October 17, 2005

My virtual scoop

I just got my first sort-of scoop in virtual journalism at Publish.com, interviewing Wagner James Au from Second Life--the guy with the craziest writing gig going...

From USA Today to the BBC, journalists are paying more attention to virtual communities—writing about computer-simulated marriages, multimillion-dollar economies based on imaginary goods, and the countless hours that millions of users spend inside video game worlds, talking, building, and even publishing.

So, last week, journalist and video game evangelist Wagner James Au decided to boost coverage of the virtual world Second Life by hiring virtual stringers to cover stories. Au will pay the stringers with the in-game currency Linden dollars, which can either be used in-world or be exchanged for real-world currency on a "virtual black market."

Au himself is paid by Second Life owner Linden Lab of Linden Research Inc., but his work is too evocative to dismiss as pure company PR. His stories on Second Life have appeared in Salon.com and Wired, and he's been interviewed about his work as an embedded virtual journalist by NPR and the BBC, among other publications.

Au's constant refrain: Virtual world news and events have real-world repercussions. Or, more to the point: This isn't just a video game.

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