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The Game behind the Video Game

Conference lined up for April in in New Brunswick, N.J.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Video games aren’t merely a diversion these days – the size of the virtual economy in virtual worlds and social games has grown to more than $2 billion, a number greater than the gross domestic product of 48 countries.

More than 150 professionals, experts, scholars, and students will gather in New Brunswick at the Heldrich Hotel and Conference Center April 8-9, 2011, for a national conference, “The Game behind the Video Game.” The conference intends to examine the complex policy, legal, ethical, economic, and social issues arising from the proliferation of games and virtual worlds such as Second Life, World of Warcraft, FarmVille, MyTown, and others. The School of Communication and Information at Rutgers and the Institute for Information Policy at Penn State are hosting the event.

The conference’s keynote speaker is Greg Lastowka, author of “Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds” (Yale University Press, 2010) and a professor at Rutgers School of Law—Camden. Lastowka is also a co-founder and author of the popular virtual world blog Terra Nova (

“The world of video games is changing quickly, and offering new opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals to capitalize,” said Jorge Reina Schement, conference chair and dean of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers. “At the same time, there are tough questions that have yet to be answered.”

Companies like MTV, Volvo, and Kraft Foods have entered the gaming world to generate new revenue streams and increase brand awareness. Recent cases involve disputes over virtual property and crimes against “avatars,” or the computer representations of real-life game players. The “terms of service” agreements that gaming companies ask players to adhere to are at times nebulous and don’t always hold up in “real-life” court. And games are increasingly being used for training and modeling in technical, militaristic, and medical arenas.

“A lot of hot issues in virtual worlds carry over to social software generally,” Lastowka said. “As our investments in these online spaces increase, we’re going to see more calls for courts and legislators to grapple with the issues that virtual worlds raise.” Lastowka has traveled to Germany, Singapore, and South Korea, among other locales, to speak to political leaders and legal scholars about virtual worlds and the law.

The conference will feature speakers, panels, and workshops based on abstract papers submitted before the event. The submission deadline for abstracts, panel proposals, and student posters is December 15, 2010, and registration opens January 2011. The conference will also feature a poster session and exhibits from industry-leading vendors. An award, covering travel and lodging expenses, will go to the authors of the best paper and best poster.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to: 

Business and Economic

•             Labor, production, demand, and consumption of games

•             Economics and business models in the game industry

•             Virtual goods, money, property and/or services

•             Packaging/bundling of gaming into entertainment of all kinds (books, movies, games, theme parks, etc.)

•             New markets (disenfranchised communities, inexpensive games, etc.)

•             Marketing and market strategies

•             Gaming and the globalization processes

•             The economy within videogames/when “virtual” money becomes real

•             Bandwidth and video games

•             Videogame impacts on telecommunications infrastructure


•             Business applications of gaming platforms

•             New technology and non-traditional applications (e.g. defense)

•             Games as social platforms

•             Developing games in virtual worlds

Law and Policy

•             Legal aspects (e.g. Supreme Court case of California law)

•             Policy/regulatory environment/constraints of videogames

•             “Filters” and videogames; videogame regulation

•             Ethics and games

•             Political role of videogames


•             The role of the press/media in gaming industry

•             Social, political and ethical issues related to digital games and gaming

•             Women and diversity in games/representations and stereotypes in games

•             Gamer culture and community trends

•             Impacts of videogames on society


Conference Website:

School of Communication and Information:

Institute for Information Policy:

Greg Lastowka:

Terra Nova:


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