Jack M. Balkin/Beth Simone Noveck

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Jack M. Balkin/Beth Simone Noveck

Jack M. Balkin and Beth Simone Noveck(Eds.) — The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds

Do the laws of meatspace role-play in virtual worlds?

The frontier days of virtual worlds are clearly coming to a close. Oh, you’ll still be able to shoot Stormtroopers without your neglected meatspace body ending up in an all-too-real jail. Life remains cheap in most virtual realms. But a new pair of Nikes for your avatar can cost you the kind of credits recognized by brick-and-mortar banks. And where there’s property, inevitably there’s law.

“For better or for worse, it is now possible to work in a fantasy world to pay rent in reality,” write F. Gregory Lastowka and Dan Hunter in one of the essays collected in The State of Play. More than 20 million people subscribe to the virtual world’s MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, Second Life and The Sims Online. Into these worlds, people are pouring ever more of their identities, their time and their money.

So should real-world states protect the rights of avatars? If so, what legal system applies and who has jurisdiction? And what might the study of alternative virtual-world legal systems reveal about our associations in the real world?

With diverse essays from game designers, social scientists and legal scholars, The State of Play is a provocative consideration of virtual jurisprudence.