Over at artblog We Make Money Not Art, chief blogger Regine has interviewed Wagner James Au, aka Hamlet Linden, on his time within virtual world Second Life, both as in-house and now freelance world chronicler.

We've had the odd tangle with Au in the past, but he is eminently sensible on the issue of 'virtual world marketing': "The biggest challenge is to create an interactive, sustainable marketing experience that has an actual value to virtual world players. Otherwise, they'll just ignore it. We're fast approaching the end of this kind of marketing's novelty value, so it's not enough for big companies to slap together an online world presence and expect users and the mainstream media to take notice."

When talking about gold farming, however, Au makes an interesting distinction between real-world mapping game economies (like Second Life's) and those using money in other more abstract ways, suggesting that "...traditional game developers are very retrograde and hypocritical about the matter, designing their fantasy worlds with an internal economy-- i.e., a system for handling supply and demand of scarce resources-- then getting offended when many of their players treat it as such."

He also adds: "Game designers may get smart enough to take a clue from Second Life, creating an economy where genuine production of value is rewarded with real money, but really, I doubt it. The hyper-competitive game industry is always tottering on the brink of disaster, and to expect any kind of deep innovation from the giant media/software corporations that own most of the big online game publishers is pretty far-fetched."

Not sure I really 'get' this - isn't there a Second Life lawsuit pending over 'gaming the system' - effectively exploiting the game world in ways not unlike gold farming? Also, if it was financially viable for them to do so (due to gameplay structure), wouldn't people just gold farm the heck out of SL, too? That's not an economic-related constraint, to my mind. Questions, questions!