effort to write up a series of pioneering papers and a book in this field.
Unfortunately, the value of such effort of him had not been fully understood from the beginning by many of economists. Yes, his research drew attention from many researchers of various fields of social science, including of course economics. His paper on Everquest economy was downloaded for nearly 40,000 times from the Social Science Research Network, an online archive for working papers in social science. This is equivalent to the 5th place among about 161,000 working papers stored in the archive. In that paper, he pointed out that per capita GNP of Norrath, the Everquest world, was close to that of Russia. This impressed many economists. Yet they did not take the analysis of in-game economies as seriously. They typically thought that online games were just for pastime, and had no relevance to the real world. From this viewpoint, they could not find academic importance on the analysis of in-game economies. Castronova called Norrath as “CYBERIAN FRONTIER” in his paper, but for many economists, it was just wasteland.
When I met him 4 years ago, I was looking for a teaching position at a university. I remember that his advice to me at that time was “Before you do research on this subject, you should get a tenured position,” meaning that the research in this field would not help me to get a teaching job at a university. But since then, the situation seems to be changing rapidly. Castronova moved from California to Indiana in 2004, and published a book, titled “Synthetic Worlds,” from the University of Chicago Press in 2005. Meanwhile, the number of researchers studying in this field has been increasing. By the way, I also got a job at a university in 2006.
Such a rising interest in virtual worlds among academic researchers reflects economic reality. Some people would think of Second Life, an online virtual world platform service provided by Linden Lab., and its growing number of users all over the world, and flourishing applications of the service by a number of commercial or non-commercial institutions. Or, some other people would think of RMTs, real money trades of in-game currencies, items, or avatars. Many of earlier MMORPGs still prohibit RMTs, but there exist RMT markets for all major titles. Only a relatively small number of online games (such as Everquest II) authorize RMTs among players, but an increasing number of newer titles adopt item-based payment system rather than conventional monthly subscription system recently. This move is to internalize RMT market as the income of game operators, and thus to partially authorize RMTs in some sense. There is some controversy in RMT stuff, but the bottom line is, the in-game economies begin to have meaning in the real economy.
But the most important change is that people is changing their behavior. The number of online game players worldwide is growing, and the interaction among players in game worlds becomes qualitatively richer. On average, playing online games becomes more and more meaningful experience for players, and in-game economies become more meaningful to the real economy. Now we are observing that there emerges a new place for economic analysis next to our real, conventional economy. This is the true meaning of “CYBERIAN FRONTIER.”
For many people, the frontier is simply undeveloped land. There is nothing meaningful. They did not foresee any economic future there. Or, for many other people, the frontier involves higher risks, and thus there is no reason to go first. But for some people, the frontier implies potential. For those who could foresee the continuing movement of “immigration” and the flourishing economic activities in the new world, taking risks can be rewarding. And analyzing and reporting this new movement was exactly what Edward Castronova did for the CYBERIAN FRONTIER. No doubt, he played a pioneering and substantial role in raising awareness among academic researchers on the importance of virtual worlds, or "synthetic worlds" in his terminology. So now, it is my pleasure to share with you the keynote address of Edward Castronova.
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