Mar 192008
 

I have had a post brewing in my head for days to weeks now, in part driven by some of the reaction to my “High Windows” talk at GDC — yes, the one with the corpse in Darfur, and the whining about how virtual worlds have not achieved their potential, the one I haven’t posted up yet.

Some called that speech inspiring, and others termed it depressing. One of the most interesting reactions came from Prokofy Neva, who has written several interesting posts about the influence of the digerati/tech crowd/game designer on the real world. Her reaction to Jane McGonigal’s turn in the GDC Rant session (slides are here) illustrates the gap that exists:

Then it was Jane McGonigal talking about how game companies were really really good at making people Happy. They had Figured Out what people need to be happy — to feel useful, and a part of something useful (Lenin understood this too! Hey, so did Hitler! And Jane did, too, repeating this exact same PowerPoint exactly the same, twice, once at GDC, and again at SXSW!). Games were so good at fixing stuff they could Fix Reality…

Now, leaving aside the giant culture gap between Prokofy and gamers which makes this commentary inflammatory to those on the other side, there’s stuff here worth listening to.

Edit: just to be clear, I am not at all endorsing Prokofy’s characterization of Jane and her work. It’s ridiculously over the top (and rather rude) to compare Jane to Hitler (!).

While I do think that there are many valid points in Prokofy’s writings on all this, the tone taken is really unnecessary. In writing a post like this, my goal is to try to bridge some gaps, and that means trying to look past the needlessly inflammatory stuff. But that doesn’t mean I should err by omission and fail to comment when a line is crossed. So I apologize for that, particularly to Jane, who doesn’t deserve the mudslinging.

Prokofy, you see, is right about how myopic the tech-dwelling digerati are, and how self-referential. This isn’t a knock against them (aka “us”). After all, many cultural groups are like this. I frequently point to out to people (say, Dan Terdiman, who rhapsodizes about it), that “statistically speaking, I don’t know anyone who uses Twitter.” Look, my brother runs datamining and the like for a large foundation; he works on computers all day. I don’t think he knows what Twitter is. I know for sure that my mom doesn’t.

It is also true that the effects of the digital culture are spreading, and that for better or worse, a new literacy, and with it, higher income, is becoming increasingly required. My son can’t write code, though I could at his age; but he is capable of hacking Sonic Adventure DX on the PC and swapping out the skins on the hedgehogs. And this is being part of an elite (or 1337, at any rate) — though I have great faith in the ingenuity of kids around the world, I also know that quite a lot of them do not have the access to a capable PC and an Internet connection, or parents willing to track down a PC version of a quite old game just so their kid can hack it.

Some, like like Ted Castronova, are arguing that the real world either should be, or inevitably will be changed by the presence of virtual worlds that offer alternatives. In Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality, Ted explicitly makes the case that given the choice between how things operate in World of Warcraft and how they operate in real life, many more people will choose WoW. A few of his predictions:

Ever larger numbers of people will spend many hours inside online games…

…the public at large will come to think of game design and public policy design as roughly similar activities. This is because, structurally, they are the same. They both involve assessing the interests of large numbers of otherwise unassociated people, and then determining the best course of action for the authorities….

While all of this is happening, we will also have come to a new and more rigorous understanding of human happiness… As the lines between public policy and game design blue, public policy will begin to focus more directly on human happiness.

So, certainly, it sounds like Jane has already emigrated, in Castronova’s terms. Although she works more in overlaying games into real life in the first place, her games are still undeniably virtual in the sense that they are overlays.

The point I was trying to make in my speech was not so much about trying to get virtual worlders to work to save Darfur. Instead, it was about taking a step back, and seeing where we all fit into the larger context of life. Seen from the moon, the whole virtual world industry — whether BuildABearVille is less altruistic than Club Penguin or not, whether or not Warhammer Online is imitating WoW’s art a little too slavishly, whether copying someone else’s virtual porn is infringement — it all seems very small.

It is generally dangerous to try to apply the principles, cultural patterns, mores, and customs of a small group to the whole. And I think this is what is at the root of Prokofy’s complaint.

In that same speech, I made the comparison between virtual world clients and windows. I said that it was easy to look through a window at a given scene and see either hopelessness or potential, squalor or the future. We all come with our frames of reference. This does not mean, to my mind, that we should not evangelize. Prokofy says

So…what do you do about these people? Well, one thing you do immediately, post-haste, tout de suite, is push back, which of course is my hallmark phrase. A pushback is generally what these people do not get. But they need it. And it’s normal.

In a healthy society, everyone is pushing. If anything, it is moments of total unity that are most to be feared, for from those moments come dogma.

Virtual worlds can and should be used for pushing; just like any medium can and should be used for pushing. And yes, that means that Jane should keep trying to fix one world, and Prokofy should keep trying to fix another, and yes, even the carping from the sidelines should continue. Prok may feel that wanting to do something about Darfur in Second Life, or indeed many other channels, is a bit of a waste — but perhaps its value lies not in what it does for Darfur, but what it does for those who participate, however fruitlessly.

The reason I gave the speech I did is because the prevailing current was kids’ worlds, the prevailing wind was a bubble, and the prevailing tone was commerce. Commerce, kids’ worlds, and hype are all well and good. But the course we should chart has more nuance than that, and more variety, and more ambition. It should encompass user activism and people selling meshes of sex toys, it should encompass games and schools and ads and plots of virtual land.

It has become a bit of an in-joke for me to try to include poetry or music in every speech. In this case, the referent was Philip Larkin’s poem “High Windows,” which seemed apropos to me. Larkin was a crochety guy. In the poem, he offers up a complex brew of resentment of the freedoms and privileges of the younger generation, of “everyone young going down the long slide to happiness, endlessly.” (Happiness, the scientists tell us, is a little bit overrated.)

The poem ends on a moment of transcendence — or nihilism, depending on your point of view. A religious epiphany, or an atheist one. Our attitudes about virtual worlds can go the same way(s). Larkin sees different things through the windows than I do, than you do, than the young do. This diversity is strength. That is why we must continue to chase things as diverse as the player-policed world, the user governed world, user rights, worlds with RMT and worlds without, and so on. We must work for worlds that are not like the real world, for the sake of what we learn, and we must work for worlds that are the real world, for the sake of what we learn.

What virtual worlds of all stripes offer, above all, is the chance to look through a gallery of windows, into the immense variety of the human heart and human mind.

  216 Responses to “Should virtual worlds change the real?”

  1. THE SECOND TIMES : セカンドライフでチベ.. Raph’s Website Revisiting the Garden .. Who killed Miss Norway? – Salon.com A Story About A TreeRaph’s Website Should virtual worlds ..4Gamer.net ― 新しいシムズはこうなってし.. mixiが修正規約を公表 「ユーザーに著作権.. THE SECOND TIMES : Metaplace、MySpaceで.. 「2001年宇宙の旅」作者、スリランカ..

  2. Should virtual worlds change the real?Posted on March 19, 2008 by Raph

  3. not the meta-world, and see what they think, see if you can persuade them about what you think, not by a tech-meme, a Twitter, a WordPress blog, but by the spoken human voice of logic, reason, and common sense. Raph’s Website :Should virtual worlds change the real?

  4. So does a good book, Raph. What you seem to say is that games are literature and some should be better literature than others.

    Most will agree. Should we ask ourselves when some project is worth doing? Should we consider it only in terms of the content or should we consider the goals of those signing the check? Faustus anyone?

    I can agree with Prok on many things. She is a cut-from-cloth objectivist that Rand would be proud of. On the other hand, she uses her craft to destroy her opponent, not educate, and so loses any credibility she might have if she served up her knowledge with less rancor. Presentation matters. There is an art to persuasion but it should be consonant with goals. If not, then no one gives the message credence even if they should.

    Is McGonigal is drinking her own kool-aid? Reconcile her work for the Olympics in Beijing with what is happening in Tibet. Should one work for a government that does that? Is artificial game being overlaid on reality or on a carefully woven imitation of it? Qui bono? It’s a tough question: when should we work against our own values if ever?

    Anvil and hammer: if the anvil breaks the hammer, what remains between them remains undone.

  5. Excellent post – though I wonder how many will skip over it for the mention of a name?

  6. “We must work for [...]“

    Why? What is the greater good?

    There is no more diversity now than there was in 1996. In fact, by the scale of things, I’d say there is less.

    Anyway, as everything computer-related becomes online activities the term “virtual world” will start to fade out for anything that wants to be real. Heck, the community of Linux-boxes are replicating virtual worlds pushed over the wires. So, they chat over blogs, and tinker in their local bin (pun). That’s not all that different from what people do in virtual worlds with their chat window and harvesting.

    So, no sorry. If you want to be real, then you don’t want a virtual world. Otherwise everything online IS in the virtual universe of worlds.

  7. Prokofy, unfortunately, does have a lot of really good things to say. Fortunately, very little of it is remotely original and can be heard from sources that are notably less… disgusting. She’s not wrong so much as irrelevant.

    Nothing like being returning to the game blogosphere to read arguments I heard over two years ago. Hi, Prok!

  8. I think it’s fine to use a virtual world to expose a player to something in the real world – as long as the player steps back in to the real world at some point and does something. Does the player have a discussion with a real person because something in a virtual world got them thinking? Do they vote, donate or volunteer their time to some cause? Or do they say “Screw the real world, it’s too scary for me” or “I like this view of the human heart and mind in the virtual world – it’s a lot more idealized and nice to experience than the real world.”

    Also, the virtual world has no Darfur or Global Warming, but what if it did? What if Second Life began to have prim shortages and conflicts over resources? What if the ocean levels in Second Life began to rise several meters or there were earthquakes and tsunamis in SL that wiped out whole regions? That might have far more impact on how people think about the real world than a virtual poster or “happening”

  9. [...] it seems I am not alone in having these doubts. Raph Koster for example says in his blogpost Should virtual worlds change the real: I frequently point to out to people (say, Dan Terdiman, who rhapsodizes about it), that [...]

  10. In my experience real life is changing virtual worlds and not the contrary, years ago the virtual worlds (games and no games) was a geek only thing, now the common people are taking to assault virtual worlds under the flag of casual gamers changing the landscape for their needs, virtual wordls games has been changed for real life market needs, and the SWG case is very representative of that.

    imo Second Life continue being a geek and minoritary thing when net activities more vinculated to real life have much more succes how virtual worlds, my space, blogs, forums, ebay and goldsellers trading virtual objects, downloading games and videos, youtube, etc.

    Social differences will have a place in virtual worlds because social differencies are in real life and are in the human nature. The main change that virtual worlds can do is create new social differences and terminate some older, Second lifers vs. gamers is a new cultural gap, dispite I live in spain or in USA, minimizing that old geographical and social differerence.

  11. Just doing the background reading for your post was hard work.

    In dark moments, we are hit with the realization that fundamentally what we do is make entertainment for teenagers, sell things that don’t exist or charge monthly fees to be in a place that isn’t there. Perhaps an exaggeration and over simplification, but everybody, game designers included, wants what they do to matter. Fun is hard. Fun as a driver of positive change in the world is really hard. I’m glad this is becoming a topic, even if Prokofy calls me a socialist for saying so.

    …the public at large will come to think of game design and public policy design as roughly similar activities. This is because, structurally, they are the same. They both involve assessing the interests of large numbers of otherwise unassociated people, and then determining the best course of action for the authorities…”

    I love this quote, because it implies that by doing what we do – creating, iterating and experimenting in virtual worlds – we could learn something about governance that could make it’s way back to RL. Fail early and fail often works in VWs – not so much in the real world. I wonder if we could have predicted the failure of communism had we had these type of tools years ago?

  12. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

    On one side, reality exists outside of perception, therefore the tree falls, and the shock wave travels through the air, which is sound. On the other side, If something is not perceived, than it does not truly exist. (This is without redefining ‘sound’, you hear “sound is only a sound if someone’s brain interprets the signal” or what not, which is a cop out)

    If one believes that reality exists without perception, then virtual worlds remain bits and bytes and objects. Fun to play around in, but otherwise irrelevant.

    However, if the world exists only if you perceive it, then it exists likewise because you perceive it. So the virtual world can’t change reality, it is simply a part of reality that can change along with the rest of it; as powerful as any other aspect of reality.

    The question is- If a tree falls in Azeroth and everybody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    I think that asking if virtual worlds can affect reality is a moot point.

    Sorry if that doesn’t address the subject very well. I don’t know what a twitter is except in only the vaguest sense, and I’m a nerd/geek/whatever.

  13. I’ve felt for year that the internet was a communications boom. A gift to mankind. It’s communication that spreads ideas, and open doors. Of course, every cruel dictatorship or rule by power has always tried to stop communication. They see the power of the pen, too.

    Where I see games and networks as you are talking about coming into the picture is as an extension to communication. We had print, then mail, radio, TV, the internet. Now it’s the social networks that will open that door even wider than it’s ever been. The world is getting smaller, much smaller.

    As far as what these things can offer beyond communication, that’s a double edged sword as much as anything else in communication. The wrong things can be “taught” as well as the right things. Of course wrongs and rights are open to debate, as always. But the social impact of it all is where the real action is. The demands of people en masse can move the unmovable. The question is, will those demands be for the betterment? In the end, after going through some growing pains along with some good things, I believe the answer will be unmistakably yes.

    On a side note, I don’t understand the hate for Prokofy. From what I’ve seen over the years, the insults have come from both directions. No one was right, but she made her statements on sites and blogs where she was going against the established grain. So she got ganked, who’d a thought?
    I don’t agree with much of her statements, but I don’t see the need for the hate that’s around. Her biggest crime? Long winded posts and a constant stance? Common people, get used to hearing the other side of the story. Yes, repeatedly. And don’t forget to take your own side too, if you feel like it. Hey, relax. No one died here.

  14. It’s amazing how the tribe beats up on you and pushes you to conformity — I definitely note the “Edit” and the obvious pressures you were put under. It went from a thread that would have gotten one line from me, and 7 posters, and gone under the fold, to being about the desire of people who criticize to pick on the deliver, the messenger, the style. Let them.

    I’m not comparing Jane to Hitler, don’t be silly. There is nothing I said that can be construed as “Jane is Hitler.” What is being said is more subtle and not the hysterical thing you imagine: that people like Jane and other game-gods that come up with simple recipes like “here are 3 things on powerpoint I can show you that are what people need to be happy” and who then enthusiastically waltz off to make “serious games” and tell you they can “fix reality” are invoking ideologies that sound as demagogic, as wrong-headed, as scary as a Hitler or a Lenin. Of course they *are* Raph. Don’t they have any sense of themselves?

    You find it “ok” to go around saying “I can fix reality because I’m in an industry that has 40 million people enthralled.” It’s like Zuckerberg talking so blandly and chillingly about having these 60 million people, that he would now “do something with” to “make a better world”. Always, the better world, from these people! And that representative democracy was bad, and “top-down” and that social media was all good — like…imagining that you can manipulate 60 million people with social media isn’t just as “top-down” as this supposed bad representative democracy is! Worse! (And I’m sure at least some of those 60 million vampire biters and Scrabulous players have a thing or three to tell someone who imagines he is martially them as some giant Grass Root with himself at the helm).

    When they say “disruptive,” they mean to disrupt — and make sure it’s other people, not them. And you can be damn sure that I will be right back at them, and say “and it disrupts *you too*”. I do not sit idly by while some gal with a Ph.D. on the game conference tells me she will fix reality, I’m sorry.

    Every time people talk about democracy, there’s always one wit that says, oh, but Hitler was elected. And I think it’s important to invoke the problems of totalitarianism very insipient in these game creators’ world views. It’s really appalling and awful stuff, Raph. I will stand on my head to get attention to it. If it takes stepping on somebody’s neuralgic corns and being politically incorrect in the process, so be it. It’s just plain morally bereft for the gaming industry — the freakin’ gaming industry! where everybody spends all their time killing each other! and forcing the most awful, horrid tribalism! — to be cited as the engine to “fix reality” and to become “the experts on knowing how to make people happy”. It’s just totally wrong. Jane *does deserve* to be totally thrashed over this. World Without Oil is a good example of this high-handed populist gamegoddery posing as “the public good”, merely smuggling in a typically lefty worldview and making it seem that new media can make us forget all that bias just by its sheer coolness:

    “WORLD WITHOUT OIL is a serious game for the public good. WWO invited people from all walks of life to contribute “collective imagination” to confront a real-world issue: the risk our unbridled thirst for oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. It’s a milestone in the quest to use games as democratic, collaborative platforms for exploring possible futures and sparking future-changing action. WWO set the model for using a hot net-native storytelling method (‘alternate reality’) to meet civic and educational goals. Best of all, it was compellingly fun.”

    What *on earth* is democratic or collaborative about pre-setting and pre-fixing the very framing of the issue of how energy is used? If you have the framing already poisoned with bias, how can you then decide on future action? To just drop these pre-fixed memes into the pond of a school is to be just as bad an old-fashioned patriarchic textbook because nobody is teaching any critical thought about it, some sort of thoughtful consumer-advocacy approach to this very problem of all kinds of Ivan Illich and Noam Chomsky readers and enthusiasts making games to mass-drop on kids and “change their consciousness”. Sigh.

    Anybody is welcome to determine the public good, of course. But anyone is also welcome to determine that it is NOT the public interest. I wonder if in the miles of videos and blogs and sheer politically-correct expression around this particular public exercise was there ever a critique — or even a thought! — about China? About Russia? About Nigeria? Or was it only about inciting hatred and blame of the US (from the blogs, it looks to be the usual story).

    Her zeal for finding happiness buttons and all the rest of it is creepy, just like Ed Castronova’s delight in finding reptilian reflexes for thrilling spine-tingling feelings is creepy. I think you should read *all the way through* the Broken Toys thread (drink a glass of milk before hand for toxicity) and then the second after-action thread with the title like “let’s all be like a family and cover this up in a dark place”. I mean, it just makes your hair stand on end, Raph. Doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it?

    It hit me, like a diamond. There’s no more literature. There’s no literature. There’s no poetry. Kids aren’t making poetry magazines in schools. There are so few young men or women writing poetry, stories, plays. They are playing games or texting. That’s where the culture, the narrative is. I was so excited about this 8 years ago when I saw that with the Sims, Will Wright could give people the power of narrative not dependent on TV or Hollywood or the publishing industry. I still retain a certain enthusiasm for it. But now that hope begins to be dashed, and how jaded one become seeing threads like the Broken Toys.

    I’m actually a big fan and user and reader of Twitter, but probably not in the way that the Twitterati do — I don’t put it on my cell phone, that would be terribly expensive, I just tune into it on the web now and then during the day or evening. So I’m often only seeing a page or two of it because I can’t follow it even with partial attention (I recently discovered that you really need to read people’s home pages and do tweetscan.com searches of your own name or you miss 75 percent of it).

    And I’ve really come to marvel in recent weeks how the top 60 ego bloggers and top Twitterers are able to drop memes into the pond and influence people to think the most outrageous stuff. Some thoughts here:
    http://3dblogger.typepad.com/3d_blogger/2008/03/staying-the-dye.html

    Example: Dave Winer can type a 140 character statement that “everyone in the Northeast is racist” over the Obama debates and have legions of fanboyz hysterically applaud, and no one push back — and if you try to push back he just deletes your comment. Robert Scoble can say the sub-prime mortgage debacle was due to “financiers in New York” (!) and no one will protest or provide a nuance, and if you try, other Twittering fanbirds will slaughter you. These meme-drops spread with unholy speed and you can’t undo them because the old media, that would exercise due diligence and really search the entire up and down and front and back of a story like Obama and Rev. Wright is waning, deluged with bloggers, Twitterers, back-chatters.

    The whole Lacy/Zuckerberg thing at SXSW really illustrated the way the insolent Internet culture is taking over. You can fight it your way. I think the only way to fight it is with equal and opposite force.

    I did ask you politely, the first time you wrote about GDC: and Jane? What do YOU think about Jane? Isn’t that over the top? And you didn’t answer then. I figured perhaps, you were just privately embarrassed to speak against a colleague, or perhaps, it just didn’t rub you the wrong way it did many people I’ve talked to. Games? Fixing reality? Reality is broken and happy games can fix it? I mean, who the heck wouldn’t react to *that*???

    To feel useful and feel a part of something! You can feel that joining the army and going to Iraq! I don’t *care* if I have to suffer through a kick in the face being accused of Godwinism and rudeness and inflammation. This is serious stuff.

    Who is standing up to Jane? Who questions Clay Shirky? Who tells off Richard Bartle? To the right of me there is only the wall. There isn’t even a glimmer of distancing on the left — there’s only wild mad applause.

    Happiness isn’t merely feeling a part of something and feeling useful. It’s also about individual accomplishment, learning something, serving others. To have boiled happiness down to that powerpoint of hers was just a disservice.

  15. Just doing the background reading for your post was hard work.

    I take my duties as synthesist very seriously. ;)

    On a side note, I don’t understand the hate for Prokofy. From what I’ve seen over the years, the insults have come from both directions. No one was right, but she made her statements on sites and blogs where she was going against the established grain. So she got ganked, who’d a thought?

    There are communication style gaps and cultural gaps that make it hard for good conversations to be had across groups. And when friction encountered, I think Prokofy (and others, myself included, don’t get me wrong) retreat to a degree into sensationalism.

    I actually suspect that Prokofy and Jane McGonigal have much more in common than they think. They may not talk to each other, but I prefer talking to both! And generally, really, I don’t end up at the sharp end of Prok’s tongue very often, I think perhaps because I AM willing to engage and try to understand.

    (And it feels weird to talk about Prok as if he were not here. I am sure he is).

  16. BTW, the gap on referencing the avatar and chosen identity vs the real person is one of those things that Prok is right to be sensitive about, and which I still slip up on even though I don’t mean to. I didn’t like it when my RL and game personas were mixed up, and I think it’s perfectly fair to request that Catherine and Prokofy be seperated. I still mess it up though, perhaps because I have met Catherine, but not Prokofy (!).

  17. Even chat/blogging personas are different from offline personas. That’s partially because writing shapes our expression and thinking so differently than interacting face-to-face. But it’s also because values, desires, and expectations often change drastically between social environments (for example: most people don’t apply the same moral standards in a business environment as they do in non-business scenarios).

    Only particular types of virtual lessons translate into non-virtual learning. As I said on Brian Green’s blog about virtual worlds influencing real behavior a week or two ago: “Sending a child back to “Start” whenever she tries to take a cookie isn’t going to convince her to keep her hand out of a real cookie-jar.” Overall, I think there’s a greater divide between virtual and non-virtual interactions than a lot of developers and academics acknowledge off-hand.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing your GDC talk, so I don’t have much to say on your main point (other than what I’ve already said on Green’s site). But I would like to point out that the unqualified “diversity is strength” talk is really a swing to an extreme that I doubt you truly endorse in full.

    In a healthy society, everyone is pushing. If anything, it is moments of total unity that are most to be feared, for from those moments come dogma.

    Different perspectives are good when they bring us to a common perception. Different behaviors are good when they propel us toward common goals. Human nature, like nature at large, is a mix of stable and dynamic forces. In a healthy society, everyone is striving to acknowledge the truth and right behaviors already discovered while questioning old ideas against new environments and pushing only against what should not be. In other words, at some point, beneath the polish of generations, there’s something solid and expertly chiselled to be carried untouched into the future. At some point, you stop fuddling with the foundation and start fuddling with the next level.

    Dogmas exist because only a fool thinks he can reassess everything, taking nothing on faith (conscious trust), and still find time to live in the present; and only a sad man finds nobody and nothing worth trusting.

    Basically, I’m just saying that diversity and change (discontentment), when unqualified, are not good or useful values. It’s possible to discover errors and new options without being libertine or entirely democratic.

  18. Prokofy,

    I do think that what you wrote re Jane’s presentations and Hitler is very very easily construed as a comparison. In fact, I don’t know any other way to read it, really; it’s an implicit comparison. I ALSO think that your subtler point, the one that you state so well here:

    “…that people like Jane and other game-gods that come up with simple recipes like “here are 3 things on powerpoint I can show you that are what people need to be happy” and who then enthusiastically waltz off to make “serious games” and tell you they can “fix reality” are invoking ideologies that sound as demagogic, as wrong-headed, as scary as…”

    is a valid critique (though not one I really agree with, in the end, once I ponder a while). And I think you could say the quote above, and get the point across both less controversially and also more pointedly, without the comparison.

    I must note that it was not “the tribe” that beat up on me. I received exactly one email. But I thought it a valid point.

    You find it “ok” to go around saying “I can fix reality because I’m in an industry that has 40 million people enthralled.”

    I find it “ok” to say “I have an audience of 40 million, and these tools at my disposal. Can I make a positive difference in the world?” And yes, the line between those two things is razor-thin. But I think that the one statement is worthy of criticism, and the other is worthy of plaudits. Knowing Jane (and Richard, and Ian, and others) — AND YOU — I feel confident in saying that none of you are out there saying the things you say, or doing the things you do, for malicious purposes. All of you are trying to effect positive change with the tools you have.

    I think it’s important to invoke the problems of totalitarianism very insipient in these game creators’ world views. It’s really appalling and awful stuff, Raph. I will stand on my head to get attention to it.

    In fact, that was one of the key points of my speech that you reduced to being about Darfur. :)

    Her zeal for finding happiness buttons and all the rest of it is creepy, just like Ed Castronova’s delight in finding reptilian reflexes for thrilling spine-tingling feelings is creepy.

    I don’t find it creepy per se. Learning more about our human nature isn’t creepy to me. I do find possible applications of it creepy.

    I think you should read *all the way through* the Broken Toys thread (drink a glass of milk before hand for toxicity) and then the second after-action thread with the title like “let’s all be like a family and cover this up in a dark place”. I mean, it just makes your hair stand on end, Raph. Doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it?

    I in fact did read all the way through both threads before writing this post. It was one of the experiences that prompted the post.

    But I do think it cuts both ways. Yes, the tl;dr crap is exclusionary clique-talk and all the rest. And quite a lot of what was said about you was reprehensible and rude. But so was the Hitler remark, and so was the treatment you gave Richard, I thought.

    I did ask you politely, the first time you wrote about GDC: and Jane? What do YOU think about Jane? Isn’t that over the top? And you didn’t answer then.

    I actually did not see or read her rant until well after GDC. I missed the actual session.

    Is it over the top? Fundamentally, I think it’s a good thing that there are socially engaged people who want to make the world a better place. I think it’s hopeless to ask them to do everything without bias. I even think not all bias is bad — I have a bias towards freedom, and a bias towards creative expression, for example, and I cherish these biases. :) I don’t even think that people arguing for their biases is a bad thing — of this is freedom of speech made, and of that is a vibrant democracy made, and a vibrant culture. And I certainly cannot criticize people for trying to make the world a better place using their professional lives and the work of their careers.

    So no, not over the top in that sense. All else is details, to my mind. I am more skeptical about the things that can be achieved, perhaps, than Jane is.

    To feel useful and feel a part of something! You can feel that joining the army and going to Iraq!

    You could. But plenty don’t. What is wrong with having many ways to feel useful, feel a part of something, and learn in the process?

    Happiness isn’t merely feeling a part of something and feeling useful. It’s also about individual accomplishment, learning something, serving others. To have boiled happiness down to that powerpoint of hers was just a disservice.

    I think that Jane would be the first to tell you that individual accomplishment, learning something, and serving others is a key part of her agenda.

    And as far as boiling happiness down… a disservice to what? Happiness itself? Happiness does not care. If it prompts thoughtful reactions — even contrarian ones — then it’s a net service and good, not a disservice. Heck, I think it’s a net good even if it prompts somewhat over the top negative reactions from you. ;)

  19. I will give this more thorough treatment soon, but I’ll just say quickly that you don’t seem to understand that democracy and liberalism and freedom aren’t hats you put on, biases you adapt, features you code, add-ons, but they are the intrinsic thing itself, the process, without with you can’t have the bias one way or another. You don’t crow that you have a bias for freedom. You say that you have freedom to express this or that bias — or you don’t have freedom. Jane isn’t just enthusiastically going out there to save the world by her own lights; she’s making a platform that imposes 3 kinds of happiness in coded format where…you can’t get out of it. It’s mechanical. Ditto Richard, who is stripping us all of our wealth and preventing cash-outs in the name of the greater socialist good. These are real problems, even if they are your friends.

    I’m sorry, but the decks are horribly, horribly stacked here. These people who are your friends in your industry whom you think are trustworthy — they aren’t my friends. They have an extraordinary outsized reach for their bias, one they themselves don’t even seem to admit. THey have incredibly ambitious plans. I’m just one person, with some limited audience, but basically just a user, a resident in their worlds. I think it’s imperative here, having seen these grave inequalities and dangers to absolutely jump up and down as much as I can.

    Talk about Darfur, Raph! My God, you want to do something about Darfur? Throw a really good old-fashioned mass boycott of the Olympics, use whatever media access old and new, social and anti-social for *that*, don’t go play Jane’s weird feel-good game that takes as a given that there should be an Olympics and doesn’t appear on the face of it to even entertain the relationship between China’s propping up of the Sudanese government and the atrocities in Darfur. I mean, just for starters, you want to talk “how can we use games for good” and “fix reality.” Let’s first make sure we don’t break reality and more than it’s broken, hm?

    But there is an even worse fire to put out now…

    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2008/03/avatar-rights-a.html

  20. I’ll just say quickly that you don’t seem to understand that democracy and liberalism and freedom aren’t hats you put on, biases you adapt, features you code, add-ons, but they are the intrinsic thing itself, the process, without with you can’t have the bias one way or another. You don’t crow that you have a bias for freedom. You say that you have freedom to express this or that bias — or you don’t have freedom.

    I have a bias towards the social systems in which I live providing certain freedoms. And there are plenty of social systems out there which do offer freedom, but not the specific freedoms I like. (Consider the variance between the freedoms in Europe and the freedoms in the US, for example).

    And one can live in an unfree society have a bias towards freedom. :)

    Jane isn’t just enthusiastically going out there to save the world by her own lights; she’s making a platform that imposes 3 kinds of happiness in coded format where…you can’t get out of it. It’s mechanical.

    Nonsense; she does not control you, she merely advocates. her platform is not mandatory, no one forces anyone to use it. Yes, it expresses a worldview. So? Your blog does too.

    Your concern is over the proportional level of influence, which is a perfectly valid concern. But the march is not an inexorable as you seem to fear.

    Ditto Richard, who is stripping us all of our wealth and preventing cash-outs in the name of the greater socialist good.

    In certain types of game worlds only, where people want it that way for other reasons. Again, not exactly a mandatory imposition.

    You are ascribing more extreme positions to these folks than they actually have; that’s what I mean about the culture gap. Similarly, the folks in Lum’s thread (and Lum himself) paint you as more extreme than you actually are.

    Talk about Darfur, Raph! My God, you want to do something about Darfur?

    Actually, I have not yet once said anything even close to “let’s do something about Darfur!” Let me remind you of the closing address from Games for Change where I challenged that entire notion — I know you read it the first time around.

  21. Let me remind you of the closing address from Games for Change where I challenged that entire notion

    Even though I know the gist of that address, do you happen to have a link to a transcription of it? If not, then I’ll survive, but I’ve never seen it.

  22. Len, I’m not an objectivist, and I’m not a Randian, and do not hold these beliefs in high regard. Raph can hasten to post Edits to make sure he isn’t seen as coming near anything like calling Jane “Hitler” (which I don’t do) but it’s ok for me to be branded an objectivist and a Randian. Geez.

    Here’s the big problem. Nobody took on this “fix reality” crap of Jane’s. Nobody. Not anybody. Nobody. Instead, there is clapping and cheering and “inspiration”. For days. Weeks. I think perhaps one anonymous poster on my blog even called my attention to it in the first place by saying something like “well, who does she think she is…” Under those awful circumstances, I will make the presentation as sharp as I can possibly make it. I feel like it’s a national emergency. Someone is always welcome to say the same thing as me, and pretend to disagree, and claim it’s all about the presentation : )

    But…where were you?

    And you’re saying Jane’s working for the Chinese government?!

    Re: “Anyway, as everything computer-related becomes online activities the term “virtual world” will start to fade out for anything that wants to be real.”

    Bingo. That’s why I’m here, jumping up and down, screaming, and using any kind of presentation that I can, this is seriously an international emergency, even. I need to take the gloves off!

    Tim, you don’t have to make simulations of tsunamis literally in Second Life to have profound problems of the tragedy of the commons and the destructiveness of nature and poor preparation for disasters. All you have to do is not “set to group”. And then turn on autoreturn after building some amazing thing for 4 hours.

    That’s why I wish all these intellects out there would just go in Second Life and realize it’s all there, you don’t have to build a simulation, it already is a simulation, the whole thing, it’s running 24/7, it’s all there to test and see these ideas as we have been testing and seeing them for years.

    Did you really think, Raph, that nobody contemplated these things you came up with for GDC, about how something more serious and yet more playful could be made?

  23. [...] much more scary than Jane McGonigal trying to dance like a black boy and fix reality, and then beating up Raph Koster for saying I was right. And that’s Zero Linden. Of course, Zero and I go way back, it’s funny to contemplate, we are even [...]

  24. Virtual Worlds change people that use them. They thereby change the real world, but maybe not in any predictable way. The influence of art on humanity is likely to be form of strong emergence in its nature. You can not from looking purely at the game or virtual world expect to understand how they will influence the world around them. But you can look at the world and see these influences in action.

    If you could get a president “hooked” on WoW you would be able to see the effect in the real world. The design of the game would influence the future of our real world significantly. Maybe the success of the mmorpg industry in china will be one of the most important influences on our planet in some not very distant future.

    Or as it says in one of the quotes about emergence in the wikipedia article on the subject of strong emergence:

    “Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing.”
    – Mark A. Bedau

  25. Virtual world design is art. Different artists want to say different things; different people want to consume art for different reasons. What one virtual world says, another may contradict; what one movement decrees, another may deny.

    I have many problems with today’s virtual worlds. I don’t, for example, like the way that game worlds routinely depict enemies as being legitimate targets merely on the grounds of what race they are. I don’t like the way that player classes regiment people, as if their role in life were fixed. I don’t like the way that negative actions don’t have comparably negative consequences. There are plenty of things I don’t like. There are plenty more I do like, of course, but the fact is this: virtual worlds embody a point of view. Virtual world designers do affect their players, just as movie directors affect their audiences and novelists affect their readers. How could it be otherwise? Why would anyone want it to be otherwise?

    I mentioned Darfur in my 2005 AGC talk. There are things in the real world that are more important, right now, than what we (meaning artists in general) do. However, what we do ultimately affects what other people do. I would be useless in Darfur: I’m 48, overweight, my right shoulder is out of whack and I’m scared of being shot at. I’d be more of a hindrance than a help there, or any of the other places in the world where people are suffering day to day. I can’t affect such things directly. I can, however, affect hearts and minds through (in my case) virtual world design; come to that, I can’t not do it.

    Other designers don’t have to say things the same way I do. They can create their own virtual worlds. These will develop their own culture, and inspire other people to create new virtual worlds which advance that culture, taking it in new directions. Sometimes, they may be old directions (we saw in the LambdaMOO days how important it was to players of social worlds that such worlds were in opposition to game worlds, and it’s no surprise to see it again with Second Life). The point is, though, that if you can create a virtual world, you can articulate something through the design of that world. Part of your soul goes into it. Everyone is different; every new virtual world is different.

    Jane McGonigal is right, games have kicked every other medium’s ass. Virtual worlds, however, are not games, they’re places; what’s more, in those areas where they get to compete with games directly (eg. the PC), they’re kicking games’ ass. We have something very special here, and it behoves designers to think about that. Most designers do indeed think about it, often, and probably to the surprise of many players. That’s how great art gets made, though: the expression and resolution of internal conflict through creation in the artist’s chosen medium.

    You say that virtual worlds offer “the chance to look through a gallery of windows, into the immense variety of the human heart and human mind”. You’re right, they do. That’s not what makes them special, though. What makes them special is that, as a player, you get you look through a gallery of windows into your OWN heart and mind. Designers are merely pointing the camera for you. A good designer shows you what you haven’t seen before; what you do with what you see is entirely up to you, though.

    Richard

  26. @Wolfe:

    That model of emergence is flawed. Emergence is not a pervasive power but a statistical event. To understand it, the model one should study is low-energy orbital transits versus Hohman transfers. It is an energy vs time tradeoff where given a semi-stable system, one can reasonably plot a course that requires affordable energy given sufficient time.

    Nothing from nothing means nothing.

    This is a fun thread to read. Raph, you don’t seem to be able to take a position you can stand by articulately. Prok, on the other hand, can’t seem to accept any position she had not previously put a stake in. That’s shadow boxing.

    Real change requires real energy whether minimal slow over time or maximum all at once, but it is always an individual effort that makes a difference. The illusion is collective intelligence. We may have media that speeds up the sharing of ideas but it also speeds up the cycles of forgetting. Control of such spin is how political campaigns shift the conversations at will to topics that divide or fuse. Such is the science of semiotics and the art of politics.

    McGonigal has a real political problem with her game given her sponsors. Her choice is to make a big statement now or accept the compromise and make slow changes over time. Her challenge is that once her game passes into irrelevancy as it will, her opportunity is past. Once the anvil breaks the hammer, what is in between is left unfinished.

    See US Presidential elections of 1968 and 1972. For all the fame we ascribe to the movement of the time, it accomplished little except to embolden a generation against racism. Little by little, over time, that generation had to accept that the only real change there was among individuals. There is no justice in nature. Don’t look for it there. Justice, like love, is an act, not something you have, but something you do. This is a simple truth and easily grasped by uncluttered thinkers. Once heavily parsed by those with too much skill, its essential truth is lost in the distractions of the conversation, and its power fades until another less distracted thinker picks it up. Little by little, node by node, it makes the grand tour.

    If that is change, patience is the only scarce resource.

  27. The very best thing that happened during your talk at GDC is this: you asked whether virtual worlds creators were relevant to the world at large. Then you showed some pictures of Darfur and Cité Soleil and said that your mummy worked for Unicef. Some people were inspired, and some people were depressed and resentful. End of presentation.

    But THEN, as if to punctuate your point and bring it all home, Reuben Steiger from Millions of Us got up and showed his account overlay for Gossip Girl in Second Life, where you gain points by running around sending messages like “Julie’s wearing Juicy Couture to Tad’s party tonight.” At one point during his presentation, the speaker himself mumbled something like “this project made my skin crawl”.

    With respect, i don’t think you made your point very well, Raph. But i think Reuben made your point for you.

  28. Virtual worlds do change the real world.

    Okay, so passing the obvious discussions of proving that statement and then the ever-changing truth of what level of impact that is…

    …what do we do with them?

    Can we express the idea that:

    People are different

    These differences are not only natural, but necessary

    Some of these differences simply don’t resolve well, boo hoo

    Spaces that focus harmonic goals and views are as important as diverse ones

    Our interdependencies stretch out over countless degrees and indirectly impact hundreds of people we’ll never meet (or we’ll never realize it).

    Your actions and associations reflect on your social identity

    I could think of more if I didn’t have a 7 page paper to write! :9

    *scoots off*

  29. “You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

    My early experiences with the internet included arguments, in which I often “nailed them to the wall”, so to speak. But I noticed I didn’t get anywhere, just deeper into the argument. I knew there was a better way, but lacked both practice and example.

    Then one time I was just searching for info on US involvement in Iran concerning the Shaw. I found all kinds of anti-US comments, the same I’d heard and read for years, but it just didn’t add up. I searched for weeks, off an on, looking for what made sense. Then I came upon one of those blogs (but they weren’t called that back then) with all kinds of anti American sentiments and wrongdoing claims, but about 50 comments down one poster stood out. Instead of being anti, negative, sensationalistic, this poster was calm, polite, and very informative. He politely explained what really happened, what was behind it all, what was going on at the time, and provided links to a believable source (George Washington University archives). This impressed me to no end. He singlehandedly turned that entire event around. But had he come on with the exact same info and source material, but with vindictive response form, I think it would have turned out very much like all the others. People shift from listening to defending instinctively.

  30. Richard Bartle said:
    I have many problems with today’s virtual worlds. I don’t, for example, like the way that game worlds routinely depict enemies as being legitimate targets merely on the grounds of what race they are. I don’t like the way that player classes regiment people, as if their role in life were fixed. I don’t like the way that negative actions don’t have comparably negative consequences. There are plenty of things I don’t like. There are plenty more I do like, of course, but the fact is this: virtual worlds embody a point of view. Virtual world designers do affect their players, just as movie directors affect their audiences and novelists affect their readers. How could it be otherwise? Why would anyone want it to be otherwise?

    So, do you also see a problem with the evil orcs in LoTR? Or are you falling just short of that?
    I do understand your point to an extent. Your post brings up the old theories. It even makes me reconsider, should I ever be able to design a game myself (which I’m having very strong doubts about these days, but that’s my own failure if so), that somehow this point of yours needs to be included.

  31. Let me remind you of the closing address from Games for Change where I challenged that entire notion

    Even though I know the gist of that address, do you happen to have a link to a transcription of it? If not, then I’ll survive, but I’ve never seen it.

    The audio is linked here:

    http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/12/02/games-for-change-closing-address/

  32. I still think you, the game industry, should collectively concentrate on making games that don’t suck, /shrug. The purpose of an MMO: to provide people with an opportunity to meet other people in a productive environment and reduce uncertainty about common and specific (value-based) attitudes. But that’s just my opinion.

  33. Thanks, Raph. No idea how I managed to miss it at the time.

    So, do you also see a problem with the evil orcs in LoTR? Or are you falling just short of that?

    This issue is far more academic than the problem of many games depicting a particular set of races as evil. In a way, Tolkien gets a get-out-of-jail-free card because he’s (1) dead and (2) started it. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he was ever comfortable with his conception of orcs.

  34. Amaranthar>So, do you also see a problem with the evil orcs in LoTR?

    Well yes, of course. Like most philosophies backed entirely by religious argument, Roman Catholic notions of original sin don’t sit well with me.

    Richard

  35. Well yes, of course. Like most philosophies backed entirely by religious argument, Roman Catholic notions of original sin don’t sit well with me.

    Why are we not surprised? I’m a Roman Catholic (not afraid to say so, unlike you are afraid to say you are a secular humanist and a socialist, apparently). You’re not afraid to *label and criticize religious thought and its doctrine and influence* so why can’t I, too, criticize secular thought like Marxism and its influence from you?! That’s what’s always so hypocritical in these discussions, a privileging of the secular humanist Marxist as the default “norm” able to attack “the status quo,” which isn’t even any longer the status quo.

    I’ve not seen anything in my 51 years on the planet to convince me of anything other than the fact of original sin as a doctrine explaining man’s constant and perverse propensity for evil.

    I have many problems with today’s virtual worlds. I don’t, for example, like the way that game worlds routinely depict enemies as being legitimate targets merely on the grounds of what race they are. I don’t like the way that player classes regiment people, as if their role in life were fixed. I don’t like the way that negative actions don’t have comparably negative consequences. There are plenty of things I don’t like. There are plenty more I do like, of course, but the fact is this: virtual worlds embody a point of view. Virtual world designers do affect their players, just as movie directors affect their audiences and novelists affect their readers. How could it be otherwise? Why would anyone want it to be otherwise?

    Your 4 archetypes are as much race as anything else in games, and yet you purport to have a higher ideal. Why do you think people should — or could — behave in more politically correct ways in a game than they do in real life? Isn’t there ample evidence that they behave *worse*?

    And here you do believe that your design affects players, and yet you imagine that everyone in social, interactive media is supposed to sit still for this, and accept that they can’t have it otherwise. It’s as if you haven’t gotten the memo about social media, even being a pioneer in this very field, as online MUDs were the first social media as places, no?

    Social media, which includes games and worlds and shapes them, is going to be *disruptive of you, too*. You can’t “put over” a design in social media and just have everybody fall over like bowling pins. They will shape the design too, even in non-user-generated content settings.

    Your notions that this world should be infused with equality, rectitude, egalitarianism, etc. — what *do* you call this belief system if not socialism?!

    Jane McGonigal is right, games have kicked every other medium’s ass. Virtual worlds, however, are not games, they’re places; what’s more, in those areas where they get to compete with games directly (eg. the PC), they’re kicking games’ ass. We have something very special here, and it behoves designers to think about that. Most designers do indeed think about it, often, and probably to the surprise of many players. That’s how great art gets made, though: the expression and resolution of internal conflict through creation in the artist’s chosen medium.

    Well, there’s Shakespeare. There’s literature. I realize at one level, as I said, “there is no more literature.” But there is still the wealth of the past centuries. And this wealth does still kick ass, as Raph could tell you — and show you with his own writing and reading. And Shakespeare broke Castronova’s game. He tried to convert the last century’s wealth of narrative into a game, and it broke him, and the game, it didn’t get broken itself. “Presume not that I am the thing I was”.

    I’m sorry, but when game-gods like Jane hire themselves to the Chinese governments to help white-out the severe issues raised about China’s role in the world around the Olympics, I do get to ask whose ass they are kicking when they kick ass.

  36. Oh, and there’s a whole separate debate to be had about what these terms and labels mean. Richard gets rankled if I bandy around terms like “Marxist” and “socialism” about him or about ideas in the game world, he positively *bristles* at these labels. Of course, he can breezily bandy about terms like “original sin” and “Roman Catholic” and that’s ok lol. It is! We are catholic in our tastes here : )

    Isn’t a world where you have to banish your evil worldly wealth and greedy, grasping ways at the door, as you are all stripped down for the RMT-less famous level playing-field just as much about a theory of “original sin” as any religious belief? Isn’t it worse, as it has no redemption! You can’t cash out and be saved!

  37. @Richard: But would you acknowledge the usefulness of allegory and tall tales to convey and inspire insights in ways that detailed reports and plainer stories do not?

    That is what fictional settings like Middle Earth and traditional MMO worlds are capable of, if not always pursuing. Like satire, allegory is an ugly thing if perceived only by its letters. But thoughtfully constructed simplifications, such as Good vs Evil and orcs vs elves, can be excellent means of instruction and inspiration.

  38. So, do you also see a problem with the evil orcs in LoTR? Or are you falling just short of that?

    Why do you see that as a problem? They were created from elves. Just like soldiers are forged from innocent children. They are tools twisted by the power hungry leader’s lack of empathy. Sauron, Hitler, whatever… But then again, the original work can’t be blamed for what followed in it’s wake…

    (Just like the vikings can’t be blamed for what Hollywood make them out to be.)

  39. My issue with “evil” races (and “good” races for that matter) isn’t so much their automatic classification as evil since that’s merely a subjective judgment from the character within the game world’s perspective. There’s no reason not to expect your average human to look at an aggressive and territorial species with predatory physical attributes and a vastly different culture as evil.

    However we rarely explore the reasons behind what makes them subjectively evil or paint them in nuanced shades of gray. Different individual or groups of orcs could be evil to humans for all, some, or many more reasons than the ones listed above. But it tends to be easier to just make them all bad guys, let’s move on. Which tends to make them somewhat one dimensional. But I don’t think that’s laziness so much as a lack of time and resources.

  40. Isn’t a world where you have to banish your evil worldly wealth and greedy, grasping ways at the door, as you are all stripped down for the RMT-less famous level playing-field just as much about a theory of “original sin” as any religious belief?

    It would seem that you would prefer there to be only one virtual world and one set of rules that all of us should design within. In this set of rules, RMT is required. In fact, designing an world that excludes RMT is an infringement on your basic freedoms. Designing a world that excludes RMT makes us socialist. Imposing the rules of the game, if the world is an MMORPG, is totalitarianism and we become dictators – not to mention the fact that we hold the powercord to the server in our hands.

    Look, I’m just a guy who makes MMOs. You won’t like it, there’s no RMT. I respect a designers choice to make thier world anyway they damn well please. So please, go make that world that you want to be in or stay in SL – but don’t tell me what to design. My own creativity, ability and common decency should be the only limitations.

  41. “You say that virtual worlds offer “the chance to look through a gallery of windows, into the immense variety of the human heart and human mind”. You’re right, they do. That’s not what makes them special, though. What makes them special is that, as a player, you get you look through a gallery of windows into your OWN heart and mind. Designers are merely pointing the camera for you. A good designer shows you what you haven’t seen before; what you do with what you see is entirely up to you, though.”

    No. Games do not change the identity of self.

    What they do allow, and it is a subtle distinction, is for players to express themselves leading the perception of a shift in how the player is perceived by other people. Games do this by presenting a change in how different actions can be expected to have different effects in the social environment. I’m three pages behind in comments but I’ll address this specific bit, because it was really the most relevant thing anyone had said up to that point:

    “I don’t, for example, like the way that game worlds routinely depict enemies as being legitimate targets merely on the grounds of what race they are. I don’t like the way that player classes regiment people, as if their role in life were fixed. I don’t like the way that negative actions don’t have comparably negative consequences.”

    A clear and present danger gives players the opportunity to express solidarity with those who are on the same team, basically just establishing the group boundaries. You think this is bad because it isolates those outside of the group. But the group only exists within the game, and group-based attitudes are fundamental to everything in life, not something to specific in games; a player in a game might see someone of a different race as enemy, and think “kill!”. But there is no reason why someone cannot simultaneously hold the same attitude in RL that their group is composed of ‘everyone on earth’. The game can even encourage this wider group perception, because generally the teams in a game have no relationship to common RL groups.

    The ‘regimentation’ of classes is irrelevant, because you can roll a new character and new class at will in most MMOs. What it DOES do is offer combat mechanics which define need between different players and class types; which in turn offers the opportunity for social expression.

    Negative actions not having negative consequences (especially stuff like ganking) is just a symptom of poor game design; for this subject tho, all it does is restrict the player’s freedom of expression because a ‘good’ player will be constrained from expressing themselves using ambiguously evil actions. For example: DHKs in WoW were defined as ‘evil’, but this may have led to MORE players farming them in rebellion because with a clear and immediate penalty for killing ‘civilians’ there was no danger of perception of exploiting the system to hurt others without being penalized yourself.

    Game designers who focus too much on ‘changing’ people to be better will miss the true point, which is, as Richard expresses somewhat ineptly and off-point, being able to express yourself in a social environment. The game will not change people. Only other people, and the possibility of varying action potentials concerning other people, changes people.

    Being idealistic will not save you from making crappy games. It may be offensive, but it is true.

  42. So, do you also see a problem with the evil orcs in LoTR? Or are you falling just short of that?

    Why do you see that as a problem? They were created from elves. Just like soldiers are forged from innocent children. They are tools twisted by the power hungry leader’s lack of empathy. Sauron, Hitler, whatever… But then again, the original work can’t be blamed for what followed in it’s wake…

    (Just like the vikings can’t be blamed for what Hollywood make them out to be.)

    I don’t see that as a problem at all. I was simply asking Richard to get a better understanding of where he stood.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “followed in it’s wake”. But I’m sure whatever it is, it’s not universal.

    Just as you alluded to, in many cases “evil” is just the way things happened. Many wars have been fought with both sides feeling they were defending their rights. But there are also things that go well beyond that. Hitler’s Nazi regime was one, there are many cases in history.

    So, Richard, now I have to ask. What do you call genocide if not “evil”? Whatever it is, I’d say something about “a rose by any other name”, but that just doesn’t seem to fit. Those with religion will call it evil, those without will call it something else. Does it really matter?

  43. “So, Richard, now I have to ask. What do you call genocide if not “evil”? Whatever it is, I’d say something about “a rose by any other name”, but that just doesn’t seem to fit. Those with religion will call it evil, those without will call it something else. Does it really matter?”

    There are two kinds of people without religion: those who believe in humanity, and those who don’t. Richard is one of the former.

    Those who don’t will say there is no objective standard for determining morality, because the average person has no basis to judge it anyway (and these are the people religious people are afraid of, because many religious people use religion as their moral justification exactly because they don’t believe in humanity either); but those who do believe in humanity have no problem with the idea of ‘evil’, even if they are not religious.

    Do not try to make things more complicated than they are.

  44. Aaron>But would you acknowledge the usefulness of allegory and tall tales to convey and inspire insights in ways that detailed reports and plainer stories do not?

    Yes I would. I’d also acknowledge their usefulness for depressing, for distressing, for dispiriting – for the whole gamut of emotions. They’re tools, and they can be used in many different ways.

    >But thoughtfully constructed simplifications, such as Good vs Evil and orcs vs elves, can be excellent means of instruction and inspiration.

    They can indeed. They can also cloud issues, or oversimplify them.

    Richard

  45. Amaranthar>What do you call genocide if not “evil”?

    I call genocide a concept. Concepts can’t be evil: only sentient beings (ie. people) can be evil.

    An evil person rules by fear. They will cause non-evil people to do their bidding either through trickery or through fear of the consequences of disobeying.

    Whether an individual act marks a person as evil depends on the intent of the person undertaking it. Nothing is so binary that you can say, in all circumstances, that the person doing it must be evil (or, indeed, good). I kill a man, I’m evil; it was in self-defence, I’m not evil; I could have stopped him much earlier but didn’t because I enjoyed the prospect of killing him, I’m evil again; I did this once before and did stop earlier yet he proceeded to kill a group of schoolchildren, I’m not evil again.

    Is a person who performs an act of genocide evil? It depends on the intent, and on the meaning of “genocide”. If genocide means purely the eradication of a race or sentient species (in the way that homicide means the killing of an individual), then it might not be evil: a scientist who releases a virus in the belief it will cure all illness (ie. his intentions are good) but who made a mistake and wipes out humanity (ie. commits genocide) would not be evil, just very arrogant, misguided, stupid or insane.

    If “genocide” comes with the implicit suggestion that the eradication of the race is deliberate and for unjustifiable reasons (in the way that murder differs from homicide), then whoever ultimately perpetrated it would be evil, yes, almost by definition.

    >Those with religion will call it evil, those without will call it something else.

    I don’t see why religion need come into it. You don’t have to be religious to believe that a mass murderer is evil.

    Richard

  46. Raph wrote:

    It is generally dangerous to try to apply the principles, cultural patterns, mores, and customs of a small group to the whole.

    Egocentrism in the vain of ethnocentrism is always dangerous. While I think most people know this, I think most people carry with them double standards. For example, speaking as an American, the idea that we are noble for wanting to bring our concept of freedom to the rest of the world, or the idea that our morality is a higher standard than the morality of other cultures.

    Is cannibalism right or wrong? How about for a cannibalistic culture? I don’t think most people are ready and willing to see beyond their own principles, cultural patterns, mores, and customs. Most simply fail to relate, to be empathic.

    Woe is me, the eternal relativist.


    Body Ritual among the Nacirema
    is an excellent piece about cultural diversity.

  47. Being idealistic will not save you from making crappy games. It may be offensive, but it is true.

    I have a friend who is an idealist and it has stopped it from making crappy games. Most of them get killed in the idea stage, but some are killed durring alpha.

    No. Games do not change the identity of self.

    They are a Third Place, and all such places allow for a new sense of self. This new feeling may shift into other aspects over time.

    But it tends to be easier to just make them all bad guys, let’s move on. Which tends to make them somewhat one dimensional. But I don’t think that’s laziness so much as a lack of time and resources.

    Well, in many MMOs, NPCs fall into two groups: Those you kill, and those you can’t. It’s easy enough to extract from that who it’s OK to kill. Crazy Cat Lady is OK to kill if you are Horde, but not for humans, for example.

  48. Taemojitsu>Games do not change the identity of self.

    Game worlds (as opposed to games in general) don’t change people so much as give them a way to see themselves; they allow what was already there to gain emphasis, or lose emphasis, to rise to their rightful prominence or to fall from their forced position of eminence. You pretend to be someone else, but in so doing get to be and become yourself. Far from changing the self, they release it to become what it always was – you.

    I think we’re probably saying the same thing here, just coming at it from different directions (I realise my angle of approach is rather more idealistic than it could be!).

    >A clear and present danger gives players the opportunity to express solidarity with those who are on the same team

    Yes, I know why all these features are in virtual worlds; that doesn’t mean that I have to like them, though, nor that they are the only solution to the gameplay issues they address.

    >The ‘regimentation’ of classes is irrelevant, because you can roll a new character and new class at will in most MMOs.

    It’s not irrelevant. Classes are like railway lines that take you from one destination to another. Yes, you know where you’re going when you start; yes, you get there by a direct route; yes, the journey is comfortable; yes, if you didn’t like where you wound up you can go back and take a different train. You can’t, however, go places that the trains don’t go, and see places that don’t have a station. In short, you can’t go where fancy takes you. For some people, that’s fine; for others, it’s a loss. What saddens me is that people don’t get the chance to find out which is best for them.

    >Negative actions not having negative consequences (especially stuff like ganking) is just a symptom of poor game design

    Yes, but it’s often driven by player demand. If there were negative consequences commensurate with negative actions, many players might baulk at the idea. A harsh world doesn’t sound like a fun world.

    >as Richard expresses somewhat ineptly and off-point

    You’re welcome.

    >Being idealistic will not save you from making crappy games.

    True, but being unidealistic will save you from making inspired games.

    Richard

  49. Amaranthar, I don’t personally think the power-theme of LoTR is Tolkien’s best achievement. Though, one cannot dimsiss its merits because of banality, because such situations (2WW) create banal horrors. The fascist culture worshipped reactionary banality. The culture that has followed after LoTR (RPG,MMOs,Hollywood etc) have little merits in comparison, because they lack the essence which ties it to the human condition. They are oversimplified pulp banalities from which little can be learned. The devil is in the details.

    Please not that I am not claiming that LoTR is about the 2WW, but I believe many authors in this time period picked up such depressing themes in the aftermath… Tolkien’s strength is of course the ability to synthesize artificial mythology and his poetic moments. He isn’t quite up there with the real mythologies IMO, as they have layers which cannot be easily “constructed”, but he borrows heavily and simplifies too much perhaps, but anyone trying to dismiss him outright will also have to figure out if they also want to reject key European mythologies…

    Anyway. LoTR has been told. Why retell it, in a form and shape that doesn’t capture the essence of the original? Lack of creative guts. It’s all about money. I feel no inclination to visit current virtual worlds. At all.

  50. Well, in many MMOs, NPCs fall into two groups: Those you kill, and those you can’t. It’s easy enough to extract from that who it’s OK to kill. Crazy Cat Lady is OK to kill if you are Horde, but not for humans, for example.

    Well that’s kind of my point. It’s very easy to structure things that way. The assumption being that if they’re killable to you then they’re evil to your culture/group/whatever.

    Though we usually still see everything cast through a single cultural lens (usually humans) so that even if you’re a dark elf you’re still “evil” even amongst the other dark elves. They sort of revel in their evilness like cheesy villains rather than believe they’re actually the good guys. That’s not universal mind you (though I’m hard pressed to think of any stand out exceptions) but we tend to do things that way because it’s easy to write, easy to code, and most importantly easy to communicate to the player.

    Mutually exclusive factions were I think an attempt to get away from that but seem to have fallen by the wayside as they also mean mutually exclusive content and that requires even more time and resources.

  51. Taemojitsu said:

    “So, Richard, now I have to ask. What do you call genocide if not “evil”? Whatever it is, I’d say something about “a rose by any other name”, but that just doesn’t seem to fit. Those with religion will call it evil, those without will call it something else. Does it really matter?”

    There are two kinds of people without religion: those who believe in humanity, and those who don’t. Richard is one of the former.

    Those who don’t will say there is no objective standard for determining morality, because the average person has no basis to judge it anyway (and these are the people religious people are afraid of, because many religious people use religion as their moral justification exactly because they don’t believe in humanity either); but those who do believe in humanity have no problem with the idea of ‘evil’, even if they are not religious.

    Do not try to make things more complicated than they are.

    That’s my point. Whether a person is religious or not, there is a recognition of “good” and “evil” in a moral sense.

    Richard Bartle said:

    I call genocide a concept. Concepts can’t be evil: only sentient beings (ie. people) can be evil.

    No, genocide is an act, no mere concept. Other than that, again, we seem to agree in the basic concept that there is a good and evil.

    Going back to your (Richard) original statement….

    Well yes, of course. Like most philosophies backed entirely by religious argument, Roman Catholic notions of original sin don’t sit well with me.

    So, I’m trying to convince you that you’re wrong here. The original sin story pretty much includes the basic tenants of our beliefs in right and wrong. It had envy for what another had, jealousy, attempted theft, and murder. How can this be bad? I’m one of many Catholics who believe this is just a story for the points it makes. To teach. The point of the story is what’s important, and again we seem to agree about that.

    But maybe you’re talking more about the “burden” placed on mankind? Again, it’s all part of the lesson. If we evolved (as I believe under Gods guidance, but again it’s not important) then surely you can see the social evolution mankind is going through. It progresses, but we are far from the vision. This “burden of our sins” fits well here too. We must not forget our wrongs, as human beings subject to faults, so that we can further our social evolution. This doesn’t require religion, nor does it exclude it.

  52. Ola, interesting comments.
    I’m no expert on the subject, but wasn’t Tolkien’s son in the war while he wrote it? The thought I had, and have never yet investigated is that the hero of the epic, a Hobbit, reminds me very much of a son, put into adulthood in a fantastic view.
    “The pitter patter of little feet.” Every parent knows this, and the warmth it brings to their thoughts. And the Hobbit had FEET! Big hairy feet like a grown man, on the small body like a childs.
    I wonder if this has been a part of that thinking that others have been about?

  53. “Game worlds (as opposed to games in general) don’t change people so much as give them a way to see themselves; they allow what was already there to gain emphasis, or lose emphasis, to rise to their rightful prominence or to fall from their forced position of eminence. You pretend to be someone else, but in so doing get to be and become yourself. Far from changing the self, they release it to become what it always was – you.”

    People who roleplay their in-game identities into the real world tend to be laughed at. How many RPGers, in MMOs and otherwise, over the years have realized that all the progress, all the work they’d built up was for nothing, and then gotten all depressed (or possibly happy, because change = good amirite) because of what it meant for their life.

    Stories in a game can have value, but no more, and often much less (because of the mechanics-related distractions from good storytelling, and the barriers to entry which cause many good storytellers to avoid the medium altogether) than other media; the main value of the stories is not that they are breathtakingly insightful or overwhelmingly powerful, but simply that they serve as an excuse for human interaction.

    Same with the whole exploring aspect; it does you nothing to learn all about the details of a world no one else is interested in. It DOES help to learn those details when they serve both as a demonstration of your own ability to explore them and as a reinforcement of the sense of community. These are social justifications. Same with achievement.

    The game itself will not change anyone. In social isolation, it is at best an arbitrary arrangement of choices and consequences with no real meaning to them. All its value, I say again ALL its value is the way shared acceptance of the validity of these choices enables social bonding and the resultant changed game-theoretical situation from having friends.

    That is the only way you can have a game cause ‘good’ in the world: by allowing the player to reach a situation where doing good has more benefit than not doing good. People want to find a good group of friends that lets them do this; but unless you make a game that doesn’t suck, players will not be justified in playing it at the individual level and your game cannot serve this purpose.

    Do I need to repeat that from the perspective of many gamers, most MMOs suck?… etc

  54. No. Games do not change the identity of self.

    The only reason I even try to design the games I do is because of the profound impact of an online war game on my psyche. What I learned in my last day on Neveron, about myself, the people around me, and the world I live has brought about fundamental changes in my world view.

    Games, and indeed virtual worlds both online and off, have a unique access to the user. They can meet the user half way, creating a world for the user to escape to, but also to invest in. Everything that happens is happening to you through proxy of your avatar whatever it may be.

    Being idealistic will not save you from making crappy games. It may be offensive, but it is true.

    I don’t find it offensive, but then I know it isn’t true so I guess it’s a wash.

    Oh, and there’s a whole separate debate to be had about what these terms and labels mean. Richard gets rankled if I bandy around terms like “Marxist” and “socialism” about him or about ideas in the game world, he positively *bristles* at these labels. Of course, he can breezily bandy about terms like “original sin” and “Roman Catholic” and that’s ok lol. It is! We are catholic in our tastes here : )

    Because you are taking what he thinks makes for good escape and from your understanding of that extrapolating that you are the sole expert on his real world political views. Perhaps if you were to ask him what his real world political views were and then examine the correlation, he may even find it interesting. Instead you bandy on about what you assert to be the truth about him for no other reason than that you assert it. Seeing as how easily it offended you to be called an objectivist when you weren’t perhaps you could keep that in mind when dealing with others.

    Your entire modus operandi of argument is causing you far more grief than any of the points you are actually trying to make. You may be getting attention, but your own attitude and actions have made you a plethora of enemies even where there were none.

    As to the second part, he merely posited that he believed the idea of fundamentally evil beings to be related to Roman Catholicism and Original Sin. And then stated that he didn’t agree with it or much of anything he perceived to be based on it.

    Where in all of that do you take offense? Do you find it offensive that he considers orcs to be a communication of the concept or original sin? Are you offended by him disagreeing with it, or are you simply offended that he has a different opinion than you do?

    A little diplomacy goes a long ways.

  55. Please not that I am not claiming that LoTR is about the 2WW

    Certainly Tolkien’s experiences in World War One played a major role in the development of LoTR. He had major concerns about what technology was doing to society – again from what he saw in the trenches. (Might be some irony there.)

    Anyway. LoTR has been told.

    Tolkien felt that European mythology was lacking relative to other cultures and LoTR was designed to become a sort of mythology – kinda think he succeded on that one. That’s why authors keep going back to the well. Like it or not, Orcs and Elves are now a permanent part of Western mythology.

    “Fantasy has the capacity to be as important and as thought-provoking as any other form of literature we have. Indeed, in some ways, the journeys and motifs of classic fantasy can come closer to mirroring the inner journey of the human spirit than almost anything else. The patterns of myth, folklore, archetype and fairy tale embedded in such works are time-honoured and immensely powerful, and fantasy can tap more directly into these ancient wells than just about anything else: they are the core elements of the genre. ” – from Guy Gavriel Kay

  56. “It’s not irrelevant. Classes are like railway lines that take you from one destination to another. Yes, you know where you’re going when you start; yes, you get there by a direct route; yes, the journey is comfortable; yes, if you didn’t like where you wound up you can go back and take a different train. You can’t, however, go places that the trains don’t go, and see places that don’t have a station. In short, you can’t go where fancy takes you. For some people, that’s fine; for others, it’s a loss. What saddens me is that people don’t get the chance to find out which is best for them.”

    You don’t need to be able to go anywhere… you just need to be able to go somewhere that expresses yourself uniquely. Subjective performance is a much better metric for this than which abilities or spells you pick for yourself; too much freedom of expression in specialization in a competitive game just leads to min/maxing and cookie-cutter builds. The two most popular PvP-related MMOs at present, WoW and GW, both suffer heavily from this problem.

    We really don’t need multiclass Fighter/Mage/Priests running around and decimating everyone who isn’t a Fighter/Mage/Priest.. :​P

    “Yes, but it’s often driven by player demand. If there were negative consequences commensurate with negative actions, many players might baulk at the idea. A harsh world doesn’t sound like a fun world.”

    That’s just because too many designers don’t know how to get around the obvious. This is, as I pointed out before, a failure to think about rewards in ambiguous terms with both loss and gain. For example: in WoW, the developers experimented with ‘dishonorable kills’ of players in the beta. What does this mean? It means that if you killed a low-level player of the opposite faction, your reputation with your capital cities would drop and could even go into the negative, causing your own guards to attack you. (Permanently??) Lol.

    Retarded design. And as a result, WoW hasn’t tried to fix the ganking problem ever since.

    Characteristics of a good ‘penalty’ for negative actions: every censure is also an opportunity for greater fun. In the context of PvP, this means social penalties!! It isn’t a hard concept to grasp tbh. But many game designers will not, exactly because they are only able to grasp unambiguous rewards/penalties that do not involve having to understand the psychology of the average player in any significant way.

  57. Gene Endrody: Certainly Tolkien’s experiences in World War One played a major role in the development of LoTR.

    I read something about this a long time ago in the Unifinshed Tales series that his son published, but I can’t recall exactly what it said. IIRC Tolkien started creating his own myths in the camp in WW1 (out of boredom) and sent some of it as letters back home? These short-stories then formed the background for Middle Earth. I could be wrong. I don’t have the books here…

    Tolkien felt that European mythology was lacking relative to other cultures and LoTR was designed to become a sort of mythology – kinda think he succeded on that one. That’s why authors keep going back to the well. Like it or not, Orcs and Elves are now a permanent part of Western mythology.

    I didn’t know he thought European mythology was lacking… Why did he suck up so much of it if he thought it was crap? I mean, most of LoTR is borrowed from European mythology and culture. It’s not like it is invented from scratch, but I agree that it is a mythology of its own of sorts. I find it too structured to be a real mythology. Too much control and not enough mystery left. Not much left to interpret, unless you bring in the works that came after the Hobbit/LoTR. So it lacks something that you do get with the oral tradition and generations of storytelling. Real mythologies are selfcontradictory and leave open space for multiple interpretations.

    Of course, this pretty much covers what I don’t like about MMOs. They design out the mystery too easily. If you are lucky you find a guild of mysterious players instead…

    It’s not that you can’t produce great literature in the fantasy genre. It is more like the authors who care about art aren’t all that attracted to it. For MMOs it is worse of course, because of the costs and need to retain customers beyond what the world offers…

  58. Why did he suck up so much of it if he thought it was crap?

    Wow, don’t pull that out of what I said please. It’s much more to do with quantity than quality. It also may be more to do with Germanic and British mythology, because clearly a rich Norse tradition exists.

  59. Sara,

    I simply don’t think in terms of “offensive/non-offensive” or “offended/not-offended”. It’s just not the point here. I’m calling him on a double standard. He can make labels and value judgements and statements about belief systems. And so can I! It’s ok! The touch reactions are really incredibly — and misplaced.

    It’s funny how you and so many tuning into this very long discussion going back a year assume “I can just ask him”. I did? And he evaded any answer. Oh, some time ago on Terra Nova, and now recently on Broken Toys, Richard talked about his district having such an overwhelming Conservative support from the residents that there was no hope to vote otherwise. From that, we can conclude he’s a) not conservative b) some kind of liberal but also c) a nihilist in despair about representative democracy, and that’s an even bigger problem than any “Marxism”. “Marxism,” after all, is only a convenient label used to try to understand what we’re dealing with, not to pin a butterfly on a mat and collect it — the point is to say “We are dealing with an extremist who is hugely orthodox in his ways and ideas and will brook no dissent, accept no nuances, and refuse to compromise.”

    These little homilies and lessons in “how to behave” are misplaced. You’re just tuning in. The problem with Richard is that he is just fixed in a stubborn position now. Because it’s me, and he finds offensive what I’m saying, and because he doesn’t think anyone should get to ask the question or label him, he refuses to talk. He’s mute and mutinous. And he even petulantly tells you on forums, oh, I’m not adverse to debating my political philosophy, I just won’t debate it with *you*. My God! As if we weren’t all on the Internet, duh, as if he could go debate it on a forums with somebody *else* and I “wouldn’t see*. Like…he’ll mute me or ban me lol? I mean, what is it with these game gods?!

    I’m not here to get attention, truly, and I really don’t care if there is some “plethora of enemies” because of delivery style or “politically incorrect speech.” I can’t care. Because these ideas of Richards are hugely troubling and it’s important to understand what drives them, what animates them, where their logic is, what he intends to do with them, and here we’ve heard that he intends to affect not only worlds, but he thinks game designers SHOULD get to influence people and bring them around to their way of thinking and “we shouldn’t want it any other way.” Well, I’m sorry, I’m a bit more discriminating in my susceptibility to influence and pressure of this type than you are. I want to know what is really up, and what the anticipated outcome is. I’m not interesting in having game-god socialists infect public policy and convert social systems to fulfill their dreams of “a Better World” by making games coercive and addictive tools to get public policy changes that you can’t get by voluntary participatory democracy.

    He merely talked about original sin and Catholicism? I merely talked about Marxism and egalitarianism. Hello?! What’s wrong with people who cannot see *these are the same thing* and allow the one but not the other, allow one to stand and be “mere” but the other a trainwreck, a breakage of the Internet, and a dark thing that must be covered up by the family? where’s my family that would cover up this dark, dark subversion and undermining of the concept of Original Sin!

    Why all this huffing and puffing and presumption that I’m some thin-skinned nit who is going to take offense at someone “having a different opinion” than me. You need to readdress your envelope. I’ve sat through 500 posts of manly invective and the ugliest kinds of personal attacks, and I haven’t blinked, and won’t blink because God damn, I think I get to ask game gods who code games and influence people and want to shape and even rule our world, hey, are your views Marxist? Do you have a plan for world domination that includes dismantling representative democracy, nationalizing the economy.

    Look how the first thing that at least 3 of the vocal proponents of what Second Life’s new CEO should do is all about: a) close the inworld economy completey, dismantle it; b) retire all intellectual property — it’s stupid, information wants to be free c) don’t cede governance to the users, stop coddling them and tell them to leave if they don’t like company policy; d) hire a crack team of content developers and let them make all the content and dump all this amateur content stuff.

    All of these ideas originate from, are fed by, are fueled by, are financed by, *games*. Games, games, games. It is games that say there should be a level playing field and people should just collaborate and create in some utopian gift economy or just use Master Card; that people shouldn’t be concerned about governance or elections but just collaborate on wikis that are “open”; that people shouldn’t try to make a profit and cash out anything; that having a nation of shopkeepers and tons of amateurs make tacky content isn’t viable, and only the Soviet Union of Cinematographers can show and sell their content.

    I am not going to be diplomatic with people encroaching on virtuality with such ideologies and designs and agendas.

  60. It is more like the authors who care about art aren’t all that attracted to it.

    For me this is the main problem with fantastic genre, that absurd gap between “real literature/art” and this thing for nerds and freaks. For me fantasy are a literature/art part, a genre more, why good authors, who in theory know more about genres and story telling than I refuse use that genres to do art?, thriller and historic fiction are accepted and these genres conventions not are less conventionals than fantastic/sci-fi conventions, why the authors leave the genre in the hands of marketing departments with a poor idea of art, crafting tons of crap for us.

    And this connect with most sad part of this social/virtual wolds vs. game worlds cultural gap, that is worlds in the middle path between both groups, how game worlds with a great social part and “sandbox” type MMOs. Under one flag you have WoW, under the other you have Second Life, but where are the bridge joining the two borders? actually none developers are building a “sandbox” type MMO with a social component complementary to combat and some sort of modules to leave players build his own content within the game rules, the SWG history is a good example of this trend, can be called “Fron sandbox to conventional history”

    EVE is the only actual example of a middle path virtual world, but none continue that road, what about doing a less hard sandbox MMORPG or a new sandbox in ground, with social and creative skills? Sandbox MMORPG model has been the first and main victin of this war.

  61. Is a person who performs an act of genocide evil? It depends on the intent, and on the meaning of “genocide”. If genocide means purely the eradication of a race or sentient species (in the way that homicide means the killing of an individual), then it might not be evil: a scientist who releases a virus in the belief it will cure all illness (ie. his intentions are good) but who made a mistake and wipes out humanity (ie. commits genocide) would not be evil, just very arrogant, misguided, stupid or insane.

    So, uh, arrest that man for…vehicular manslaughter then!

    See, this is why we can’t let you run things.

  62. the idea that we are noble for wanting to bring our concept of freedom to the rest of the world, or the idea that our morality is a higher standard than the morality of other cultures.

    And what if that very concept is universal human rights, and what of universality itself? See, either you believe that bringing freedom is good in general, so that anybody could be doing it and you don’t exempt your own country, or you believe there is a high standard of morality any country should aspire to, or you don’t. You either believe people as individuals can aspire and reach this, or not, to one degree or another.

    Who applauds you for refraining from shoving freedom down some other country’s throats (if that’s how you perceive it) and who applauds you for reducing your moral imperative? The immoral, and your fellow like-minded citizens. But does the person in peril in unfreedom applaud you? Does he care whether you look good or not?

    What about the “responsibility to protect”? You’re going to say this is cultural hegemony and should be abandoned?

    Like so many liberals, Raph, you want to be quick to use the trap-doors of guilt to ditch the responsibility and burden of having to maintain liberalism itself in face of the many illiberal enemies that want to hoist it by its own petard and constantly get it to perform suicide. Although given your biography it seems unlikely, here, you can’t seem to — for all your empathy — imagine that there are plenty of other peoples all over — Russians, North Koreans, Sudanese, whatever — who think their way is right, who don’t have a doubt in their minds that their way is right, who believe they are superior, and are going to insist you bow and obey.

    If I have to chose between, oh, the Ton Ton Macoutes and the American way, why can’t I reject the Ton Ton Macoutes? Faced with that, why *can’t* you say your way is better? I mean, Bush is bad or Putin is bad, but they aren’t responsible for slaughtering two million people like Bashir. You can’t be so relativist, so willing to cede your “arrogance” and “cultural imperatives” that you let your brains fall out of your head and you can’t even understand what is worse or better, any more. Believe me, anybody who has lived next to killing fields doesn’t have a problem getting on the next boat out of there to America or Australia or wherever they can get to that is “better,” and they don’t fuss and fret, and say, oh, the cultural imperialism, oh, the superiority!

  63. You’re not afraid to *label and criticize religious thought and its doctrine and influence* so why can’t I, too, criticize secular thought like Marxism and its influence from you?

    Richard stated his personal thoughts. Nowhere did he attack anyone.

    “Those idiot Roman Catholics and their absurd original sin idea is stupid”

    is a far cry from

    “Roman Catholic notions of original sin don’t sit well with me.”

    in this specific phrase ‘Roman Catholic’ is actually just an adjective, since beliefs surrounding original sin differ even between denominations within the same church (and sometimes even different churches within a denomination).

    Nor did Richard point anyone out as having this belief, it was never even close to being a personal attack or an attack on a belief system. It was an affirmatively worded expression of his opinion.

    Also, please don’t even pretend like you can claim any high ground on the subject of label-tossing.

    Really, the issue is, I’m tired of discussions devolving into who is discussing fairly.

    There’s a gold mine of interesting topics that could be fleshed out into pages and pages of great discussion, but that won’t happen if every time someone references a sub-culture we have to stop and make sure to go through all 8,000 miles of qualifications and exceptions before making a point or making sure that we tie every negative social connotation to a word that can be made so everyone knows what a horrible person this is posting because they like something or hold a vaguely similar belief as ‘horrible historical figure’.

  64. Amaranthar>The original sin story pretty much includes the basic tenants of our beliefs in right and wrong.

    Just because a story explains some evidence, that doesn’t make the story correct. Nor does it mean there aren’t other stories that explain the evidence better, or that explain the evidence without introducing problems of their own.

    >It had envy for what another had, jealousy, attempted theft, and murder. How can this be bad?

    I didn’t say it was bad.

    >I’m one of many Catholics who believe this is just a story for the points it makes. To teach. The point of the story is what’s important, and again we seem to agree about that.

    No, I think this may be where we disagree. As an atheist, I also see this as a story that makes a number of important points. However, I don’t accept some of those points. In particular, I don’t think that people are born having any wrongs they need to right.

    >surely you can see the social evolution mankind is going through. It progresses, but we are far from the vision.

    Whose vision? The vision changes as society evolves. A vision for some of us might be a nightmare for others. Indeed, for some people the very idea of social evolution may be regarded as problematical, as it takes us further away from some earlier, better life.

    >We must not forget our wrongs, as human beings subject to faults

    This is another of the points I mentioned earlier with which I’m uneasy. There’s a difference between faults over which you have no control and faults over which you do have control. An honest mistake is nothing to be ashamed of; a dishonest mistake is. If I make an honest mistake, yes, I’ll try to correct it if I’ve hurt someone somehow, but I don’t regard that as a “wrong”; dishonest mistakes, I try not to make in the first place, and would regard them as a “wrong”. If you don’t make this distinction (and I realise you were only summarising, so it may be that you do if you go into more detail) then you only get one or the other; intention (free will) doesn’t come into it.

    I agree with you overall, though, that the basic principles are independent of religion or lack of religion.

    Richard

  65. Taemojitsu>People who roleplay their in-game identities into the real world tend to be laughed at.

    Well, they do if their in-world character and their real-world self are different. Over time, though, the two come together; that’s what immersion is – the treatment of your in-game self as your real self. You may start off playing someone who isn’t you, and you would indeed be laughed at if you role-played that in real life. However, if, over time, your character and your self coalesce, then not only can you be your game self in real life, you can’t help but be it: they’re one and the same.

    >How many RPGers, in MMOs and otherwise, over the years have realized that all the progress, all the work they’d built up was for nothing

    For nothing in game world terms, but for everything in real world terms. This is the turning point of the hero’s journey: people realise that they have got as much from the virtual world as they are ever going to get, that they have become themselves as much as the game is ever going to let them, and that basically they’ve “won”. For some, this is a cause for celebration, because they’ve gained some sense of self from it; for others, it’s less so, because the world was unable to deliver what they wanted and their journey remains incomplete.

    Richard

  66. Gene Endrody:Wow, don’t pull that out of what I said please. It’s much more to do with quantity than quality. It also may be more to do with Germanic and British mythology, because clearly a rich Norse tradition exists.

    Well, most of it was lost due to Christianity being introduced before anyone cared to write it down. Most of the Norse tradition is lost too. We have what archeologists are able to reconstruct from their findings in addition to some rather non-objective written sources, primarily one (Snorre, 100s of years after christianity being violently forced upon the citizens.) European mythology is fairly rich and intertwined, the Norse mythologies are heavily influenced by both German, Greek and Christian religions and myths, then you have the Romans… So… I am not sure I buy the quantity argument. Completeness perhaps, but that goes for any ancient mythology.

  67. Sara Pickell>Perhaps if you were to ask him what his real world political views were and then examine the correlation, he may even find it interesting.

    To be fair to Prok, she does ask me, I just don’t answer her. I usually answer other people who ask the same question, but I don’t answer her. This is because nothing I can possibly say to her can do anything other than make matters worse. She believes what she wants to believe, and any attempts to persuade her otherwise merely give her the chance to widen or consolidate her convictions.

    This whole “Richard Bartle is a Marxist” thing, for example, comes from a recent interview I gave in Second Life. In answering a fairly nuanced point about how stifling commerce is always bad, I said that there are two views of value: exchange-value and use-value. Stifling commerce is only bad if you adopt just the exchange-value perspective. Sometimes, though, things have a different kind of value that money can’t capture. Up until this point, all was apparently well, but then I made the mistake of excusing the fact that the distinction is one made by Marxist economic theory. You can read the paper where I first came across the idea here if you like. It doesn’t endorse Marxism, it just takes a couple of its terms that happen to be useful.

    However, my having mentioned Marx in passing seems to have acted as some kind of catalyst. Coupled with a conclusion she reached some time ago that I’m anti-American, Prok proceeded to construct a model of me that intersects with reality only occasionally. Could I take it apart, bit by bit, and demolish it? Yes, of course, but I’d only be doing that for your benefit, not for Prok’s. Prok would only take my assertions as lies, feeding further into her belief that I have some secret agenda. I would then get a whole new batch of wild assertions I’d have to counter, plus she’d still believe the earlier ones. This has happened so many times before, to so many people, that I regard it as wise to operate on the assumption that it would happen again.

    From my point of view, it’s better to let Prok rant on unchallenged, because eventually she runs out of material and ends up having circular arguments with herself. Plus, because so many people who have come across her over the years regard her as completely batty, the wilder the things she says about me the better I look.

    The tragedy is, hidden in among the specious accusations and mocking remarks, there is often a genuinely interesting point. This whole thread of Raph’s comes from his identification of such a point. If she weren’t so ready to read any perceived disagreement with her as a personal insult, to believe that anything she says is true until proven otherwise, and to rail against silent conspiracies that exist only in her mind, she could be a very well respected and influential figure. She’s her own worst enemy.

    I realise that saying this will give her flames more oxygen to flare up from, for which I apologise. On balance, though, I thought I ought to explain why her words draw no response from me, so you don’t get attacked as a Bartle-by-proxy.

    Richard

  68. Richard: I agree with you overall, though, that the basic principles are independent of religion or lack of religion.

    Well, since it is what we call Long Friday (why do you call it Good Friday, that makes no sense? Being crucified is good?)… I’d just like to point out that I think people who want to distance themselves from Christianity often aren’t willing to admit to what extent their own moral and thinking have been influenced by it. Few beliefs are independent of religion.

    Besides, I don’t think it is possible to not be religious. If you are willing to think about what makes your life meaningful and purposeful, you are by my definition religious. This is an argument that is easy to sustain, because most people who call themselves Christians have rather different sets of beliefs. All people believe different things and apply what they believe differently to their own lives. People shouldn’t say “I am not religious”, they should say “I am not a follower of a specific cult”…

    Take for instance Prokofy’s ardent beliefs in being anti-socialist… Rather religious.

  69. Kerri,

    You couldn’t be more wrong, and that’s what I mean by the shocking bias and double standard here. I didn’t say “Those idiot Marxists”. I didn’t say “That idiot Marxist Richard Bartle”. Here’s what I actually said in my original post:

    How *could* Richard Bartle and his MUDs and whatnot have anything to do with Metanomics when Richard Bartle, as a good British socialist and intrinsic Marxist (although he’d deny everything but the British part likely) is opposed to virtual economies.

    It was later that Scott Jennings/Lum in Broken Toys reacted to this by putting a sarcastic and inflammatory post headline: “Richard Bartle is an Evil Marxist Racist Roundeye.”

    Sorry, but this is worth drilling on. You may not feel that I get to call Richard Bartle a Marxist, that this is somehow rude or inconsiderate. Obviously Lum feels that way because merely calling him that sparks an angry and sarcastic satirical headline — he jumps from being a mere Marxist to now being “evil”. Then the meme sticks. Gosh, Prokofy must be an evil McCarthyist lunatic, etc.

    But…I don’t get why I can’t label someone who wants to confiscate and nationalize property and prevent a private arbitraged land market and the repatriation of wealth “a socialist”. He can deny it, he can say, “that’s impolite discourse” “you can’t call me that, there’s no evidence” but then, I’m sorry, I do get to stick to my guns: “But Richard, if you are for a forcible level playing field, if you are for stripping every player of real-world wealth and forcing them to skill-grind and outlaw RMT and virtual economies that create wealth for some not based on skill, and you believe that games influence people and you are making a Better World, and you think I’m a sleaze for “oiling the wheels of commerce” and you’re a noble being for “caring more about individual freedom,” then I get to call that as “Marxism”. Because that is indeed what it is. Disassociating oneself from the extreme beliefs of a flat-mate doesn’t cut it. Richard Bartle has never understood that his first encounter with game-gold economics came over the bowl of Cheerios.

    What do *you* call some beliefs? Idealism? What’s ideal about draconian prosecution of people merely trying to make wealth in the age-old human custom, or people who are merely hungry and take because it’s there tob e taken? And what’s ideal about a world where only the creator and the skilled in using/co-creation are privileged? You don’t want to call it Marxism? Then what the hell *are* you calling it?”

    I’m for truth in labelling. It’s not a personal attack to point out that there’s some truth in labelling here. And let me suggest the hugely hysterical and neuralgic reaction here lets me know there’s something up. Long ago, even last year, the first time this came up, Richard Bartle could say, “Oh for heaven’s sake, Prok, don’t be silly, I’m not a socialist, why, I don’t even vote in elections or belong to any political party, and why, if I were a socialist as you say, I’d be for nationalizing wealth and never allowing any player to keep his loot, stop it with the labels already.” In fact, finally, much after the fact, and after the ridiculously long Broken Toys thread, Richard did come back and describe his beliefs.

    But he didn’t for the first year, or the first weeks after this presentation in Second Life. At one point on TN he did talk about his RL district’s politics, he located himself to the left of Tony Blair. This shouldn’t *matter*. But it does — and saying that it does isn’t “McCarthyism” but a call to accountability for truth in advertising. It’s part of this fantasy that not only is wealth stripped at the door, but every individual belief or marker, and “all are as one in the Great Beyond of the game”. And it matters if those ideals of egalitarianism, and all property belonging to the state (the coder and the software company) are then held up to be emulated in real life. It sure as hell *does* matter if game makers are now going to tell us that they have evolved perfect social systems and perfect methods for making people — and the world — be Better. Because *it’s not better*.

    And here we go again with a double standard:

    There’s a gold mine of interesting topics that could be fleshed out into pages and pages of great discussion, but that won’t happen if every time someone references a sub-culture we have to stop and make sure to go through all 8,000 miles of qualifications and exceptions before making a point or making sure that we tie every negative social connotation to a word that can be made so everyone knows what a horrible person this is posting because they like something or hold a vaguely similar belief as ‘horrible historical figure’.

    Who’s making the snipes now? Religious belief may feel like a sub-culture to you, part of the technolibertarian elite? For most of the world, it isn’t, and you need to think about it. Why should *I* have to go through 8,000 posts and drills and harassment and even stalking just because I’ve labelled a kind of belief and attributed it to a person? Labelling isn’t an ad-hominem attack, it’s just a label. Labelling is *allowed* (Times v. Sullivan). You may disagree with the label; you may find it impolite or uncool; you may wish to reduce the poster in your estimation, but you are tone-death and colour-blind to all the labels made on the opposite side of the aisle where you are sitting.

    Go back to the original event and speech in Second Life that prompted my post and my questions, and look at when Bartle FINALLY answers:

    No, I’m not a socialist.

    Don’t, however, assume that means I’m a raging capitalist either. I believe some things are more important than oiling the wheels of commerce, and the freedom of individuals to be themselves is one of those things.

    This is frankly a nasty, perjorative comment, an ad hominem attack of the first order, and one of those clever forums-trolling under-the-mods-radar sort of posts where he can innocently say “but I didn’t mean this to apply to Prokofy”. His characterization of people engaged in normal free market activities — Linden Lab selling server space to the highest bidder and wholesalers buying them — is to accuse them of “oiling the wheels of commerce” and by implication, “being raging capitalists” and gasp, worst of all, “not caring about the freedom of the individual”. That’s preposterous.

    Indeed, private property is the bastion of the individual’s freedom.
    That *is* the difference between socialism and capitalism. Bartle may believe he’s “not a socialist,” but when he mounts airy fantasies about the individual’s freedom *not being contingent upon* private property (for the individual first and foremost!!) and that anyone who holds another view is merely an oily oiler of commerce, we see what we are dealing with here: a typical, dismissive, superior, arrogant socialist who finds those who disagree with his fantastic notions of private property as coarse and evil and grubbig — “raging capitalists” — and who disagrees with his implicit perjorative dismissal of those who believe differently as him as not “caring about the freedom of the individual.”

    I’m quite prepared to believe, now that Richard has explained his bit about the Cheerios and all, that he does sincerely care about the freedom of the individualism and hates extremist Marxist expropriation of even non-expropriators. Understood. But I’m here to debate him in his assumptions and say, sorry, but you’re still a socialist and your belief that private property doesn’t matter in upholding the individual’s freedom is sadly misguided.

    This is really bad stuff. I’m sorry, but this is not private, OOC, offline stuff. I get to complain about this — I sure do! Here’s a guy who believes he is “better” at caring about individual freedom than me, and that his ideology is “better” and who ultimately thinks that instead of my individual private property, or yours, or any society’s, there is another place to house individual freedom: code made by an elitist class of game golders.

    The belief that the individual’s freedom exists outside of a social system that respects and legalizes private property is one of those hugely deeply-held religious Internet tekkie-wiki beliefs. It is is at the heart of the open-source movement. It is at the heart of the constant claim that “information wants to be free”. It runs through many game designs, implicitly or implicitly. It is at the heart of the very ardently-held belief that you can create a privileged class of creators — those free individuals who don’t house — or protect! — their creactivity inside real or physical property or law but only in their brains — and, what’s more, have them lord it over the rest of us (their ultimate socialism will involve uploading those brains for the common use, lest anyone find the individual brain pan as too “raging capitalist”).

    This is at the root of many conflicts in Second Life; it’s at the root of many conflicts in real life. The inability to recognize what is happening with this zealous, religious belief that individual freedom can exist in a vacuum apart from property rights runs smack up against the belief based on pragmatic practice over the ages that “freedom of the press belongs to him who owns one.”

    Yes, there is a debate to be had. Can individual freedom and creativity be upheld without private property? Without reference to the meat-world systems of capitalism and communism and the experiences of the ages, this debate cannot be held. Those who hold an ardent religious fervour about individual freedom existing outside of any property, wealth, class, law, or government can pretend this isn’t an ardently-held religious belief if they like and label everybody else as the fanatic nuttes, but then they’ve abundantly proven what we knew all along: to obtain freedom from them, we need private property.

  70. What I find fascinating about this entire thread is the notion that games have come so far as to even be viewed in this light. Granted the discussion here is very cutting edge to the point where few outside of games would even recognize its social impact but the fact that MMOs have reached a stage where we even discuss these things is interesting in its own right.

    The salient point here is that anytime millions of people are captivated by the same game, political ideal, religion or whatever, the real implications of how that large group of people can be socially affected become important. It’s the same complaint levied against the media conglomerates in traditional medias. Millions of people read the New York Times. Those people will inevitably have their views on the world around them changed by what they read. Same goes for any medium where millions of people are doing the same thing.

    Just as journalists are supposed to have a code of ethics, perhaps designers of virtual worlds need the same. Is there a BAR association of sorts for MMO designers on the horizon? How do we ensure that a highly addictive medium, such as MMO games is not used as a means to influence millions into real world change? Should we even worry about this? How do we avoid another Waco or another Hitler? Can this even happen through MMOs? Does that change when virtual world inhabitants number in the 10s of millions? 100s of millions?

  71. the idea that we are noble for wanting to bring our concept of freedom to the rest of the world, or the idea that our morality is a higher standard than the morality of other cultures.

    Like so many liberals, Raph, you want to be quick to use the trap-doors of guilt to ditch the responsibility…

    That quote wasn’t me — it was someone else. I am not a moral relativist. Or rather, I am a relatively relativist, if that makes sense. I see flex, but I don’t see bending. There is plenty that is outright wrong. I do see and understand how reasonable, good, and high-minded people can argue about whether to give primacy to one thing versus another, as in the case of differences between Europe and the US on freedom of speech. That doesn’t mean I don’t think that Europe is mostly wrong on the issue. ;)

    As far as Ton Ton Macoutes, or North Korea, and so on — come on, you know me better than that.

    One thing that I AM hesitant to do is ascribe individual evil entirely to ideology. I have known far too many cases of evil capitalists and good socialists, evil socialists and good capitalists. In the hands of good or evil, ideology is mostly a tool. Ideologies in the real world are rarely actually followed to the letter. Most Marxists aren’t very; most capitalism is not clear-cut.

    I don’t get why I can’t label someone who wants to confiscate and nationalize property and prevent a private arbitraged land market and the repatriation of wealth “a socialist”.

    I think the thing most people here are wrestling with is that he wants to do that in the case of games. Do you call chess players who seek to have level playing fields socialists? Are people who play Monopoly (a profoundly capitalist game) oppressed because they have to follow the game rules?

    I think it’s a perfectly valid to point to say that “game gods’ control over the economy of their games is analogous to…” but I don’t think it is necessarily reflective of their actual politics. In fact, many of the most zealous defenders of game economies are raging capialists who see the notion of RMT as affecting their ability to run a business.

    Don’t, however, assume that means I’m a raging capitalist either. I believe some things are more important than oiling the wheels of commerce, and the freedom of individuals to be themselves is one of those things.

    This is frankly a nasty, perjorative comment, an ad hominem attack of the first order, and one of those clever forums-trolling under-the-mods-radar sort of posts

    I honestly do not see that there — I read it as a literal statement of his beliefs. I don’t see anywhere in that statement where he applies it to anyone else, nor where he implies in any way that the reverse applies to other people.

  72. That quote wasn’t me — it was someone else. I am not a moral relativist. Or rather, I am a relatively relativist, if that makes sense. I see flex, but I don’t see bending. There is plenty that is outright wrong. I do see and understand how reasonable, good, and high-minded people can argue about whether to give primacy to one thing versus another, as in the case of differences between Europe and the US on freedom of speech. That doesn’t mean I don’t think that Europe is mostly wrong on the issue. ;)

    It wasn’t your quote, but you used it, Raph, and it had meaning for you, and the projecting meaning was this: we Americans can’t project our moral imperative on the world. To which I can only say, well, why not? Russians project their moral imperative on the world. Chinese do. North Koreans do. And the Ton Ton Macoute and the Janjaweed do. So why must we hold back? Of course I ‘know you better’ but I want you to follow through on the logic of your noble self-sacrifice of *our* shared values here — you haven’t specified that the sliding scale stops just to the right of the First Amendment so that Brits get to sue for libel. You’ve just put the quote out there, and that means if you are going to get all dramatic and rent garments, you need to specify: I will rent the t-shirt just this much, but I will keep my jeans.

    One thing that I AM hesitant to do is ascribe individual evil entirely to ideology. I have known far too many cases of evil capitalists and good socialists, evil socialists and good capitalists. In the hands of good or evil, ideology is mostly a tool. Ideologies in the real world are rarely actually followed to the letter. Most Marxists aren’t very; most capitalism is not clear-cut.

    Spoken like a true coder who believes ardently that code is law, and code is neutral, and merely a tool, and is magically applicable everywhere without reference to people who house the ideology and decide to use it. I think you can reliably, demonstrably show that every communist official above the level of a district secretary objectively committed crimes, sometimes against humanity, more often against the criminal code or the environment, let’s say. And that means all those good communists who were just noble believers held up the system by blindly following ideology. I’m not for the individual holders of ideology shirking their accountability for crimes. If the U.S. government goes lurching abroad to impose liberal democracy by force on Iraq and it fails and they wind up having to torture people to make it work, we must do something about it in Congress and the courts and the international fora. It’s not enough for me to say “Well, hey, I didn’t vote for them, or I didn’t think that was the best place to go put a transition-to-democracy seminar, but nobody asked me.”

    I think the thing most people here are wrestling with is that he wants to do that in the case of games. Do you call chess players who seek to have level playing fields socialists? Are people who play Monopoly (a profoundly capitalist game) oppressed because they have to follow the game rules?

    Goddamn, you game coders are a slippery bunch! In this very thread, Raph, I think we’ve amply, abundantly, and clearly established that gamers want to influence reality. That the answer to your question is, yes, it should, and yes, they do. And now you are scurrying back to “it’s only a game” and saying “but he only wants to do this in games”.

    Why don’t I call chess players socialists? Because they have this great, portable, universal, easy-access game that is in every park in the world, but it isn’t trying to take over the entire public consciousness. There aren’t 10 million chess players who ignore spouses, school work, and jobs in order to play chess, for the most part. Chess isn’t part of a landscape online, for the most part, like games/worlds/social media that become something you can go to even while at work. The kind of game matters, Raph, and this constantly scurrying to throw up Chess and Monopoly, as you and other forums-dwellers always do, is just plain intellectually dishonest and I’m sure you’ll concede that. We are talking about these much vaunted Games for Change, Serious Games, Games That Get Into Your Reptilian Instinct, games that publish BIG and get HUGE ATTENTION. That’s not chess or a board game on your rec room floor, sorry.

    I think it’s a perfectly valid to point to say that “game gods’ control over the economy of their games is analogous to…” but I don’t think it is necessarily reflective of their actual politics. In fact, many of the most zealous defenders of game economies are raging capitalists who see the notion of RMT as affecting their ability to run a business.

    Raph, the hallmark of game-god socialism, and FIC socialism, as we’ve seen it in SL, is “no business but my business.” The elders of the oldbies with the first businesses in a sector are ardent socialists when it comes to everybody else commercializing the grid. But their own status as purveyors or rentals or widgets is untouchable. No business but my business is ok, is what they say. And that’s the ultimate state-capitalism cry of the game-god to the gold-farmers: “Hey, I get to harvest the gold from the farming here, not you.”

    I honestly do not see that there — I read it as a literal statement of his beliefs. I don’t see anywhere in that statement where he applies it to anyone else, nor where he implies in any way that the reverse applies to other people.

    Perhaps you should read the entire metanomics.net exchange, the backchats, the forums, and even just listen through Richard’s original whole presentation to start with, where he makes a rant about land that is ill-informed and prejudicial. That’s the context.

    Indeed he does say, in exasperation, hey, I’m better than you, because I don’t care about oiling the wheels of commerce (like us evil land barons and evil Linden Lab), I care about the freedom of the individual.

    This is tripe, Raph, of the first order, and you know it.

  73. Prokofy, commerce and private property are not the same thing. Your point does have merit there, but it has absolutely no relation to the quote you’re giving. A group or individual pursing acquisition of wealth to the exclusion of all else for instance, can result in the removal of private property rights from groups of people. A capitalistic system that does not have any constraints on the methods by which business can be run *does* run a great risk of destroying a lot of individual freedoms and rights, and historically has done so. Putting those constraints on that system does not inherently remove the ability for private property to exist though, it simply prevents people from taking it away from other people too easily. Capitalism as being used in that quote has little to do with property rights, and every thing to do with how the market functions, and more specifically, how the market can be abused. No where is there any mention of a desire to see property rights removed, only that the market isn’t abused to the detriment of individuals. This is down to ethical business practices, something I’m sure you’d agree with?

    Also, don’t conflate virtual world systems with real world systems. They’re not the same things and they don’t necessarily function on the same principles. Not to mention that there are viewpoint issues here. You’re arguing that private property is important, but then saying that RMT should *always* be allowed – that not allowing it is somehow socialistic or Marxist – even in games that don’t allow player generated content, which seems odd to me. Those bits of data, the code that drives them, the art that displays it… that’s all stuff that was created by the owners of the games; stuff that really belongs to the devs, not the players. Players have no claim to ownership except time spent. But time spent is not property, and the actual “item” that results for the time spent never belonged to the players to begin with. Would you deny the game owners the right to control the data that they’ve created, on the servers that they own, in whatever way they decide? Or is your conception of private property not universal? The owners of the game are letting you play in *their* sandboxes, with *their* toys. If we’ve going to hold true to the concept of private property, then they have every right to control what you do with those toys, just as a private restaurant has every right to expect that you do not take the dishes and silverware home with you and put them up on eBay. You didn’t buy the knives and forks and plates; you’re purchasing the food and the enjoyment of eating it. Similarly, in a MMOG, you’re not purchasing the characters and items, you’re purchasing the enjoyment of playing. Your sword and armor are the knives and forks, your character is the plate. But they’re just tools to get at what you’re really buying, and they’re not tools you own. This is inherently Capitalistic, and inherently rooted in a sense of private property.

  74. Ola Fosheim Grøstad, I was just passing on something I heard from one of the many Tolkien TV documentaries so there’s every chance I’ve got it wrong. I’ll leave you with this from Wikipedia on Relion and Mythology:

    J.R.R. Tolkien’s love of myths and devout Catholic faith came together in his assertion that mythology is the divine echo of “the Truth”. Tolkien wrote that myths held “fundamental things”. He expressed these beliefs in his poem Mythopoeia circa 1931, which describes myth-making as an act of “sub-creation” within God’s primary creation. Tolkien’s opinion was adopted by another Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, in their conversations: “Tolkien explained to Lewis that the story of Christ was the true myth at the very heart of history and at the very root of reality.”

  75. Gene, yes, long before there was any Wikipedia, I knew about JRR Tolkien’s concept of sub-creation the adoption of this idea by C.S. Lewis, whom I read avidly, and therefore it has always been curious to me that so many of today’s game-gods loathe religion, hate the concept of God, don’t see themselves of sub-creators of anything, and retain an avid hatred of the C.S. Lewis books. It’s very strange to me.

  76. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>I think people who want to distance themselves from Christianity often aren’t willing to admit to what extent their own moral and thinking have been influenced by it.

    Oh, I admit my moral thinking has been influenced by it, I just don’t swallow it hook, line and sinker. Christianity itself was influenced by Judaism, but Christians aren’t averse to admitting the fact.

    Of course, there are people who want to distance themselves from Christianity whose own moral thinking has not been influenced by it to any great extent; Buddhists, for example.

    >Few beliefs are independent of religion.

    That doesn’t mean the religions are 100% right, though.

    >Besides, I don’t think it is possible to not be religious. If you are willing to think about what makes your life meaningful and purposeful, you are by my definition religious.

    OK, well if you want to use a definition of religion as wide-ranging than that, without requiring any ritual or organisation or faith or supernatural component, I guess that means we need another word to refer to that kind of practice.

    Richard

  77. “Well, they do if their in-world character and their real-world self are different. Over time, though, the two come together; that’s what immersion is – the treatment of your in-game self as your real self. You may start off playing someone who isn’t you, and you would indeed be laughed at if you role-played that in real life. However, if, over time, your character and your self coalesce, then not only can you be your game self in real life, you can’t help but be it: they’re one and the same.”

    Not everyone acts differently in a game than they do RL in the first place; secondly, using your definition of identity, there’s no reason to suppose that the ‘change’ someone goes thru in becoming what they already were would not be for the worse. Since you say the game only acts as an enabler, not as a shaper, what is to prevent someone from learning to express their true nature as an antisocial, ganking psychopath..?

    This is hardly an argument for games being ‘good’.

    “For nothing in game world terms, but for everything in real world terms. This is the turning point of the hero’s journey: people realise that they have got as much from the virtual world as they are ever going to get, that they have become themselves as much as the game is ever going to let them, and that basically they’ve “won”. For some, this is a cause for celebration, because they’ve gained some sense of self from it; for others, it’s less so, because the world was unable to deliver what they wanted and their journey remains incomplete.”

    Spending years of your life earning pixels is ‘everything’? You think the people with 350+ days /played in WoW, grinding reputations and items and more items, will look back on this period of their life with fondness once they leave it?

    You seem to reject the argument that the benefit of an MMO is social, and the changed game-theoretical situation that results from same. I fail to see, then, given the contrast in this post to your idealistic vision of people ‘becoming themselves’, how from your perspective MMOs can provide any ‘good’ at all.

    Of course, it’s not like anyone else is discussing it anymore… not like that’s unexpected, /sigh

    /

    Grøstad,

    “If you are willing to think about what makes your life meaningful and purposeful, you are by my definition religious.”

    It’s just more politically correct than calling it ‘superstitious’. ;) Religious people tend to get offended when you speak of it in those terms.

    /

    Prokofy Neva,

    “Labelling isn’t an ad-hominem attack, it’s just a label. Labelling is *allowed*.”

    Is gender a type of label??

    ((lol, sorry everyone ;p))

    “Indeed, private property is the bastion of the individual’s freedom.

    and who disagrees with his implicit perjorative dismissal of those who believe differently as him as not “caring about the freedom of the individual.””

    I always wonder why no one brings up that book about socialism and the sausage factories in Chicago in these type of debates.. that industrial type in environment was where the whole communist movement came from after all.

    Actually I don’t need to wonder… it’s because everyone always forgets the past, because context isn’t important, only the present is.

  78. Prokofy Neva wrote:

    Like so many liberals, Raph, you want to be quick to use the trap-doors of guilt to ditch the responsibility…

    I try really hard to avoid you. That doesn’t mean you can take out your angst on me using Raph as proxy.

  79. …it has always been curious to me that so many of today’s game-gods loathe religion, hate the concept of God, don’t see themselves of sub-creators of anything, and retain an avid hatred of the C.S. Lewis books.

    That hasn’t been my experience at all. I’m not a Christian, at least not a mainstream version of Christianity that include the Holy Trinity. I’m more a hopeful seeker who hasn’t found the right answers yet; an agnostic who’s actively searching. I can still have huge amounts of respect for C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. The influence of their faith just makes that piece of Oxford history more fascinating and becomes one more perspective to look at in my own search for what to believe in. Game designers are a vastly more pluralistic group than your giving us credit for.

  80. If you’ll excuse me butting in; I’m sure this is old and tired material to a lot of you but I’m really enjoying reading it. I’m especially pleased to see that despite tempers running high it’s still mostly civil. I wish more discussions on the internet were like this.

    The kind of game matters, Raph, and this constantly scurrying to throw up Chess and Monopoly, as you and other forums-dwellers always do, is just plain intellectually dishonest and I’m sure you’ll concede that. We are talking about these much vaunted Games for Change, Serious Games, Games That Get Into Your Reptilian Instinct, games that publish BIG and get HUGE ATTENTION. That’s not chess or a board game on your rec room floor, sorry.

    I thought this was an especially interesting point. If we keep saying “MMOs are not games, they’re worlds” we can’t turn around and say “oh but it’s just a game”. I can see how a lot of stuff game devs say comes across that way.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you lot know that at least one person is getting something useful from this conversation. I dunno if that makes the frustration on both sides any more bearable. :)

  81. “It is at the heart of the constant claim that “information wants to be free”.”

    Neva, please stop making yourself look silly. The reason people say information wants to be free is because it is a much more EFFICIENT attitude than trying to control information in an environment where it can be easily copied. For example, cryptology: you can either try to protect the method of encryption, and if a single one of your encryption machines/programs gets captured then your whole system is screwed; or you could design an encryption method where it doesn’t matter if everyone knows the method, because what’s important is a shared, or a pair of public/private keys.

    This has been another useless post on a useless tangent by someone who is thoughtfully contributing to a discussion that has long since become useless.

  82. “Just as journalists are supposed to have a code of ethics, perhaps designers of virtual worlds need the same. Is there a BAR association of sorts for MMO designers on the horizon? How do we ensure that a highly addictive medium, such as MMO games is not used as a means to influence millions into real world change? Should we even worry about this? How do we avoid another Waco or another Hitler? Can this even happen through MMOs? Does that change when virtual world inhabitants number in the 10s of millions? 100s of millions?”

    Yes lol, because everyone who played Space Invaders grew up to… I don’t even know, something that involves blowing stuff up.

    I know no one is interested in this thread of conversation anymore, but this is an example of how the game itself will NOT change people; only people will change people, a well-designed game simply allows that to happen.

    And for a second I thought this thread was going to turn into game design, but ofc that didn’t even last for a string of three replies ;P

    Raph, I had hope that your blog would produce productive discussion,

    ..n/m I’ll just stop, gl everyone with the capitalist/communist discussion or religion or w/e

  83. One last thing, to Neva, about Iraq…
    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

    I know you won’t read it tho; the truth has no relevance to your political worldview

  84. If we keep saying “MMOs are not games, they’re worlds” we can’t turn around and say “oh but it’s just a game”.

    They’re both. Taken as a whole then they’re worlds that daily impact a large number of people. But from the individual perspective of the player they are simply a game.

    Which brings up an interesting question. Let’s say we have a feature that is demanded overwhelmingly by the player base and is truly enjoyable. But as a designer you decide that it would have, in your opinion, a negative influence. Not on the game itself but on the people who play it and therefore society at large.

    One could argue that that you shouldn’t include such a feature since it violates your principles. But one could also argue your opinion may or may not be the right choice for those players. Mind you, I think you’ve got every right to make either decision, it’s your money, time, servers, etc. So it’s really a personal question of what would you do.

  85. Mind you, I think you’ve got every right to make either decision, it’s your money, time, servers, etc.

    There’s the problem though, right? What about when it’s not? Second Life is the obvious exception. Linden acts as though you get to own land, i.e. server space, yet they get to dictate a lot of rules of commerce etc. which you have absolutely no way to override. That’s clearly broken and it’s one reason I’m waiting for SL’s successor, which I hope will work like the web: I can physically own my own server with my own silly rules, as capitalist or socialist as I see fit.

  86. Makaze wrote:

    So it’s really a personal question of what would you do.

    Not really. Nonprofits face similar challenges of whether to remain true to their mission and operate at a loss, or adapt their mission and generate revenue to keep afloat. The wiser decision is usually the former. If you create something for a purpose, and you later change that purpose simply to press on, what was the point? The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is a good example. They chose to remain true to their mission and operate at a loss. They even filed for unemployment at one point.

    But as a designer you decide that it would have, in your opinion, a negative influence.

    In U.S. contract law, expert opinion is often considered fact. Something to think about. (Vokes v. Arthur Murray, Inc.)

  87. Richard Bartle said:

    Of course, there are people who want to distance themselves from Christianity whose own moral thinking has not been influenced by it to any great extent; Buddhists, for example.

    Oh really? What’s going on with that?

  88. It wasn’t your quote, but you used it, Raph

    No, I didn’t. I didn’t quote it, I didn’t answer it, I didn’t reference it. Not my quote! Go back and read above! :)

    I think you can reliably, demonstrably show that every communist official above the level of a district secretary objectively committed crimes, sometimes against humanity, more often against the criminal code or the environment, let’s say. And that means all those good communists who were just noble believers held up the system by blindly following ideology. I’m not for the individual holders of ideology shirking their accountability for crimes.

    My point is exactly that — fundamentally, it’s individual holders of ideology who must be held accountable. Marx is dead. We can’t dump all the blame on him, when it’s actual other people who carry things out (not to mention that the vast majority of what a district secretary did is nowhere in Marx’s actual original writings, but rather was grafted into the ideology).

    Ideologies can be bad. But it’s the people who do the evil. i don’t think that’s a coder-like point of view on the world… I tend to think of it as a classic secular humanist point of view instead… *shrug*

    Goddamn, you game coders are a slippery bunch! In this very thread, Raph, I think we’ve amply, abundantly, and clearly established that gamers want to influence reality. That the answer to your question is, yes, it should, and yes, they do. And now you are scurrying back to “it’s only a game” and saying “but he only wants to do this in games”.

    One question is the influence of individual speakers, creators, advocates, on the rest of the world (games being one medium which they can use.

    The other question is the influence of external forces on games.

    I don’t think these two things are the same issue.

    I’ll defend the right of individual speakers/creators/advocates to speak, advocate, philosophize, evangelize, etc, as they wish. That is free speech, whether via games or blogs or whatever. Everyone should have their chance to try to change the world.

    Why don’t I call chess players socialists? Because they have this great, portable, universal, easy-access game that is in every park in the world, but it isn’t trying to take over the entire public consciousness.

    So it’s how widely distributed their message is that makes the difference? I don’t think that is a good criterion.

    As far as the rest of your post, I think I have the same questions as Eolirin. I don’t see consistency across the landscape you describe. It’s sort of a nesting problem — Linden, then you, then your customers. Who has what sort of property rights, rights to enforce rules, etc?

  89. With Richard on this. I am finding myself more and more compelled to ignore everything Prok says. I’ve tried — several times, on several issues — to come to grips with some of the core issues he’s brought up, to engage in discussion or reasonable argument… but you just can’t spar with someone who never lets you say something without changing it; and never says anything himself without disallowing reasonable interpretation.

    Prok… when you say this:

    There is nothing I said that can be construed as “Jane is Hitler.”…that people like Jane… are invoking ideologies that sound as demagogic, as wrong-headed, as scary as a Hitler or a Lenin.

    It’s contradictory or, at best, picking at nits. If you tell somebody, “You sound as demagogic and wrong-headed, as scary as Hitler,” you’re making a comparison between the two. No, you didn’t literally say, “Jane is Hitler.” Because, of course, Hitler is a dead German dude, and Jane is a live woman. So that would be impossible, right? But to say “as demagogic, wrong-headed and scary” as somebody who committed mass genocide… and in the same breath to make a claim to “subtlety” is just… mind bogglingly dense. No good comes of the comparison. I’ll use the exact same words again: it’s simply not helpful. And if you’re not being helpful, you’re wasting our time.

    You accuse the coders of being slippery. After having made a claim to use Twitter for some stuff, but not (of course) being a member of the Twitteratti. How slippery is that? You use the tool… but just the right amount. Less, and you wouldn’t understand it, more and you’d be part of some elite.

    On the one hand, socialism is bad because it would take away private property (which you value), but the notion that the “game gods” might want the same consideration for the code they write and the servers they buy and the companies they create… well, that’s absurd, of course. Because, on the one hand, you like your property the way it is, but don’t want to give the same consideration to these elite code bastards.

    How can it be both ways, Prok? If you get to have (and sell and trade, etc.) your property in SL, and if the right to property is an intrinsic part of commerce and freedom and all that is good… why can’t the owners of SL do whatever the f’ they want with it, because it’s their property?

  90. He expressed these beliefs in his poem Mythopoeia circa 1931, which describes myth-making as an act of “sub-creation” within God’s primary creation.

    Incidentally, Mythopoeia was instrumental in converting C.S. Lewis to Christianity. I’ve forgotten the exact line of argument between Lewis and Tolkien, but the poem was a major turning point.

    I know no one is interested in this thread of conversation anymore, but this is an example of how the game itself will NOT change people; only people will change people, a well-designed game simply allows that to happen.

    That’s what Richard said. :P No artistic expression: game, movie, novel, sculpture, poetry, dance: causes change. It simply points out a perspective, and when considered, that perspective is a potential catalyst for change in the viewer.

  91. At Richard, r.e. moral relativism.

    Richard said: “Whether an individual act marks a person as evil depends on the intent of the person undertaking it. Nothing is so binary that you can say, in all circumstances, that the person doing it must be evil.”

    Gotta disagree on that one. There’s all kinds of stuff we excuse because we think we can see a larger context; ie, it’s ok to kill someone in self defense. Nope. My religion (call it liberal Christianity) says, “It’s wrong to kill.” Period. No mulligans. You might ask me, “What if a robber was about to kill your wife, your kid, then you? What would you do?” Oh, I’d kill the mofo. But the deed would be evil. I do evil shite all the time. I’ve just justified it as being more comfortable for me.

    You say: “a scientist who releases a virus in the belief it will cure all illness (ie. his intentions are good) but who made a mistake and wipes out humanity (ie. commits genocide) would not be evil, just very arrogant, misguided, stupid or insane.”

    Well, arrogance is, to a degree, evil. And arrogance at the level of, “Oops. Wrong test-tube. Wiped out my species,” is just as evil as the arrogance of believing that by wiping out a race you are purifying the human genome. It’s a different kind of arrogance… but I’d argue it’s still evil.

    Christians are, obviously, as good as anybody else at hypocrisy. No religion (or un-religion) has a monopoly on bad behavior that contradicts their own tenets. But just because we’re bad at being good, doesn’t mean that true, unrelativistic good (and evil) don’t exist.

    My definition of evil: actions based on the belief that your existence and will is more important than others’ or God’s. You can leave God out and still get the main drift.

    You can’t know that by saving your family and your own life and killing the other guy — even in legally justified self defense — will be, in the long run, better or worse. You can only know that you have subjugated another’s life to your idea of right/wrong. You can argue that, yes, well… him meaning to kill me means he was doing that to me. Right. His intent to kill me is evil, too. But you can’t meet evil with evil and call it good. You can only call it the evil that you prefer.

    Let me be clear: I in no way pretend to any level of goodness. I merely explain that there are, I think, some pretty clear lines. Yes, there is mental illness (dad’s a shrink… know that for real good). Yes, there is ignorance. Sometimes, bad things happen for no reason that have similar outcomes to evil acts. But whenever someone knowingly puts their own interests ahead of others’, and ahead of their own beliefs… that’s evil.

    The example we have, made on Good Friday, in my religion, is that of Christ choosing to die, rather than use his power for his own sake. Even if you don’t believe in the resurrection and miracles, the example he made is incredibly important to the Christian ideas of good and evil. The results are not our choice. What other people do is not our choice. The actions are.

    Love God. Love each other. Those are the two great commandments. When you do things that are outside those sets, you’re being evil.

  92. Taemojitsu>Not everyone acts differently in a game than they do RL in the first place

    I’m talking about virtual worlds, not games in general; sorry if I gave that impression. In that context, I usually mean people who play for fun, too, rather than people who play for other reasons.

    >secondly, using your definition of identity, there’s no reason to suppose that the ‘change’ someone goes thru in becoming what they already were would not be for the worse.

    I agree. I make this point in my book, in fact. Some people are assholes in real life, and through playing virtual worlds they become better assholes. Fortunately, there aren’t many such people.

    >what is to prevent someone from learning to express their true nature as an antisocial, ganking psychopath..?

    If that’s who they are, then nothing. In my experience, people who try to play that way usually wind up realising it’s a losing strategy, although it does depend on the design of the virtual world to some extent. Also, 1 in 100,000 people really is a bona fide psychopath. The odds are that WoW has a hundred psychopaths playing it.

    >This is hardly an argument for games being ‘good’.

    Overwhelmingly, the player experience is positive rather than negative. Most people came out of playing a virtual world in a better state than they went in. If this were not the case, I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about them.

    >Spending years of your life earning pixels is ‘everything’?

    No, spending months of your life getting to find out who you are is.

    >You think the people with 350+ days /played in WoW, grinding reputations and items and more items, will look back on this period of their life with fondness once they leave it?

    I have people with more than that time under their belt in text MUDs, and they look back on their time with fondness. So yes.

    >You seem to reject the argument that the benefit of an MMO is social

    That would be why one of my original four player types was called “socialiser”, then?

    Of course they’re social! Even achievers need them to be social, so that they can gauge their advancement in terms of their peers’. That’s one reason why they don’t like RMT – it messes with the advancement metrics.

    Richard

  93. Andy Havens>Nope. My religion (call it liberal Christianity) says, “It’s wrong to kill.” Period.

    So when there’s an earthquake or a tsunami and people are killed by forces of nature, those forces of nature are wrong? If intention doesn’t come into it, then neither does intelligence.

    >And arrogance at the level of, “Oops. Wrong test-tube. Wiped out my species,” is just as evil as the arrogance of believing that by wiping out a race you are purifying the human genome.

    Uh? So someone who deliberately sets about eradicating millions of human beings is no more evil than someone who does it by accident? If I were to rig up your car so that when you turned the ignition it exploded a nuclear bomb in the centre of Paris, you’d be the evil person and not me?

    Weird.

    >But just because we’re bad at being good, doesn’t mean that true, unrelativistic good (and evil) don’t exist.

    Just because I want to know why someone did something before I decide whether I think they’re good or evil, doesn’t mean I don’t think good and evil don’t exist. It just means that I might disagree with someone who doesn’t take intention into account.

    >My definition of evil: actions based on the belief that your existence and will is more important than others’ or God’s. You can leave God out and still get the main drift.

    Hmm. More important to whom? My existence and will is certainly more important to me than others'; I’d expect others to believe that their own existence was of primary importance to them. Why does that make me evil?

    >You can’t know that by saving your family and your own life and killing the other guy — even in legally justified self defense — will be, in the long run, better or worse.

    I can know it’s better for me if I get to live. What would bother me would be that I might have been able to save myself without actually killing the other guy; the fact that I was trying not to get killed doesn’t, in my opinion, make me evil. This is assuming the other guy was trying to kill me; I wouldn’t advocate killing random strangers just to keep my own life going, that would be unbearable.

    >you can’t meet evil with evil and call it good. You can only call it the evil that you prefer.

    Just as well I wouldn’t regard the last-resort killing of someone who was trying to kill me as evil, then.

    >But whenever someone knowingly puts their own interests ahead of others’, and ahead of their own beliefs… that’s evil.

    So … you do have an intention component to your definition of evil, then?

    >Love God. Love each other. Those are the two great commandments. When you do things that are outside those sets, you’re being evil.

    Oh great. Because I don’t love your imaginary friend, that makes me evil?

    Richard

  94. The problem with religion is not a problem with religion. The problem is with the support organizations behind religions.

    Religious organizations are often too focused on generating sales to the extent that members of organized religions are encouraged to proclaim that everyone is a member regardless of whether everyone else decided to opt in. Generalizing religious membership merely produces conflict, which is contrary to what religious organizations actually want.

    An organized religion, as a public benefit organization, should be concentrating on promoting the values their beliefs are intended to uphold instead of on promoting their specific beliefs. Beliefs should not be construed as ends; they should be seen as means—means to communicate and uphold the ideals that religions are meant to encourage.

    Religion is another industry where some organizations have lost their way, deviating from their missions just to stay afloat. I wonder if the certifying bodies of religions would employ religious communication consultants. Sounds lucrative. :)

  95. I wonder if the certifying bodies of religions would employ religious communication consultants.

    Anyone else picturing churches with big signs saying “Now ISO 9000 certified”?
    Good, good, so it was just me, then.

  96. Richard said: “Whether an individual act marks a person as evil depends on the intent of the person undertaking it. Nothing is so binary that you can say, in all circumstances, that the person doing it must be evil.”

    Gotta disagree on that one. There’s all kinds of stuff we excuse because we think we can see a larger context; ie, it’s ok to kill someone in self defense. Nope. My religion (call it liberal Christianity) says, “It’s wrong to kill.” Period. No mulligans. You might ask me, “What if a robber was about to kill your wife, your kid, then you? What would you do?” Oh, I’d kill the mofo. But the deed would be evil. I do evil shite all the time. I’ve just justified it as being more comfortable for me.

    Hmm, I think you are still agreeing with him. You killed the guy attacking your wife, killing is bad but the person doing the killing may or may not be bad. Or are you claiming evilness on the basis of the evil that you do do?

    Anyone else think we might be wandering off topic?

  97. Rik wrote:

    Anyone else think we might be wandering off topic?

    I’ve been wondering that since y’all started wandering many, many posts ago. But it’s okay. Raph will post some interesting topic soon and we’ll all flock to that thread instead.

  98. I would only add to what Richard’s saying, that the social aspect of MMOGs is actually one of the key contributers to the examination of identity that players can go through. I’m not entirely convinced that it happens as often as perhaps it should, but that people re-examine themselves through the lens of virtual worlds is undeniable (I can say that because *I* have gone through that process). And it’s because of that social mirror combined with the ability to “shed your skin” to at least a degree.

    In a way, games like WoW actually begin to cause this to break down though… It’s not that hard to go through the entire game without really having much in the way of social contact. It’s there if you want it, but it’s very easy to avoid it if you’re not interested in it. And I really think that in some ways forced interaction is vital to the process. Breaking out of our comfort zones, even a little, is kinda important for personal growth. Sadly, it’s also potentially bad for the bottom line.

  99. I wonder if it is really worth bothering to take part in a debate where I’m named by the original poster thoughtfully, but then when the original poster is then sort of prodded and pushed into making a public apology for being “politically incorrect” about me, and then I have to endure Andy Havens accusing me of not conforming to Terra Nova again — and oh, where Richard Bartle will refuse to acknowledge my existence. It’s like trying to reason with the Salem Witch Trial, it really is. That isn’t to say that Richard Bartle or Raph Koster, kindly lovely men with enormous brilliance, are like people who dump old ladies into water tied to chairs and drown them. It’s just to say that it is *like* it in feeling. People are so hysterical and so consumed with their ideologies, that they cannot see or hear, or they put their hands in their ears and scream lalalalalala.

    I truly am not getting why, when a person like Jane says that games have already got everybody’s attention (addiction) and they “do happiness really well” (if that is happiness) and therefore, game manufactuers can now “fix reality”, that I can’t jump up and complain. Especially, wow, if that person is hired by the Chinese to make some feel-good Olympics ARG?!

    I don’t take that as just some little feel-good. I don’t think Jane, because she’s a pretty young PhD from California who can dance like a black kid, gets to be exempt from scrutiny of her ideologies and their totalitarianian resonances just because of those various characteristics or because I’m politically incorrect.

    I’m sorry, but when you have millions of people gaming away, with a certain game culture, and a culture deliberately designed to influence people because the game designers tell you they are indeed consciously trying to do that, and you see they make OUTRAGEOUS claims like “we can fix reality” and you see they have a TOTALLY DUBIOUS notion of what is a Better World and it involves old warmed-over Marxist clap-trap and scary ideological manipulation, too, well, you have to speak up. You can’t worry that Jane is going to have a cow, or Andy is going to say, oh, you’re beyond the pale now.

    you just can’t spar with someone who never lets you say something without changing it; and never says anything himself without disallowing reasonable interpretation.

    Nothing is “changed”; perhaps you don’t see the logic of your claims, and you’re the one doing the changing, anyway.

    The problem with you, Andy, and others on TN in the Orthodox School of Ludology, is that you think if you’ve patiently rebutted an argument, if you’ve tediously outlined what your thinking is, that why, someone like me should just “come around”. They should just “change their mind”. They should just “realize” that they must join the tribe. Well, why? I disagree. You’re wrong. I’m right. I understand your argument. And I did not find it persuasive.

    It’s contradictory or, at best, picking at nits. If you tell somebody, “You sound as demagogic and wrong-headed, as scary as Hitler,” you’re making a comparison between the two. No, you didn’t literally say, “Jane is Hitler.” Because, of course, Hitler is a dead German dude, and Jane is a live woman. So that would be impossible, right? But to say “as demagogic, wrong-headed and scary” as somebody who committed mass genocide… and in the same breath to make a claim to “subtlety” is just… mind bogglingly dense. No good comes of the comparison. I’ll use the exact same words again: it’s simply not helpful. And if you’re not being helpful, you’re wasting our time

    Well, I think the distinctions are made. I have not said “Jane is Hitler”. But I have said Jane’s totalitarian-like ideologies of an elitist California-based game/world industry “fixing reality” is pretty awful — it *is* Hitler like because it’s wild-assed propaganda designed to capture the imagination and inflame people. Talking abouts someone’s ideology being totalitarian doesn’t mean they are in the dock for mass murder; you can’t kill somebody in a game! So, uh, whether you find this “helpful” or not, I don’t care. I have to push back, and call this for what it is: pretty awful totalitarian ideology. Games cannot “fix” reality. They are broken themselves. Ask Lum.

    You accuse the coders of being slippery. After having made a claim to use Twitter for some stuff, but not (of course) being a member of the Twitteratti. How slippery is that? You use the tool… but just the right amount. Less, and you wouldn’t understand it, more and you’d be part of some elite.

    Well, gosh, Andy, I use Microsoft Word, too. Does that mean I’m a friend of Bill Gates? That sounds like a hugely stupid argument. Twitter was something that I went to check out because Jerry Paffendorf said it was like a lifestreaming thing. I wasn’t terribly interested in lifestreaming, I just thought microblogging was kinda cool, so I use it sometimes to blog on, essentially. I’m not in any top 100 or top 500 or anything. I don’t see how I can be construed as “Twitterati” not even being in any kind of statistcal group. So what’s your point. I use the Internet. Am I now in Al Gore’s country club?

    On the one hand, socialism is bad because it would take away private property (which you value), but the notion that the “game gods” might want the same consideration for the code they write and the servers they buy and the companies they create… well, that’s absurd, of course. Because, on the one hand, you like your property the way it is, but don’t want to give the same consideration to these elite code bastards.

    Where have I said on this thread, or on Lum’s threads, that I don’t want game gods to have the right of freedom of expression and protection of what they code? Where? Where have I not given them this consideration? Where have I ordered to confiscate their property like they confiscate mine!!!

    I’ve merely said, Andy — try to grasp this! — that I want pluralism, freedom from their hegemony, and alternatives. I want to mount a critique of what they’re doing. I want them to think. I want them to get off this arrogant myopic bullshit that even Raph conceded thinking they can “fix reality”.

    I’m going to point out one more time, that here is one more example, after the 400 times on Lum’s thing, of somebody failing to see that if you have an opinion about how you want things, and you have a critique of how the other person wants things, that doesn’t mean you want to take away that person’s thing, and their way of seeing it. This seems to be an impossible point for you, and even Raph, to understand. I don’t get why that is. I guess it’s because of an all/nothing, black/white, yes/no sort of coders’ mentality. If I say your code doesn’t work, my God, it could actually be physically wrong and I could shut it off or close your JIRA or the widget may not work.

    I don’t know how else to understand this. It’s like my critique is a report to you that your JIRA has to be shut down and your code is wrong. But…it’s just my opinion. I think you’re wrong. Here’s why. You will go on doing your thing. Hey, who could stop you?!

    Have you heard of parliamentary democracy? Here’s how it works. See, over in one corner, you have, say, the communists. Oh, they might have a name like the People’s Justice Party, but, they’re the reds. They insist on having a holiday every March 8, May 1, September 1, and my God, who can stand all this idling work shirking, but there they are, lobbying for that. Then, over there, you might have the Liberal Party of Trashcanistan. And everyone knows they aren’t anything near liberal, but, well, there they are, elected, a known quantity, always asking to nationalize the railroads. Of course, their brother-in-law is the chief steel-supplier of the country, so there could be something up here, but, whatever, they are part of the landscape. Then over here, you have, say the Kindness and Light Party. These are dithering Greens and hippies and pot-smokers, but they have also cleaned up industrial pollution by getting factories to stop dumping waste, and well, they mean well, and young people vote for them. And here, we have, oh dear, the Republican Party of Perfection. You would think they’d realize that people would laugh with a name like that, but they are the owners of the main banks and real estate agencies and well, they buy the votes. So, here we all are. Far from perfect, but, it’s home, and, knowing that we will never convince the commies to back off on that May 1 thing, and never convince the Liberals to stop plumping for the railraods, we try to compromise, we try to make deals, work on elements we have in common. We don’t stand, pontificating and filibustering day and night, saying “We’ve told the Commies day in and day out now for a year: no more work shirking. No more holidays! And they won’t stop! Are they unreasonable?!”. Etc.

    So why can’t it be like that on game and world forums? Why can’t it be known that, oh, there’s that guy who is in this party or that coalition or this school, and a known quantity, and that gal with this set of issues etc. and you *debate* and you clash the ideas around and see if you can get any coherence or find something in common. If you don’t, you don’t, and you go home. You don’t fall into a faint or a hysteria that you didn’t convert the other person.

    How can it be both ways, Prok? If you get to have (and sell and trade, etc.) your property in SL, and if the right to property is an intrinsic part of commerce and freedom and all that is good… why can’t the owners of SL do whatever the f’ they want with it, because it’s their property?

    Who can stop them, Andy? Who can stop them? They have the rental deal with 365 Main, not me. And they will pull the plug on me whenever they feel like it.

    However, instead of adding one more literalist and stupid rant about how the company owns the servers and it’s their game andyoucanleaveifyouwanttoandtheresthedoor, which is just silly to keep hammering, because nobody is persuaded about it, TRY to hear what I’m saying about this:

    o When you code a world, you are inviting co-creators, prosumers, consumers who continue the job of making the world *with you*
    o When you do that, their co-created content becomes a different kind of property than just a mere widget; it is a co-created thing
    o IN order to persuade people to stay and bother with you, you as a coder have to cede some of that property. This is what Linden did — in a revolutionary fashion. Many want to claw that back now; heck, the Lindens themselves claw back at it. But it stands as a revolutionary achievement: granting users the iP to their content
    o Duh, we realize that IP that sits inside a game-god’s proprietary code on servers they can flick you off of is about as much “yours” as “my locker at the train station”. I can’t “take it out with me” and if I stop paying the fee, they will dump my stuff. Still, it’s mine. I have the combination. While I pay, they leave my stuff there, etc.

    I mean, come on. Can’t we think a little bit out of the box here?

    So the attitude toward us, the co-creators, who in fact are service providers, too, like subsidiaries, has to be different. There has to be more a treatment of us as equals. After all, our work, our presence, helps make the revenue for the company. And our profit after expenses, which often has to include a lot of sweat equity, and a lot of unscheduled down time for which we aren’t compensated, isn’t as much as theirs.

    I sort of despair of people in games of ever getting this chief difference of worlds: in games, the game designer has a kind of co-creator, in that the people play the game, go through the hoops, and achieve a kind of satisfaction for the designer that it worked as planned, and the player has fun. But what this god gets is a fan, not a co-creator. He doesn’t get a person with a free will. Surely a game god could understand a little bit the story of the real-life God who wishes to have company and has to have man have free will, or it’s just a simulated toy, not real.

  100. I mean, come on. Can’t we think a little bit out of the box here?

    Outside the box? I’ve read more text by and about Prokofy Neva this week than is legal in the state of South Carolina. What I’ve picked up is that you label everyone, then you hate them, then you disagree with the point of view that you assigned to the label. Maybe I have the order wrong. Reminds me of when people online will have trouble talking to me if I don’t give out my a/s/l. You box up everyone in sight.

    I guess that your problem with Jane is that you think she’s on an ego trip to suggest that games might “fix reality”. I actually agree with her statement that virtual worlds could cause major change across the world. Isn’t that part of the original Second Life Mythology? That some person in some far away corner of the globe could design a virtual thingie and make a lot of money? Note that Jane did not say that this would happen, just that it could happen.

    I sort of despair of people in games of ever getting this chief difference of worlds

    Eh, from what I can see, virtual worlds are either games or chat tools. Second Life seems to me to be the former: It’s a game world. You try and figure out how to create something to sell and how best to sell it. If you don’t play that game as a content creator then you are here as a content consumer, clearly an important part of the content creation game. Oh, it could be used to have business meeting, but I would bet anything more deals are closed in World of Warcraft (aka “the new golf”). Second Life became a gameworld when they added the Linden dollars. If you want to call Second Life a “Social World” because the rules are vague and many people are there just to chat, fine. I really don’t think it’s an important label either way.

    So, Prokofy Neva, are you saying that virtual worlds lack power? Are you saying that Second Life hasn’t changed your life? Are you saying that Second Life hasn’t changed your life for the better? If you agree that virtual worlds have power, don’t you think we should at least consider using that power for good? If you choose to answer those questions, please do so with yes or no. Feel free to ignore this,it’s not a dare. Just my way of saying I know that you’re against “the man” but I’m not sure what it is that you want. I refuse to believe that under all that passion there isn’t something positive but it’s not really coming out. Sounds more like a wolf caught in a bear trap. Where is the love?

  101. Prok, I’m only going to take issue with the last few lines of that, cause I actually agree with much of the rest of what you’ve said…

    In something like SL you are quite correct in that you’re inviting in co-creators. In something like WoW, that’s an absolute lie. Nothing that you do in WoW can even remotely be considered an act of creation. You can create *around* stuff in WoW, but you can’t actually create *within* the system that they’ve provide. The only things that a player actually does in WoW that can even remotely be considered to really belong to that player are intangibles. You’re not storing your “stuff” when you log out of WoW, because you don’t have any stuff, the only things that belong to you there at all are the stories you can tell about what happened, and those are inherently personal and not at all attached to bits of code and art that the characters or items are made of.

    RMT is only acceptable under those circumstances if Blizzard specifically decides that it wishes to allow it, and that’d be rather magnanimous of them since the players really have absolutely no claim to it. You can argue all you want that things shouldn’t be that way, but I do have to ask *why* you think they shouldn’t be that way. That they’re socialistic or totalitarian isn’t at all accurate, there’s no co-creation, so there’s no co-ownership meaning that the reason you can’t RMT is specifically because you don’t own the property you’re trying to sell, and it doesn’t fall into totalitarianism because it never actually steps out of it’s circle. They’re private spaces, so they have enforced rules and strictures on behavior, just like any other private place. This is perfectly fine. You’re paying to access Blizzard’s club, but it’s still Blizzard’s, they own the building and everything in it. Thus they get to set the rules. You can’t go into a restaurant and act out, or take the tables and chairs to resell. It’d get you kicked out and/or arrested. A game like WoW is no different than that. WoW and SL can co-exist no problem too. Not everyone actually wants to create, some people just want to enjoy a good meal.

    And you really shouldn’t be so concerned as to whether the game “god” is content with simply having fans or wanting company. That’s not your choice to make for them.

  102. It’s okay, Prokofy. I managed to get through half a paragraph before I had to reply with some consolation. *pats* I’ll read through the rest of your three page post now.

  103. Me>Oh great. Because I don’t love your imaginary friend, that makes me evil?

    Looking back, I think I was perhaps being unnecessarily insensitive here (especially given that when I posted it it was still Good Friday in the USA). Strike “imaginary friend” and replace with “deity”. Sorry.

    Richard

  104. Games cannot “fix” reality. They are broken themselves. Ask Lum.

    You didn’t read the Broken Toys essay, did you?

    I don’t see how I can be construed as “Twitterati” not even being in any kind of statistcal group.

    I didn’t read his original post, but the part you actually cited was this rather patient explanation of why you’re NOT one of the Twitterati. Or I completely misread Andy and completely missed his vicious riposte. In which case, *turns to Andy*, very subtle. I’m impressed.

    if you have an opinion about how you want things, and you have a critique of how the other person wants things, that doesn’t mean you want to take away that person’s thing, and their way of seeing it.

    Oh, so you were only planning on complaining about it. Then we’re cool; you do nothing, and those magical game gods will continue building Stalingrad and we’ll ask Lessig to archive your monthly rants for the history holograms two hundred years later.

    If you don’t, you don’t, and you go home. You don’t fall into a faint or a hysteria that you didn’t convert the other person.

    So, um, how’s home? Or does this proper forumtiquette not apply on blogs?

    I mean, come on. Can’t we think a little bit out of the box here?

    Wasn’t this all covered 4 years ago? What’s supposed to happen now? Everyone goes, “Behold! Second Life is a big success!! Let’s copy it!”? “There is RMT in WoW! Obviously, we don’t really own anything, not our digimon, our digiheroes, or our digivolutions; so let’s just shut it down, like that game god supreme wants to do to us”? Headline tomorrow, “Sony sets XP to USD exchange rate! Buy level 50s now!” (Following day news: “Done by Achaea over 5 years ago! Kinda.”)

    I guess the meaningful question is: what is the intellectual property the players should own? Why should one player own it, rather than another? And if both, what is the legal entity they form in order to share ownership?

    Surely a game god could understand a little bit the story of the real-life God who wishes to have company and has to have man have free will, or it’s just a simulated toy, not real.

    Hell is considered by some theologians to be the separation from and absence of God. In that sense, I think the game gods have it figured it out: ban. Follow the rules, or get banned. The main difference being that the game gods aren’t waiting for you to murder millions of people before they ban you. They just set up arbitrary rules, like “No RMT” or “Pi = 3.14159…” or “You shall have no other gods before me”, and if you’re not cool with that, then you get a slow roast in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles (to plagiarize Ebert), or whatever the hellfashion is these days.

    *pauses* I’m sorry. What were you saying?

  105. To look at an example of how virtual technology (games and VR) changes things, take a look at the announcements such as “agencies say terrorists are using virtual worlds” and “IBM and Forterra announce new products for unified communications (UC) behind the firewall”.

    I don’t know if I take either real seriously, but scares and affairs drive funding and money really does change the real world. For all the pontificating here on the kareoke psych of virtuality, those are examples of real changes in the real world. In other words, pick any illusion or delusion, and if it hits a psych sweet spot or soft spot, the mammals react. The reaction is proof of the coupling and that is all you have to prove.

    Perhaps the good news about RMT is the terrorists can buy their victories instead of killing people for it. Now if we can just convince the third world to starve in the virtual world, we’ll be on our way to that happy place McGonigal talks about.

  106. Prokofy: I sort of despair of people in games of ever getting this chief difference of worlds: in games, the game designer has a kind of co-creator, in that the people play the game, go through the hoops, and achieve a kind of satisfaction for the designer that it worked as planned, and the player has fun. But what this god gets is a fan, not a co-creator.

    That really depends. In Regenensis you became a real co-creator after playing the game (quests). Bascially the rule was as followed “You prove your interest in our world by solving 3/4 of the quest and after that you get to write your own”. Many MUDs were based on similar principles. Now, you can’t expect Capitalists to go for this. Only socialists would go for something like this. Now, what was wrong with socialism again?

  107. “Just as journalists are supposed to have a code of ethics, perhaps designers of virtual worlds need the same. Is there a BAR association of sorts for MMO designers on the horizon? How do we ensure that a highly addictive medium, such as MMO games is not used as a means to influence millions into real world change? Should we even worry about this? How do we avoid another Waco or another Hitler? Can this even happen through MMOs? Does that change when virtual world inhabitants number in the 10s of millions? 100s of millions?”

    Yes lol, because everyone who played Space Invaders grew up to… I don’t even know, something that involves blowing stuff up.

    You’re missing my point here. I don’t believe that chess or space invaders has any sort of influence over the people that play it but an MMO is different because the issues it raises are much closer to the realities we live in. It’s at those intersections where that influence a designer holds over the player base becomes important. Most people know killing is wrong and it’s a huge leap for a game to convince them otherwise. However, there is no right or wrong in economic policy be it in the real world or the virtual world. It’s far more plausible for a player to believe that SL or WoW has economics figured out as far as their knowledge allows them to understand. In that case, when it comes time to read about a candidate for real life government then their experience with economics in a virtual world can and will influence their beliefs on the way it should be, thus influencing their vote. That’s the power I’m talking about. Up until recently, MMOs haven’t been mass market enough for anyone to care and any messages the designers were/are sending to the player base is merely coincidental. Jane, in her paper is calling for these messages to become purposeful and not merely coincidental. It’s very much akin to the CEO of the New York Times telling his journalists to use their influence to help decide the outcome of something. It’s very much like Rush Limbaugh and his Operation Chaos messing around with the Democratic Primary process. I’m not convinced game designers should be sending these messages either. Journalists walk a very fine line with respect to objectivity because they are scrutinized in that light all the time. If we act like Jane wants us to then we will fall under the same politically biased scrutiny that other medias are burdened with. The designer of Chess and the designer of Space Invaders certainly were not burdened with these responsibilities.

  108. I should say Jane’s GDC rant…. I read it on her blog so it comes off like a paper….. My bad.

  109. Journalists walk a very fine line with respect to objectivity because they are scrutinized in that light all the time. If we act like Jane wants us to then we will fall under the same politically biased scrutiny that other medias are burdened with. The designer of Chess and the designer of Space Invaders certainly were not burdened with these responsibilities.

    A journalists job / purpose is independant of the medium they choose to operate in. If it’s words, they share the same medium as the novelist, technical writer and some activists. I agree that if a game designer uses this medium to send an activist’s message, then scrunity is natural and healthy. Certainly a single player game can also be used as a tool by activists. Game designers are joined in the fact that we happen to work in this medium and that’s about it. Our purposes for working in this medium are as varied as those people who choose the written word as thier medium. This is totally different from journalists. Thus your critism only applies to a very small percentage of game designers. For those designers, the activist would be a far more appropriate comparison than the journalist.

  110. No, I think Derek is right here. First off, when someone writes for a large publication, the editor decides if and where it goes. If you follow, or don’t, the obvious tendencies of your editor, you can either be on the front page (and make career moves), or in the back (and not make career moves) , or even not at all (in which case you have no career). So a journalists job is most definitely not independent of bias for the vast majority.

    And so, if you include this kind of bias in game making, the same thing will result.

  111. Derek, bah. Game designers have absolutely no reason to be unbiased, so that’s simply not true. Journalists, reporters, and talk show hosts, all function under the listener’s assumption that they’re telling the truth. These are ways to get *news* and news should be as unbiased as possible. Games are more akin to movies or books or other forms of entertainment media than they are to news reporting. I think you’d be hard pressed to make the argument you’re making about books or films that have distinct political biases. And there have been plenty of novels and films that have changed people’s opinions on things, that were slanted towards one way or the other, that had strong political messages (biased in one direction or the other), and no one yells at them for having a message, it’s almost expected in the stuff we elevate above popcorn flick or schlock novel into the category of “art”. Why do games get lumped with journalistic integrity, but every other form of entertainment media gets a pass on (and is actually *expected* to have) bias?

    Furthermore, anyone who thinks that game economies are even remotely applicable in the real world need better education on the topic. Game designers shouldn’t be punished because people don’t know enough about economics to realize that because there aren’t any limited resources in these game worlds that the economic situations are not at all mappable to the real world. Supply and demand doesn’t work quite right in SL or WoW; you can make an infinitely large amount of items with no real effort in the first case so supply is never an issue, and there’s no real struggle over resources in the latter, since the well never runs dry. WoW uses a faucet/sink economy that has no real world equivalent, we redistribute wealth in the real world from a finite set of resources, WoW creates and destroys it at will. That being said, some parts of the economic systems do port over, but not enough of them that anyone should be drawing any assumptions about real world economies from them without really understanding how the real world economy functions first. They only really work as methods of comparison, not as analogs that actually have inherent value in the real world. You *can* learn from them, but only in context of how they differ and why.

    Furthermore, attempting to create a game with a relatively realistic resource (and thus economic) system probably would end poorly in terms of growth and retention. The real world models absolutely suck for allowing new people to enter the system and you *need* new people coming in. It would make a great teaching tool perhaps, but it’d make a horrible *game*.

  112. Amaranthar, yes, but that’s a flaw in the current media system, not something that’s inherently supposed to be there. Editors are supposed to be objective and unbiased in the same way that their reporters are supposed to be objective and unbiased. They’re supposed to report the news, supposed to uncover the truth, they’re not supposed to promote bias. That we so often *do* have slanted reporting isn’t the way it’s *supposed* to be. Arguing that one system that is the same as another system because the first system is broken in ways that make it have similarities is… well… a little silly, especially since the brokenness is the *only* thing that allows it to have similarities.

    Game designers however, have never been, and never should be, held to the objective reporting standards. They’re making statements, not reporting news. There’s nothing factual being implied about the messages being given, they’re simply messages. They may or may not be true, the viewer may or may not agree with them, but they’re still just statements and messages that the designers happen to believe in.

  113. Eolirin: Why do games get lumped with journalistic integrity, but every other form of entertainment media gets a pass on (and is actually *expected* to have) bias?

    Because they are viewed as efficient devices for brainwashing? Of course, such thinking should then also be applied to religions… but that can’t be right? So yes, I agree with you, for now.

    News are different because their role is to correct the government, but they are often used by the government to sway the masses in their own direction. Hence the need for integrity. It is essential for having a sane democracy.

    Games aren’t essential to democracy, though maybe one should forbid governments from using them to sway youths into joining the army based on war-romantic game play… There’s something tacky about that. I don’t want my kid to swallow the message “Join the army and die a heros death in Iraq, for real…”.

  114. Eolirin, sure, but what things are supposed to be and how they are are very often different.

    You’re right that “they’re still just statements and messages that the designers happen to believe in.” But the danger can be, I said “can be”, that people are so inundated with one view point that they are not aware of another, or toss other out of hand. Age is important in molding, as Hitler knew, and modern day religious extremists know. But it’s easy to fall into that pitfall that something will only be used for good, when first of all you (speaking generalities here) may not be omnipotent enough to know what’s truly good and right, and also when people with a different opinion decide they can use this too (two different problems).

  115. @Richard: Seriously… no offense taken. I have the usual problems of being a really liberal Christian; defending my religion to my liberal, atheist friends, and defending my liberalism to my more conservative Christian friends. “Imaginary” as applied to God is mild compared to lots of what I’ve sat through.

    OK. Let’s leave God out of this. I can do it without God, and that way you don’t have to back up against the (to me) fact that it’s His rules (gravity, momentum, good/evil) making the universe run, and its just the rules.

    First off… people getting killed in floods, accidents, earthquakes, by cancer, old age, etc. is not what we’re talking about, is it? If you’d like, I can go over this one, but I have a vague sense you’re being ironic. Hard to tell in text some days. The minute we’re born, there is a 100% chance that something will kill us. That doesn’t make the universe our murderer… we’re talking about actions, not effects.

    So… I guess it would help to start off by saying that I don’t believe any person is inherently evil or good. The concept of “original sin” means exactly that (though I’m not Catholic, and don’t ascribe anything to Adam or Eve). It means that it is not possible for humans to act consistently in a manner that is good. We will all do evil. On a pretty regular basis. Many of us (hopefully) in many small ways, as opposed to great, world-shaking, can-we-please-stop-invoking-Hitler ways. When you see that there’s one piece of cake, and you take it without asking if anybody else would like it, or at least split it, you’re being evil. Tiny little evil… but still.

    Or course intent will sometimes, maybe often, figure into a question of whether an act is good or evil. My point, though, is that it doesn’t *always* figure in. There are lots of cultural and historic things that need to be examined, clearly. But the question, at its heart, is this: can a person commit an evil act while thinking they’re being at least neutral, or maybe even doing a good thing? I would say, “Yes,” because I clearly believe that the basic definition of evil is valuing self-interest over the interest of others. So if you think you’re doing a good deed (your destructive medical genius), but are grossly out-of-step with reality because you believe your POV or brains or power is more important than that of anyone else… you’re doing an evil thing.

    If not… all falls into relativism. Very few people believe, themselves, that when they do is evil, eh? Back to Adolph and Joseph and Pol and the pantheon of 20th century mass murderers; didn’t they think what they were doing was right? In almost every case, their intentions were, based on their definitions, good. We, from our perspective, say, “Dude. You can’t kill a couple million people because of XYZ and justify it.”

    Well, if that’s the case, than any act can justified and/or questioned in retrospect. What I see is that those acts built on a foundation of “my life/interests are more important than those of others” are what leads us to the most ruin.

    So, yes. The same act could be seen as evil or good, if you can look at it and say, “In Case A, the subject was acting with his own interests at heart,” and “In Case B, he was being selfless.” If I give away half my income because I want to evade taxes or court a soft-hearted woman, vs. doing it to help people… yeah.

    And if that’s what you mean by intention, then sure. If your intention is to do more for yourself than for another, it’s evil. That works intention into it, I guess. But there is no case that I can think of (besides getting into some squirelly ‘he wanted to die’ scenarios) where killing someone counts as taking their importance over yours.

    In fact, the only moral codes that don’t disappear under relativism is one where you at least *try* to take the other guy into consideration before acting. That have rules based, to some degree, on the value of “other” over-and-above the value of outcome. We don’t, for example, euthanize very sick or very old or very needy people just because it would be cheaper and better for the majority if we did so. You could easily make a kind of mathematical argument that the money spent on prolonging the lives of the very old would be much better spent on improving the lives of the very young.

    But good and evil aren’t math. One act of evil can undo many years of good, and vice versa. One lie between friends or spouses can destroy decades of trust. One murder can lead to vendetta that spans generations, and one act of selfless forgiveness can end it.

  116. And so, if you include this kind of bias in game making, the same thing will result.

    I’ve heard game design compared to many things but comparing it to journalism is just wrong. Take the example of a fantasy MMO – A designer may choose to embed a theme in the narative or work with a metaphore to say something about the human condition. That’s what a novelist does, not a journalist.

    Take the example of an overt attempt to create a serious game about oil dependance designed to warn us of impending doom or whatever. Their responsibility to the truth is the same as it is for Green Peace – not the New York Times. They are not journalists, they are activists.

    It’s totally ok to be biased. In fact I think thier creations would be entirly devoid of artistic integrity and passion if they weren’t biased.

  117. Gene said:

    I’ve heard game design compared to many things but comparing it to journalism is just wrong. Take the example of a fantasy MMO – A designer may choose to embed a theme in the narative or work with a metaphore to say something about the human condition. That’s what a novelist does, not a journalist.

    Ahh, but we are moving towards, or talking about at any rate, new ground here. The possibility of publishing ideals for public consumption. So, really, it reminds me of all forms of media. Movies, network news, magazines, music, newspapers. Call it the “entertainment section”.

    It’s totally ok to be biased. In fact I think thier creations would be entirly devoid of artistic integrity and passion if they weren’t biased.

    I can see this. But on the other hand, bias ignores the truth for the sake of one side of things, if in fact they differ. So I don’t think bias is ok. But I do accept that it’s part of human nature, and probably does add to artistic things at times.

  118. you label everyone, then you hate them, then you disagree with the point of view that you assigned to the label.

    Uh, well, no. But… You *are* describing what Richard Bartle did when he came to Second Life to speak for metanomics.net 2 weeks ago. First, he posited a vision of the land market of SL that isn’t even true (he made it sound like the ordinary person can’t get land directly from the company, as it is bought up by evil rich land barons who then resell it at inflated prices). Next, he said SL shouldn’t be run like this, even though he had a false notion of it, but there shouldn’t be *any land market at all* and he said basically that it should be rolled out like toilet paper and priced per meter at a stock amount, and that if you didn’t believe in that, you were a hypercapitalist, and you didn’t care about creativity, or the freedom of the individual — land markets of course kill those things.

    Next, if you blinked and said, but hey, that sounds like socialism, you’re a socialist with those sorts of ideas, and furthermore, your game design overall is pretty socialist with this anti-RMT stuff, you were accused of labelling, hating, setting up straw men falsely, arguing with those straw men blah de blah.

    Gosh, you game kiddies really fight dirty.

  119. As I said, you game kids fight dirty.

    Richard Bartle’s method of fighting seems particularly nasty precisely because it is cunning and subtle — don’t answer, stall, use the passive/aggressive method, etc. for months and months and now weeks — But…we’re all here on the Internet lol. So…if you answer somebody else, I still see it.

    This whole “Richard Bartle is a Marxist” thing, for example, comes from a recent interview I gave in Second Life. In answering a fairly nuanced point about how stifling commerce is always bad, I said that there are two views of value: exchange-value and use-value. Stifling commerce is only bad if you adopt just the exchange-value perspective. Sometimes, though, things have a different kind of value that money can’t capture. Up until this point, all was apparently well, but then I made the mistake of excusing the fact that the distinction is one made by Marxist economic theory. You can read the paper where I first came across the idea here if you like. It doesn’t endorse Marxism, it just takes a couple of its terms that happen to be useful.

    However, my having mentioned Marx in passing seems to have acted as some kind of catalyst. Coupled with a conclusion she reached some time ago that I’m anti-American, Prok proceeded to construct a model of me that intersects with reality only occasionally. Could I take it apart, bit by bit, and demolish it? Yes, of course, but I’d only be doing that for your benefit, not for Prok’s. Prok would only take my assertions as lies, feeding further into her belief that I have some secret agenda. I would then get a whole new batch of wild assertions I’d have to counter, plus she’d still believe the earlier ones. This has happened so many times before, to so many people, that I regard it as wise to operate on the assumption that it would happen again.

    Actually, this isn’t at all where it came from. And it wasn’t some sudden outburst or catalyst but was already a conversation over time on TN. Oh well. Assuming that it does come from this text is exemplary of the whole arrogant game-god mindset here — that users are stupid, that they are incapable of reading game-god’s ideologies in all their writings and comments everywhere, and assess them only by some chance paragraph in some blog once — and erroneously, at that.

    But…all my commentary doesn’t at all come from any literal writing that mentions “Marx” or “exchange-value”. My, that’s literalist. My, that is *so* tekkie! It’s not that at all. I don’t think I even clicked through and even read that paper! That passing reference to Marx was, duh, accepted fully and honestly as merely what it was: a passing reference.

    No, I’m referring to many other posts at TN, taken as a whole, and then, specifically, to the entire speech in SL, and not at all just that part. And particularly, the entire thrust of the posts of TN, which is: RMT is evil, it must be kept out, it ruins the games, why, games are about having us all enter clean and innocent and equal and not having nasty grubby capitalists set us apart (that’s how it sounds in spirit; those aren’t the words used, of course). So that we can quest and skill and kill in harmony together, forever and ever, amen.

    And where it really clinches, what made me write my Bartle the Scrivener post, was the comments on the land market — which were merely a logical conclusion ensuing from that sort of world-view that thinks we should all be clean and pure and holy at the start of a game, and not be muddied and sullied and placed into original sin or mortal sin by evil commerce.

    Go read the metanomics.net speech of Bartle’s, read my posts there, and get it — or don’t. But you don’t have to mention Marx, refer Marx, or explicate Marx to have your theory labelled as socialist if…you say 100 other things that are socialist, and if you are for castigating a land market, and urging that it be removed. And trust me, this isn’t about some little business of mine or some little grubby profit motive of mine — it’s about the whole system of Second Life.

    From my point of view, it’s better to let Prok rant on unchallenged, because eventually she runs out of material and ends up having circular arguments with herself. Plus, because so many people who have come across her over the years regard her as completely batty, the wilder the things she says about me the better I look.

    I’m not “batty” and there aren’t “so many people” who believe that. There’s a handful of 30- or 40-something males who just don’t like being criticized on their blogs lol.

    I think it was better on Lum’s crazy blog, where at least he started to edit out the ad hominem attacks accusing me of being “batshit” and “a crazy cat lady” for my views. Here, the moderator bows to the pressure of another game-god (Jane) to bang on me in an EDIT, and then let’s this famous game-god master wizard make a high-profile insult with impunity. Oh, well, like I said, you game kids fight dirty!

    The tragedy is, hidden in among the specious accusations and mocking remarks, there is often a genuinely interesting point. This whole thread of Raph’s comes from his identification of such a point. If she weren’t so ready to read any perceived disagreement with her as a personal insult, to believe that anything she says is true until proven otherwise, and to rail against silent conspiracies that exist only in her mind, she could be a very well respected and influential figure. She’s her own worst enemy.

    Richard, this is just the tribe — with you picking up Piggy’s broken glasses and trying to catch the sun’s rays in them now — trying to bring about conformity.

    My accusations are criticisms not accusations; they can become accusations if you pretend or hide or lie about your actual views, and don’t take the consequences of them.

    I don’t perceive disagreements as personal insults. Apparently, you do. And then you make them, against other people. That’s why you can mount a high-profile insult like this with a sense of impunity, to the effect that I’m a crazy cat lady that many people supposedly believe is batshit crazy. I don’t even like cats. I am not crazy. I’m just critical, and rightfully so. I’m also just not culturally or demographically part of your tribe. I’m different. So are a lot of other people.

    Furthermore, there’s a curious concept here that I really find horrific, and always have, coming from many of you in this tribe: that I can’t have my opinion, that I can’t believe it’s true, that I can’t forcefully stand up for it, because to do so is to engage in some sort of heinous crime against Science, namely “anything she says is true until proven otherwise”.
    But…you believe anything you yourself say is proven true, until someone proves it otherwise. You don’t even believe your views are socialist! You don’t accept any proof! You think no one has proven it, and you have a fact! Science!

    My saying “Something I believe is a fact until proven otherwise” is merely a report on the way all of you behave, and a concession to the way just about everyone is. And yet it is put forth as some form of howling ridicule. As if *you* believe, it works like this: “Something I believe is true isn’t really true in any real sense, because at any moment, someone may come along and pressure me into believing something else, by presenting persuasive facts.” Or “Something I believe is true is always relative, because someone bigger and smarter could come along and push me into thinking something else.” Or “Something I believe is true to the best of my ability isn’t a fact, because there is objective truth out there that I can’t access, but someone else might and enlighten me.” You’re simply doubt more in yourself than I do if you say that, and simply play a gentleman’s game of pretending you are more humble than you are. You certainly believe it’s true that a land market harms individual freedom and creativity! And if I try to explain you’re wrong, that’s socialist thinking, you sure think I not only don’t have any objective truth, I’m batshit crazy!

    As for “silent conspiracies that exist in my own mind,” huh? Where have I mentioned any silent conspiracies? I don’t have to. These things are open agendas, openly expressed. They aren’t silent. They are said at game conferences where the powerpoints are put up on the Internet. They are said in speeches anyone can watch or read. Nowadays, you’d be hard-put to post a conspiracy about anything anywhere, much less that it’s silent, because all the influencers are on Twitter anyway, and if not there, on a blog somewhere. So this is some sort of…artifact.

    she could be a very well respected and influential figure. She’s her own worst enemy.

    Here’s one of the particularly dirty methods of this fight. It’s to say, “The parts of what you say that I don’t agree with can’t stand. Instead, I will discredit you by saying you are crazy, and, I will hold out the carrot of possible acceptance into my special high-level tribe by indicating that if only you ‘came around,’ if only you ‘exercised some restraint and self-control’, why, you, too, could be a guest speaker on Terra Nova’ (ROFL). Ah, yes, the patriarchal and patronizing sigh. She could have been one of us — such promise! such brilliance! — but alas, never to be, and it’s all her own fault.”

    To all of this, I can only say: hmm, the stakes have gotten high here, higher than I have realized for those trying to engage in debate by ganking, and I can only say: no, I can’t change what I think, what I believe to be true, and what I see as self-evident: that the games industry has too much power over us all, over culture, over the country *all ready*; that it aspires to even more, and yet without accountability; that it will stop at nothing to get it, discrediting normal criticism; that it uses a strange amalgam for its ideology — socialism for the people, capitalism for the company, to ensure that ordinary users cannot enjoy the fruits and rights of capitalism, and so that companies cannot be restrained by the justice and conscience of socialism. Hey, neat trick!

    I realise that saying this will give her flames more oxygen to flare up from, for which I apologise. On balance, though, I thought I ought to explain why her words draw no response from me, so you don’t get attacked as a Bartle-by-proxy

    Sigh. I think I’m in a dark, twisty passage.

  120. Eolirin, you apparently aren’t aware of the existence of theories differing than your own, even among ludologists and gamers.

    In something like SL you are quite correct in that you’re inviting in co-creators. In something like WoW, that’s an absolute lie. Nothing that you do in WoW can even remotely be considered an act of creation.

    Um, ok. Uh, an “absolute lie” then is defined as “what I think” ROFL. I’m not the only one who thinks that players’ game play is itself a kind of user-generated content. There are many, many MANY facets of games that are a kind of unexpected by-product, even. I mean, something like this is content created by gamers, even cross-game content.

    I think you must understand co-creation and content very narrowly as custom-made content. But to me, relationships, the social graph or the inventory graph or the quest select graph, these are all forms of user-generated content. Aren’t they? I’ve always referred to them as “non-inventoriable content”. I made up that term. I just assumed there are people out there that have discovered/written papers about this. Aren’t there?

    You can create *around* stuff in WoW, but you can’t actually create *within* the system that they’ve provide. The only things that a player actually does in WoW that can even remotely be considered to really belong to that player are intangibles. You’re not storing your “stuff” when you log out of WoW, because you don’t have any stuff, the only things that belong to you there at all are the stories you can tell about what happened, and those are inherently personal and not at all attached to bits of code and art that the characters or items are made of.

    Well, if you are going to say anything about WoW or SL is “user generated property,” you could say about ALL of it that it isn’t yours because it depends on the game-god servers, etc. But…that’s just why we’re all here talking about avatar rights, socialism, and capitalism. Why we can’t be expected forever just to become foot-soldiers in the game-gods’ quest games and only have our war stories as “our own”. That’s just too sad. The groups, the ideas, the names of guilds, the quest action and dialogue — these are generated by code but aren’t “coded” but they are still content, and still user-generated.

    I didn’t think the argument about socialism for the people, capitalism for the game-gods would also have to have a really deep knock-down drag-out argument about the nature of property, because I thought we had all gotten past that about 2 years ago, and certainly by the time Eric Bethke put up his various papers, that our inventory, our selections, our friends’ lists, etc. are our stuff. Ours. Property. Stuff that due process should apply to.

    RMT is only acceptable under those circumstances if Blizzard specifically decides that it wishes to allow it, and that’d be rather magnanimous of them since the players really have absolutely no claim to it. You can argue all you want that things shouldn’t be that way, but I do have to ask *why* you think they shouldn’t be that way.

    It’s too bad I have to explain *again* that I’ve never said they “shouldn’t be that way”. Why would I say something that silly? I merely comment that WHEN people like Richard say this, or people like you become frenetic about protecting it in an orthodox way (no content for you! I don’t care if you think it’s content!), they seem to be clinging to some socialist ideology that they’ve gotten from utopian ideas promulgated in schools, universities, the Internet — somewhere. Not sure. I’ve commented that as games get more powerful and people use them for social policy, that this unexamined, unquestioned socialism has to go, cuz it’s for the birds. Game gods don’t want it for their own company for real life — why would I want it for me, either lol? I mean, socialism-for-the-people/capitalism-for-the-game-gods is a pretty lousy deal!

    If it just stayed in WoW or Richard Bartle’s pencil, who could care? But it doesn’t. It spreads out to Ed Castronova making a manifesto for the Metaverse at a ludology conference in which game creators are given freedom of expression, but users are told to put their aspirations off for freedom to the bright and distant future. It spreads out to Bartle coming over to SL and dumping on the land market and saying it shouldn’t be that way, and worse, that if you think it should be, you don’t care for individual freedom and creativity — and worse! — he says that at a time when people trying to influence who is selected as the next CEO of Linden Lab actively, openly call for the next CEO to shut down the internal economy and *follow Richard’s prescription*.

    That they’re socialistic or totalitarian isn’t at all accurate, there’s no co-creation, so there’s no co-ownership meaning that the reason you can’t RMT is specifically because you don’t own the property you’re trying to sell, and it doesn’t fall into totalitarianism because it never actually steps out of it’s circle. They’re private spaces, so they have enforced rules and strictures on behavior, just like any other private place. This is perfectly fine. You’re paying to access Blizzard’s club, but it’s still Blizzard’s, they own the building and everything in it. Thus they get to set the rules.

    Blah blah blah. Like…we haven’t heard this argument a billion times in the last five years on the Second Life forums? (one of the byproducts of studying this and Lum’s thread is that sense of weariness — all of us who left games and went to Second Life to work out actual real-life economic prototypes and issues through actual virtual world co-creation had to sit through all these arguments over and over long ago, and gradually see people drop their insane and unhinged objections to commerce coming into the sacred groves of Lindenor).

    The World of World of Warcraft is a brutal world, probably preceding even Soviet communism or medieval apprenticeship in its cultural mores, it’s more like the Tatars on the steppes or Sparta. It seems you are unwilling to contemplate the by-product, if you will, of the world that WoW makes when it makes a MMORPG, and are literally fastened on discussing just the outward shell of the formation of the company in U.S. law as a corporation, within a capitalist system.

    But…here’s the problem. I don’t agree with your literalist assessment anymore. I wish it were only just a literal assessment and I was merely fearfully exaggerating. But…I’m not. Games DO step out of their circle nowadays! Jane makes them! Jane says they can Fix Reality! Bartle makes them! Richard says they can and should influence people to make a Better World! Raph more than any of them says so, because he wants people to make better games to make better people, and then those better people might do better things! And so on. So to keep devolving back to a very literalist construction on all this and patiently explaining, as if to the mentally slow, that WoW is a profit-making compay in a free country; that Richard did not join the Young People’s Socialist League; that Raph just likes the parks to be more aesthetic — well, we all realize we are way beyond all that now.

    >You can’t go into a restaurant and act out, or take the tables and chairs to resell. It’d get you kicked out and/or arrested. A game like WoW is no different than that. WoW and SL can co-exist no problem too. Not everyone actually wants to create, some people just want to enjoy a good meal.

    When my neighbourhood restaurant owner comes and tells me that he will operate on my children’s reptilian instincts, when my restaurant owner will tell me that he is an expert on happiness and will fix my reality, when my restaurant owner tells me that my business should be destroyed, when my restaurant owner tells me that there shouldn’t even be any online business of any kind, but just games, with no RMT, when my restaurant owner tell me that I must want people to starve to death because I can’t understand that not everyone wants to be a cook and some just want to eat — well, that’s when I start complaining to the management about all the menus he’s shoving under my door. He’s not a restaurant anymore, he’s a menace.

    And you really shouldn’t be so concerned as to whether the game “god” is content with simply having fans or wanting company. That’s not your choice to make for them.

    I am in a dark and twisty passage.

  121. Every time She Who Shall Not Be Named says “socialism,” I’m reminded of Bulworth. “Yeah, yeah. You can call it single-payer or the Canadian way. Only socialized medicine will ever save the day! Come on now, lemme hear that dirty word — SOCIALISM!”

    Actually, if you imagine that She Who Shall Not Be Named is Bulworth, she’s actually funny and there’s actually context.

    “Yeah, yeah. You can call it multiplayer or the Areae way. Only democratized game development will ever save the day! Come on now, lemme hear that dirty word — METAPLACE!”

  122. *borrows Morgan’s posting style*

    Morgan Ramsay (#117) wrote, Every time She Who Shall Not Be Named says “socialism,” I’m reminded of Bulworth.

    This made me think of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulverism

    *waves magical relevance hand* Coined by C.S. Lewis!

    Amaranthar (#113) wrote, I can see this. But on the other hand, bias ignores the truth for the sake of one side of things, if in fact they differ. So I don’t think bias is ok. But I do accept that it’s part of human nature, and probably does add to artistic things at times.

    Bias is not okay, but it is also not avoidable. The best you can ever do is (1) minimize it (approach objectivity) or (2) counter it (alternative viewpoint). Journalism and science take tactic #1. Rhetoric and art take tactic #2.

  123. Richard, at your post at #88. You make mistakes in judging player psychology, tho not any different from the mistakes most designers make, either from your gaming background (i.e. muds) or from simplifications along your own journey in the path of design and comprehension.. I see it in McGonigal too.

    You do not want to believe that games can be bad for people, neither do you want to believe that the thoughts and intentions you, or anyone else designs into a game are irrelevant. Actions and statements matter, yes, and all along I have been trying to get people to understand that the purpose of a game is to provide viable choices for players to express themselves socially (which you have agreed is different from character specialization); but what the game itself says about different things doesn’t matter. I will offer one example for each of these points:

    – the ‘Kill two dwarves’ joke that trolls used to have in WoW. Now, the WoW devs obviously didn’t believe it was convincing children to use drugs, and it was only removed for political correctness; and the players would tell you that it is inconceivable that this song, or something like the peace pipes the Tauren have in Thunderbluff, could convince anyone to use drugs; but that is what people in this thread would have you believe.

    – college students who drop out because of WoW. According to you, this is good because it means they’ve ‘found themselves’ in the game, or if they have not yet…. that they soon will!

    It is my hope, Richard, and anyone else in this thread who makes such faulty and wishful assumptions about the inherent ‘goodness’ of games, that you will revise your thinking to be more in-line with reality, and instead of chasing after things you cannot have, instead concentrate on things which are possible, by examining why your model of player psychology is so simplistic and flawed. Because in doing this, you can begin to use motivations in the game systems you design which are NOT independent of player psychology and community interactions, allowing you to make better games. ;/ Because from the player’s perspective, that’s all that’s important.

    To repeat myself… Being idealistic will not save you from making crappy games. It may be offensive, but it is true.

    I could explain why everyone keeps tangenting off so much and why all these tangents are irrelevant and unimportant, but tbh I don’t think it would stop people and besides it’s amusing (well more like funny and sad and deplorable all at the same time) so I won’t.

    I didn’t think I was going to post anymore but Richard did reply to what I said and also I thought that attacking at the meta-level might have resulted in success where normal rhetoric didn’t. :​P However, as an interesting mental exercise to anyone who’s read everything up to this point:

    **try to summarize the major rhetorical points, and the conclusions reached in this thread thus far.**

    I dare you.

  124. @Morgan Ramsay, social media is a wondrous thing. When I click on your LinkedIn and read all that stuff and all those links about “defense and entertainment”, I’m reminded of that old joke about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the saying “gosh, should all those things be in one place?! Isn’t that kind of dangerous!”. I also get a glimpse into the powerful stakes at play here in trying to discredit critics.

  125. “Next, if you blinked and said, but hey, that sounds like socialism, you’re a socialist with those sorts of ideas, and furthermore, your game design overall is pretty socialist with this anti-RMT stuff, you were accused of labelling, hating, setting up straw men falsely, arguing with those straw men blah de blah. ”

    Umm, because that’s labeling, and setting up straw men arguements. So what if some guy says “Let’s to X in Second Life” and it’s copied word for word from Karl Marx’s Diary. That’s not a valid objection to it. To say “that sounds like socialism, that sounds gay, that sounds like something my mother would say” is just poor style and indicates an inability to argue logically.

    For the record, I do not self identify as a “gamer”, much less a game kid.

  126. Prokofy Neva wrote:

    I also get a glimpse into the powerful stakes at play here in trying to discredit critics.

    As long as those stakes drive away the vampires… Har har. :)

  127. I also get a glimpse into the powerful stakes at play here in trying to discredit critics.

    Prokofy, do you honestly think this remark helps deflect accusations that you’ve a persecution complex and are prone to grandiose conspiracy theories?

  128. Andy Havens>The minute we’re born, there is a 100% chance that something will kill us. That doesn’t make the universe our murderer… we’re talking about actions, not effects.

    But you said: ‘My religion (call it liberal Christianity) says, “It’s wrong to kill.” Period. No mulligans’. Now, you say: ‘there is a 100% chance that something will kill us”. You seem to be saying that there’s a 100% chance that, having been born, something will kill us, and that this something is wrong. Except, then you say it isn’t? What am I missing here?

    >So… I guess it would help to start off by saying that I don’t believe any person is inherently evil or good. The concept of “original sin” means exactly that

    The reason we got into this theological discussion was because Tolkien’s notion of orcs as inherently evil drew from his understanding of original sin. Personally, I believe people tend towards good rather than evil, but that we can get both, so I’m not going to argue too much with your characterisation of it. However, your characterisation of it is not the characterisation I was uneasy with; that was Tolkien’s, which is what we see repeated in many game worlds.

    >When you see that there’s one piece of cake, and you take it without asking if anybody else would like it, or at least split it, you’re being evil. Tiny little evil… but still.

    OK, so this means that evil isn’t binary, it’s graduated: there are different degrees of evil. Personally, I think it rather undermines the concept of evil to attribute it to petty acts of greed that don’t have any malicious intent to them; if you call that evil, then what do you call the far worse things people do?

    >Or course intent will sometimes, maybe often, figure into a question of whether an act is good or evil. My point, though, is that it doesn’t *always* figure in.

    Well, to me it does. You can’t be evil if you don’t intend to be. You can be many things, but not evil.

    >So if you think you’re doing a good deed (your destructive medical genius), but are grossly out-of-step with reality because you believe your POV or brains or power is more important than that of anyone else… you’re doing an evil thing.

    So what if the medical genius is correct, and the virus they release ends all disease and reduces much human suffering, they’re still evil? Their intent was exactly the same as in the earlier example, only this time they happened to be right.

    >If not… all falls into relativism. Very few people believe, themselves, that when they do is evil, eh?

    I agree, but “evil” is a label applied by others, not by individuals to themselves.

    >We, from our perspective, say, “Dude. You can’t kill a couple million people because of XYZ and justify it.”

    That’s right: that’s what makes them evil. If we all thought it was a great idea, would it be evil? By an absolutist definition, yes – but if everyone agrees, what’s the difference? 1,000 years ago, slave ownership wasn’t regarded as evil; was everyone born 1,000 years ago therefore evil? Will we all be regarded as evil by some absolutist definition 1,000 years from now?

    >If your intention is to do more for yourself than for another, it’s evil.

    So people who do good because it makes them feel good to do it (ie. they have a selfish reason) are actually doing evil?

    I can see why having an absolute idea of whether something is good or evil is a help in sorting this out, but you need the absolutist definition in the first place. You get yours from a deity; I have to get mine from thinking about it.

    Richard

  129. @Richard: I think we need to separate out a couple things. First, when I say, “It’s wrong to kill,” I mean it is wrong for humans to kill other humans. I personally don’t believe that animals can be good or evil, and don’t believe it is good or evil to kill animals, in the abstract. There are conditions in which, clearly, it is inhumane to kill animals, and that it is wrong to treat them badly. But if you’re killed by a random act of nature (let’s say, lightning), you haven’t been “killed” by another person. Electricity can’t be good or evil. Sorry I was unclear about that.

    I think Tolkein (and many other writers) use hyperbole to make a point. The characterization of orcs as inherently evil is a way of taking one aspect of humanity — our ability to commit evil acts — and exaggerating it. Is that a valuable/valid literary tradition? Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing and/or examination of a text. If you’re trying to show subtlety and the nuance of the human spirit… no, a race of “born evil” beings isn’t helpful. If, however, you’re trying to draw a stark contrast between the kinds of decisions/actions that represent evil, vs. those that represent good… it can be useful.

    If intent always figures into a clarification of evil, then it will only be possible for someone with pure, removed and ultimate wisdom/judgment to determine your intention. I’ll agree to the stipulation that intent figures into all issues of good/evil, if you’ll grant me the existence of a being that is all knowing and all wise and can judge whether or not you saved the world (big good) because you wanted to get fantastically laid and wealthy (evil intent) or destroyed it (big bad) out of a misplaced sense of medical know-how (good intent).

    The problem with an absolute definition of good and evil that you get from your own mind is, I think, two fold. First, it means that people who are less intelligent may be at a moral disadvantage. They may not be able to think their way to salvation (or morality, if you don’t believe in salvation). I find that unacceptable. I’m not smart enough to figure out how to get my TV remote to work with the new DVR. If my intellect is a key requirement of my moral journey, I’m gonna be stuck at step 3 of the 12 step program.

    Also, an internal definition of good vs. evil presupposes that your definition is going to be better than mine or anybody else’s. You may take others’ thoughts and ideas into consideration, certainly. And your final definition may grant me some moral value… but it will be based on your choice to do so.

    The lesson of Christ is, I think, that true morality rests in our choice to see “the other” as more important than ourselves in every case. No, that doesn’t mean being shy and meek and letting people walk all over us. Martyrdom is not for the faint of heart, eh? But it does mean that any decision needs to be made with the, “what’s in it for me?” part of the equation far back in the line.

    As to what you want to call it… sure. If it feels overbearing to call the snitching of pie, “evil,” call it “naughty.” And call drunk-driving “bad” and murder “evil.” They are, clearly, points on a line that stretches out in both directions.

    But they can all be subjected to, as you put it, a test of intent: did you do these things for your own benefit more than for that of others? Which is clearly a black-and-white issue, neh?

    As to issues of cultural/historical definitions… well, in my belief system, there will be a point at which we move into a place where time isn’t the same as it is for us now. Maybe non-linear. I don’t know. But then we’ll spend, to use Christian terminology, eternity in a place with everybody else. If you honestly thought slavery was OK, and that beating your wife was how to maintain household peace… you’ll have a chance, I think, to discus that with them for a very, very long time.

    In fact, my definition of good v. evil is based, to a large part, on the idea that we will spend eternity in the close, spiritual company of others. If we’ve been selfish and inward-focused our whole lives… that place will be deeply uncomfortable. A place where you have to be in perfect communion with all the people you’ve wronged, and where all your excuses and definitions — whether intentional or otherwise — are exposed to both you and them… that’s not a good place for slave owners, murderers, oppressors, etc. On the other hand, if you spent your life giving… that same place may be quite lovely. And I believe that a morality based on mercy (taught to me, at least, by Christ’s example) is about the only method that prepares anyone adequately for that kind of universal sharing.

    PS: By the way… while the message came from a deity, I have thought quite a lot about this, too. It makes sense to me, even though it’s pretty uncomfortable at times.

  130. “I’m not the only one who thinks that players’ game play is itself a kind of user-generated content.”

    Actually, yes you are the only one who thinks that. Taking a ride at Disneyland or playing a game of Golf gives you the rights of a consumer, not a creator. Same with WOW.

    “The World of World of Warcraft is a brutal world, probably preceding even Soviet communism or medieval apprenticeship in its cultural mores.”

    WOW is Disneyland. Blizzard owns it and if you like thier brand of entertainment (I do), you may participate for a monthly fee. They own it all, they control it all. Players own nothing. It’s a walled garden – a piece of private property. They are like martial art schools, amusement parks, gold clubs, tennis clubs, bars. If WOW is socialist, then so are all of these other walled gardens who are there to entertain for a fee. Just because some companies in the industry are experimenting with having actual cash in a virtual economy does not invalidate the games that are clearly there for entertainment.

  131. “gold clubs” – Whoops, I meant Golf Clubs. (I don’t know what a gold club is, but where do I sign up?)

  132. Andy Havens>I mean it is wrong for humans to kill other humans.

    OK, well that narrows it down a bit! Some religions (and non-religious philosophies) think it’s wrong to kill animals, too, of course, whether humanely or not.

    >I think Tolkein (and many other writers) use hyperbole to make a point.

    They may well do; that doesn’t mean I have to accept their point, though.

    >The characterization of orcs as inherently evil is a way of taking one aspect of humanity — our ability to commit evil acts — and exaggerating it.

    Well you could look on it as exaggeration, or you could look on it as carrying things through to their logical conclusion. At least Tolkien made them appear fully-formed – if he’d had baby orcs that people would have to kill because they were only going to grow up into adult orcs, that might have been an exaggeration too far.

    >If intent always figures into a clarification of evil, then it will only be possible for someone with pure, removed and ultimate wisdom/judgment to determine your intention.

    If you want 100% accuracy, yes: you need someone who can look at reality’s log files and see what you were thinking when you did what you did. Given that we humans don’t have that ability, though, we have courts to decide whether someone was doing wrong or not. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than getting shot dead.

    >I’ll agree to the stipulation that intent figures into all issues of good/evil, if you’ll grant me the existence of a being that is all knowing and all wise

    Hold on… I’m saying that intent figures into all issues of good/evil without the need for an all-knowing deity, and you’re saying that intent figures into all issues of good/evil dependent on the existence of an all-knowing deity. So, modulo our own beliefs, we both think that intent figures in all issues of good/evil. That being the case, why are we arguing about it?

    >First, it means that people who are less intelligent may be at a moral disadvantage. They may not be able to think their way to salvation (or morality, if you don’t believe in salvation). I find that unacceptable.

    Why? Perhaps their capacity to be evil drops accordingly? After all, animals are less intelligent than humans, but you don’t assign them any good/evil rating. If someone can’t think their way to salvation, surely that would be taken into account by whoever makes the yes/no salvation decision?

    >Also, an internal definition of good vs. evil presupposes that your definition is going to be better than mine or anybody else’s.

    Not at all. If someone comes up with a better definition, then why wouldn’t you change it? I’ve modified my own definitions over the years, in the light of conversations, experience, reading and so on. I’m not arrogant enough to think it’s perfect now, either, otherwise I wouldn’t be engaged in this discussion.

    >The lesson of Christ is, I think, that true morality rests in our choice to see “the other” as more important than ourselves in every case.

    More important in what respect?

    >But they can all be subjected to, as you put it, a test of intent: did you do these things for your own benefit more than for that of others? Which is clearly a black-and-white issue, neh?

    Sure, but I don’t buy the premise that intentionally doing something for your own benefit more than for that of others is always evil, bad or even merely naughty. Merely by eating food, I’m doing something for my own benefit more than for others. Should I give it all away and starve to death?

    Also, you have a problem in a world where everyone follows this regime. It’s like the four STOP sign road junction problem: if everyone is deferring to everyone else, everyone suffers. There isn’t enough food for everyone, so someone has to starve; if everyone insists that everyone else eats before they do, then everyone dies. That doesn’t seem an end point we should be aiming at.

    >By the way… while the message came from a deity, I have thought quite a lot about this, too. It makes sense to me, even though it’s pretty uncomfortable at times.

    Where did the deity get the message from? And why can’t we get it from the same source?

    Richard

  133. >Prokofy, do you honestly think this remark helps deflect accusations that you’ve a persecution complex and are prone to grandiose conspiracy theories?

    My remark is is a report, not a hysterical “persecution complex”. I’m hardly persecuted; I fight back. And I don’t find anything “grandiose” or a “conspiracy” about reporting that people consult, or work for, the U.S. government and various large corporations, which gives them their sense of power and impunity. And I don’t think such people should get to decide everything that affects the rest of us. Hardly a persecution complex to speak of normal, everyday, liberal democracy. Have you lost your feel for it yourself?

  134. fyi, the blog is kinda broken at the moment, and I cannot get to the admin area to moderate, write, r edit posts. Hope to have it resolved soon.

  135. Prokofy Neva wrote:

    And I don’t think such people should get to decide everything that affects the rest of us.

    I am flattered that you have such a high opinion of me. Thank you!

  136. Morgan, the next time you decide anything at all that affects me, be sure to drop me a note so I know it happened. The last fifty-eight times seemed to just pass me by.

  137. @Andy Havens, I’m glad you’re raising some of the Christian arguments against Richard’s, whatever to call it, secular humanism? Gosh wouldn’t want to say s**ialism, might not get through Raph’s geeks’ spam filter.

    I’m well aware from past TN discussions, nobody thinks evil can reside in a tool (or code, or game, or the Internet, or anything made by man, or where they’d like to be). The hammer can’t be evil, because it can either be used to nail a house together, or bash in a head.

    I find that kind of literalism absolutism completely useless. The fact is, if you’re Oppenheimer and you create an enormous hammer that could be used to wipe out Hiroshima, you can’t just say, “but all I did was smash atoms, because, well, they *can* be smashed, and it’s not my fault; Truman did it”. And here, I don’t think you are absolutely absolved if you don’t have full knowledge of consequences. It seems strange that religion would absolve you, but the law would at least charge you with *something* if it were that grand a destruction, or rather, international rules of war might *not* charge you, but if you are a ferry captain and you wreck the entire ferry because you don’t know the consequences of a prescription medicine you took, well, sorry, you do get tried as responsible.

    In fact this vacuum of non-responsibility that tekkies wrap around themselves like white robes of righteousness is one of the scariest aspects of technology in their hands. In a little example, I tried to get Raph to see this, with his word filters. I say he edits; he says, no, the machine does it, the spam filter does it. I say, but you select the filter and authorize it, so take responsibility, and he says, no, that comes with the blog, I don’t know why they make it so long texts always require moderation, but they just do, etc.

    I think you just have to become more alert and aware and intuitive about these machines (code, software, worlds, games) that you make. You have to think, could they have consequences. You don’t merely ask the question “Should” virtual worlds change the real when *they already do* and you should then say “who gets to do this?” and “how?” and “with what”?

    And then, I’m sorry, but Bartle and others who code socialism for the people, capitalism for the game-gods have to answer for why they would impose that as some kind of gold standard on other worlds, critique other worlds in terms of that gold standard, and then apply it to real life.

  138. To me, its really simple.

    I go to my neighborhood restaurant. Said restaurant has policies I agree with, established by management. People not obeying these policies, such as loud swearing, the couple across from us are dry humping in the booth, or other family-unfriendly activity, are asked to leave.

    Do they get to whine about restaurant gods and their overzealous destruction of their supposed ‘rights’?

    No, its private property. They have to obey the established laws, beyond that, they set up policies they believe will suit their intended audience (families, in this case). If you don’t agree with the policies, find a restaurant you do enjoy or put your money where your mouth is and open your own.

    That said, I get frustrated, too…

    This whole ‘we can’t give them power because they might abuse it’ thing is just silly. Someone has to implement this stuff and you can question anyone’s motives. If you want to make an argument about specific people based on past performance or statements, that is one thing. To question the entire industry’s most noted and experienced advocates is as unfair as ‘the entire northeast is racist’ which you seemed incensed by. Believe me, I have a list of names that when seen on credits make me cringe (its not foolproof, friends > principles in this case :9). Some folks I’m weary of for being attached to certain projects or decisions, but try to take the whole of their careers into account as well since sometimes devs take the fall for poor decisions made many layers of organization up from them.

  139. This blog screens for the word socialism?

  140. Ah, I guess This blog does screen for the word s**ialism. Not complaining, just curious, as I’ve noted that the words was allowed in some comments. It’s hard to say what’s been deleted, but I trust Raph is as fair as he can be on that issue.

  141. Prok… I go back-and-forth in my own head about whether or not created things can be inherently good/evil. For the most part, I do think that tools aren’t one or the other. And much of the best medical, industrial and chemical research that now graces us with wonderful benefits originally stemmed from military work. That being said… I agree with Lynard Skynard, who said (sang): “Hand guns are made for killing, they ain’t good for nothing else.” Same with the cigarette people, though I smoked (and enjoyed it) for many years.

    I agree with you completely that we have to “become more alert and aware and intuitive” about games, as well as many other tools and media. The question that I find most interesting — and perhaps this is what Raph and Jane are asking — is whether it is possible for games to have an explicit, designed effect on society, rather than just one that “happens.”

    Most new technology is rolled out because there’s a perceived utility benefit. Cellular phones are “better” than landlines because they’re mobile. I don’t think anybody in my former industry ever thought, “Well… let’s put these cell phones out there in order to arrange for change XYZ.” Some of it was anticipated — increased productivity, increased connectivity. Some was not. One unanticipated positive was an increase in early calls to 911. Lives were saved. One negative was people being in accidents while on the phone. Lives were lost. These things were (in retrospect), inevitable. After they are recognized, you can increase the positives (give free phones to victims of domestic violence), and mitigate the negatives (require headphone use while driving).

    But that’s all very different than designing a social/cultural effect *into* a technology from the get go. I completely agree with you that these spaces (platforms, programs, call them whatever) are having effects currently; some well understood, some not so well, some still hidden. But is there a case to be made for deliberate, planned design that has these (or other) kinds of effects?

    I’ll give you one of my favorite (and scariest) examples of advertising and culture to illustrate the difference. In the 1930’s, Lucky Strike was trying to sell its product to more women. They found out that women didn’t like the green package; it wasn’t a fashionable color. So… did they change the color? Nope. Men liked it. They hired a PR/marketing guy to go out and make green popular by sponsoring fashion shows, highlighted particular lines, etc. And it worked.

    We’ve seen countless examples of when commercial art has become popular culturally. All kinds of products, from VW bugs to Nike to the iPod, have had cultural effects beyond their initial intentions (selling stuff). And while the creators may have considered that their products *might* (hopefully) have an impact in a wider realm, they were not designed specifically to do so.

    That is, I think, the difference that’s being discussed here. Which leads (in my mind) to a couple, different questions:

    1) Should games/VWs be held to any higher (or lower) standards than other entertainments, media, art forms in terms of their effects on audiences and the culture? Is there something intrinsically, differently different about this sector?

    2) If, per the above, games require a higher standard of design due to the (let’s assume) wider reaching effects… is that something that would possibly drive investors away? Greater standards often mean greater requirements and/or risk. IE, if I have to take the “rights” of my users into consideration (above and beyond the law), might that not make it harder for me to turn a profit?

    3) If, again, games are a greater engine of influence than other media, are there particular memes that are better or more easily encoded into games? If so, are these good or bad? There are, as we know, folks who think that violence in games is a cause of RL violence, and that the link is stronger than for other media. I’m not saying this example is true. But are there others? Is, for example, “team-work” a concept that is more easily encouraged in games than in other media, and than other concepts such as “individual achievement?”

    I’m willing to believe that games/VW’s are “special” in many ways. TV is different than radio, and is better at certain kinds of messages. Same for print.

    I think that games clearly change the real world implicitly. I think the questions related to whether games *can explicitly* change the world are pretty interesting.

  142. Richard Bartle said:

    Where did the deity get the message from? And why can’t we get it from the same source?

    Damn, Richard. You realize, don’t you, that that’s exactly what the devil said to Adam and Eve?
    *plays spooky music*

    But there is a point here, in that the arguments have not changed since the beginning or recorded history. All this time, and the issue still isn’t solved. Worth pondering.

  143. Damn, Richard. You realize, don’t you, that that’s exactly what the devil said to Adam and Eve?

    Actually, that’s what Socrates said to Euthyphro:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro

  144. [...] Should virtual worlds change the real? – scanned by Fishka [...]

  145. Well now, Michael. This could get interesting. So the wily Socrates questions established beliefs, and as you say so did Richard. Not to let anyone here get a big head, lets agree that this is something that’s gone on since the dawn of thought, and we aren’t unique in any sense here. Nor was Socratese, for that matter, except to be quick enough to remove a possible opponent from his own trial.

    So the question is, whether it’s one God or a pantheon of gods, does he or do they exist? And the answer doesn’t really lie anywhere. If there is, there is and we can’t prove it. If there isn’t, there isn’t and we can’t prove it.

    But lets look at the universe. The Big Bang theory is pretty much accepted, with plenty of evidence that it probably did happen. String theory is based on this event, or I should say it’s an integral part of the theory. So, if there was a single Big Bang that created the universe, does it stand to reason that all was created by accident out of nothing? I mean, can you have anything accidentally spring into existence when you have no existence to start with? I don’t think that can happen, existence created by an accidental spill of…. nothing, so to speak. No, doesn’t make sense at all. And if there is one indisputable fact, it’s that all things have a beginning and an end. This is a law of the universe. So, where was the beginning of it all? I mean everything, existence itself, where did it start?

    Of course, the argument can be made that it all, existence and all within it, springs forth and then retreats, time and again Big Bang after Big Bang, even in multiple dimensions, possibly even with multiple universal laws. But then it can also be said that such chaos would never allow for so much universal law to allow for any kind of organized universe to exist, nothing but matter and energy in debris. I mean, it takes a set pattern from the first point to the end point, with nothing going wrong in between, and stretching infinitely in a line of laws, to make things the way they are for our universe to exist. And if our universe exist, as it does, then any other universes would have to follow the same laws, or else ours couldn’t exist itself. So, if it all, whatever there is, follows the same laws, then we have to go back to the first law, that all things have a beginning and an end. And then we have to ask again, where did it start?

    The answer, of course, is still out of our reach and comprehension, as it always will be. So, with that in mind, I wonder how anyone can be so sure that there is no God?

    And yes, the question can also be asked, how can anyone be sure there is.

    But my point is that science alone can’t answer this question. Nothing can.

  146. Reminds me a bit of one little debate over the scriptures in the Old Testament that refer to a day the earth stood still.

    Scientists would say that can’t happen, the resulting heat exchange would fracture the planet, resulting in a loss of cohesive mass, atmosphere dissapates, oceans boil as the pressure falls off, and basically making things kind of unpleasant.

    Then the Christians respond: Yeah, God reached his (metaphorical) hand out and stopped the Earth’s rotation, but was totally powerless to stop the heat exchange and other results.

    I can just see him sitting there in the cosmos, shaking his head and scowling, “I can’t believe I did that…I’m so stupid sometimes!”.

    End result, neither side can totally prove their claim, you still have 6+ billion people on the planet believing what their experiences have lead them to believe about reality.

  147. >I agree with Lynard Skynard

    Well, just on the other side of this argument, there’s this, from Love & Rockets:

    “You can’t go against Nature/you can’t cuz when you do/
    Going against Nature/is part of Nature, too.”

    Still, I believe there is a Divine Order with consequences for going against it. I think it’s a bit of a sterile debate to argue over whether code is evil in its mechanical state or not, because code is made by people, and those people simply must take responsibility for the effects of their code — their moral stature is at stake regardless of the determination of the mechanics.

    I think on this subject it’s good to consider this, as well, which I had in a blog post awhile back:

    Back in the 4th century, in Book III of the Confessions, when he analyzes the spectacula, or theater of his day, Augustine of Hippo asks whether it is a good thing that a fiction can move you to emotions that in fact are not real:

    “Stage plays also captivated me, with their sights full of the images of my own miseries: fuel for my own fire. Now, why does a man like to be made sad by viewing doleful and tragic scenes, which he himself could not by any means endure? Yet, as a spectator, he wishes to experience from them a sense of grief, and in this very sense of grief his pleasure consists. What is this but wretched madness? For a man is more affected by these actions the more he is spuriously involved in these affections. Now, if he should suffer them in his own person, it is the custom to call this “misery.” But when he suffers with another, then it is called “compassion.” But what kind of compassion is it that arises from viewing fictitious and unreal sufferings?”

    After you finish deciding the issue of *whether* these worlds affect the real, then you go to *should* they, and what happens is that discussion then always goes into a cul-de-sac (for some) back to arguing whether the games and worlds “really do” affect people (i.e. they hasted to prove that violence in games doesn’t spill over into real life).

    Way long before Richard Bartle and TN and Raph Koster, St. August was asking whether people should “get a life” and also thinking about the effect of artificially-inducted grief:

    Again, from the Confessions:

    “But at that time, in my wretchedness, I loved to grieve; and I sought for things to grieve about. In another man’s misery, even though it was feigned and impersonated on the stage, that performance of the actor pleased me best and attracted me most powerfully which moved me to tears.”

    He goes further, of course:

    ” This is the reason for my love of griefs: that they would not probe into me too deeply (for I did not love to suffer in myself such things as I loved to look at), and they were the sort of grief which came from hearing those fictions, which affected only the surface of my emotion. Still, just as if they had been poisoned fingernails, their scratching was followed by inflammation, swelling, putrefaction, and corruption. Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?”

    That is, the manipulated emotionality of the theater (the video game) was enjoyed precisely because it didn’t go very deep, it was controllable, enjoyable, not overwhelming.

    Augustine believed that the subjecting of the soul and the fine inner workings of the emotions to such superficial and false agitation was detrimental, causing even “an inflammation” and “putrefaction”. This is of course ruthlessly supressed as an idea in the modern world, and dismissed as “batty”.

  148. Morgan Ramsay (#117) wrote, Every time She Who Shall Not Be Named says “socialism,”

    Morgan, you seem to think if you just bang this drum enough times, it will be “true”. But…you can’t seem to muster any explanation for Bartle’s concept of the enforced egalitarianism that is supposed to obtain in the ideal paradise of games, the lack of the freedom to cash out and have RMT, and the aversion to the land market in Second Life, and the sneering at arbitrage in SL and those engaged in the land business as even counter to the freedom of the individual and creativity (!).

    All of this is the sort of ideological manipulation that you come to expect from socialism, but here we have an even worse problem, a dead-set refusal to even acknowledge that this forced egalitarianism, this demand to remove markets, this hobbling of freedom of commerce — these are all *socialist* ideas. It’s as if you can say, gee, I don’t like this word “socialism” as it has so many bad connotations, so I’m going to try to discredit the person using the word to identity properties of a belief system and make it seem like they’re crazy. You’re the Bulverist, in fact. I’m reminded of Alice and the Red Queen, too. You’re accusing me of saying a thing is so because I say so; but I’m talking normally and reasonably about at least 3-4 basic socialist and utopianist ideas that are readily identified as such — you’re merely trying to distract from that reality, and trying to engage in disinformation.

    I really do marvel at this, because I don’t get the fear and the intense allergenic reaction to naming stuff that is socialist as what it is: socialist. In fact, if there had been the honesty to do this miles and miles ago in this discussion, it wouldn’t have to persist on these basics, but could be more normal and productive. Instead, by dodging and ducking this, Richard can cite stories about his roomie swiping cereal, and never have to explain why he’d like to swipe the whole land market in SL.

  149. Andy, no, games aren’t special.

  150. DNFTEC said on March 23rd, 2008 at 10:17 pm:

    Do not feed the energy creature.

    This sort of stuff is really a quaint relict of MMORPG culture — anonymity, and cute little acronyms, and a concept of “trolling” which should have gone out with usenet, and not embedded itself into a communications medium for grown-ups.

    I don’t come on to a forums “seeking attention” or “spewing vitriol because I’m an unhappy person” or “with an axe to grind” or “out of hatred of games because they threaten my land business” or “because I like to create negative energy and harvest it in keeping with some game meme”. No. Those are all silly, exaggerated concepts. I simply did a normal, completely unemotional thing here (and back on TN): a) I heard Richard Bartle espouse socialist concepts like forced egalitarianism and removal of the land market and commercie and b) I judged them to be socialist and raised concerns about why these hoary old restrictive ideologies from the 1800s or 1900s have to be imposed on us now in such an Orthodox form, without awareness, debate, modification, and dismissal. Again — a thousand genuflections — that doesn’t mean that I want to interfere in “somebody’s game” and “impose something”. I just want awareness and coherence in the discussion about this. I just don’t get why Richard Bartle (May He Live Forever) gets to have an ideology like this; gets to perpetrate it and shoot it through every game and meme he runs; gets to use it as the backdrop for his commentary on every other world; and finally, gets to impose it on the real world.

    No way! I don’t want it in my world where I am, in Second Life or real life. I didn’t elect it or chose it or get to participate in the decision about it. It’s just that simple. In places where somebody has full control and you sign up for that socialist game, you’re on your own hook. But for everything else, I don’t get why I have to bow and scrape to this ideology — it’s death. It’s death to the freedom of the individual, it’s death to creativity.

    Oh, I quite realize that Richard apparently believes ardently just the opposite. That evil capitalism is the death and the killer of creativity. Sorry, no sale. Not buying it. Don’t see it, don’t believe it. So keep it to yourself. Put it in those spaces and games where you think that’s “fun”. Keep it *away* from people who *do not* find it fun.

  151. Andy Havens misspoke:

    I agree with Lynard Skynard …

    Lynyrd Skynyrd.

  152. Amaranthar>I mean, can you have anything accidentally spring into existence when you have no existence to start with?

    Is this an argument for or against a creator god?

    I agree that it’s unlikely Science (or anything else) can find an explanation, as it’s working within the system it’s trying to explain. However, that would still apply if it had an external view of the system – it would be unable to explain that other system, either.

    Richard

  153. Okay, interesting is as interesting does.

    Not to let anyone here get a big head, lets agree that this is something that’s gone on since the dawn of thought, and we aren’t unique in any sense here.

    Socrates holds the peculiar esteem of being one of the first to have been written down in some particular form. I typically ignore the fact that Socrates was involved and refer to it as Euthyphro’s Dilemma. The point is that good and evil do not require divinity: a bit of an extrapolation, I admit, but a fair one, I think. I’ll expand on this more at the end of this post.

    String theory is based on this event, or I should say it’s an integral part of the theory.

    False. Disproving String Theory will not disprove the Big Bang theory.

    And if there is one indisputable fact, it’s that all things have a beginning and an end. This is a law of the universe.

    I don’t see a need to assume this. We do assume it, because it’s much easier than puzzling out the ramifications of something not having a beginning or an end.

    The answer, of course, is still out of our reach and comprehension, as it always will be. So, with that in mind, I wonder how anyone can be so sure that there is no God?

    There is a God. I define It to be the greater sum of all relationships that have or can exist. I find this to be a more acceptable conception—or perhaps I should say, inconceivable—than some anthropomorophized and pathetic child of ten millenia of storyweaving, who in modern churches is espoused as this dainty little Santa Claus receiving prayer letters in Heaven and dispensing judgments on his naughty and nice list.

    But I wrote all this 6 years ago, when I still publicly called myself a Christian, before I read Joseph Campbell, so I’m out of date.

    Of course God exists. It’s characterizing him as something as mundane as “human” that is the mistake the laity constantly make, a mistake born of the nature of their personal needs and the inability of a priesthood built on top of Luther and Calvin’s message of woe, despair, and self-hatred. Me, I challenged my pastors on points of theology, and I learned.

    But my point is that science alone can’t answer this question. Nothing can.

    People constantly compare science to religion, expecting science to somehow take the place of religion. It cannot.

    Science never answers questions; it asks them. Sometimes it stumbles across a causative relationship. And sometimes that relationship is so intractably powerful that no experiment can break it. We call that a law, and we build our technologies upon it.

    Religion, under my dinky amateur less-than-undergraduate psuedo-anthropology, is formed from two tracks: four things. Track A: Necessity. Track B: Explanations. Track A results from our need for survival. If a dragon told you not to eat that mushroom, then you don’t eat the freaking mushroom. If you’re supposed to harvest on this day and sow on that one, then the fact that God said so helps. Kosher, anyone? Track B results from our need to learn. Why are there rainbows? Why do we live on islands? Why are there mountains? Perhaps, as in Australia, we climbed on top of each other and reached a tiny hole from the womb of the earth. Why not?

    Track A condescends into Law, or morality; Track B condescends into Culture Heroes (or Villains). Track A gives you Muhammed, Jesus, Moses, Abhraham, Buddha, Elijah, Jeremiah: Lawgivers. Track B gives you Gilgamesh, Loki, Hermes, the Trickster Fox, fairies, Isaac Luria, Job: Protagonists.

    Religion is what you get when you combine them. Where does science fit?

    Science is a different way of answering questions. In a sense, it replaces the stories and narratives built up in cultures, slashing diversity with its imperialist hand. As Daniel Cook describes so succinctly, chemistry came from alchemy, obsessed with the quest for magical formulas, like Viagra. (What do you call it, when a grandfather is ready to roll, except eternal life? Philosopher’s stone, indeed.)

    And science is rejected precisely because people hunger for more than mere answers. A multiplication table has answers, but it’s boring. It has to be framed properly. Stories of pacts between Jehovah and Noah are more exciting than refraction. What did Homer do, but write down the story of a very tedious 10-year war during which a bunch of Greeks raped and pillaged a countryside before getting around to sacking a city? How many tellings and embellishments happened before it got to Homer? How completely were gods and halfgods invented and reinvented by this? We barely have evidence Troy existed.

    People want their minds engaged, fully. Good stories do this, because they are larger than we can ever comprehend.

    I used to be obsessed with eschatology. Of course, I had other problems, but one day, I decided to drop it. At the same time, I dropped a lot of other stuff. Because I decided that the only philosophy I would consider was philosophy that had some specific bearing on my decisions.

    That the universe had some cause, that this cause might be intelligent, that this intelligence could be God Himself, that this God is Jehovah whose name shall not be written in the Torah, that this God manifest in a Hebrew girl, that this God died and rose, that this God sent forth his messenger to speak to a man in a cave, that this God had some Native Americans hide his scriptural texts in Utah, that this God made pronouncements loud and clear over the desert or through his supposed prophets, that these words were recorded perfectly by one tribe or the literate Islamic women, that these records were copied and translated perfectly as history marched on, that they were accurately interpreted by recent readers…

    I don’t care. To quote an anonymous troll, “It is all a chasing after the wind. There is nothing new under the sun.” The point of bringing up Euthyphro was an illustration that it doesn’t matter. Good and evil may or may not be relative to the whims of this deity or that, but does not ultimately affect what I see to be good and evil. As Richard said, couldn’t I get it from the same source?

    I’ve rambled enough, but you’ll have to suffer a bit more while I paste something I wrote in January 2007:

    And as someone who does not believe that religion is necessary, I am also free to pick and choose what portions of various religions I am inclined to imitate, and which I wish to reject: this is because I believe religion does not have to be taken as a whole, and that components are not functions of their sum: thus, ignoring religion, I may agree with the Golden Rule and disagree with the Book of Revelations. I may appreciate the beauty of the Psalms, the simplicity of the Proverbs, and the eros of the Song of Solomon without soliciting their references to God. I may give my regards to the courage of Abraham yet disdain the blindness of Isaac. I may walk the Middle Way without seeking nirvana and respect my ancestors without lighting incense to invoke them. I may believe that the royal son resurrects the imperial father through ritualized revolution without expecting that he rules the dead and makes the plants grow. I may anticipate futures and ponder histories without expecting human beings be taller in those times. And I may chart the moons and stars in the sky without predicting apocalypse during a dearth of sacrificial virgins. All this I may do, because I do not need religion.

    Religion is simply another book.

    Was that interesting enough?

  154. That is, the manipulated emotionality of the theater (the video game) was enjoyed precisely because it didn’t go very deep, it was controllable, enjoyable, not overwhelming.

    So Augustine preferred a limit to the emotional depth in media.

    To which I have to ask:

    “Who is this 4th century literature-god that he should tell us what depths our performances can go to?”

    I hope this illustrates how tiring and pointless such statements are. People like different things, find an offering you like or make your own contribution. Some people want happy fun, some people want somber and gritty realism, some people want harmony, some want struggle and strife. Some people want 2 hours chatting with friends in an immersive setting, some people want to make things that others use as part of a larger purpose, some people want to collect gear that is better than the majority and feed their desire for superiority.

    All of them involve some level of social engagement.

    Not that I disagree with Augustine, See Len’s “Beating the Mean Drum” article.

    I really do marvel at this, because I don’t get the fear and the intense allergenic reaction to naming stuff that is socialist as what it is: socialist.

    Espousing ideals that also happen to mirror ideals used in socialist doctrine does not make that ideal ‘socialist’. Socialism includes a far broader range of values than the 2 or 3 you continue to key in on. Arguing that these very limited ideals necessarily constitute socialism is basically a straw-man or package deal fallacy. Then we proceed down the whole mutually exclusive capitalism vs. socialism discussion which presents us with the fallacy of the false dilemma.

    The short version: A system can be one ‘also found in socialism’ while not being ‘socialist’. An idea is not the exclusive domain of any governmental/political/economic system, thats just silly.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, then we have to actually have the discussion about how different game worlds may benefit from using different parts of different common systems of economy and governance as if that wasn’t obvious to most of us to begin with!

    You don’t agree with him, great….isn’t it enough to say so? Isn’t it enough for you to have your position and him to have his? Why must you pursue and tear down his position with age-old logical fallacies that most of the people you’re trying to influence will only take as a sign that your input should be ignored (which is the “fallacy fallacy”).

    Seriously, whole chunks of this article’s response sections (from several people and on several subjects) could be put up on the logical fallacies wiki page as prime examples (yes, I had to look some of them up, I’m rusty…no, I didn’t say OLD! :9). We aren’t going to get anywhere if people are more concerned with winning than understanding.

    As far as why Richard Bartle gets to (argue for

  155. ahh, the preview doesn’t catch open tags and I tried to make an arrow, heh!

    As far as why Richard Bartle gets to argue for change? Because he’s worked his tail off in this industry building up the reputation to do so. He’s been here long enough and experienced enough in the eyes of others that when he speaks, people listen and at least consider before dismissing him in a flurry of sensationalized arguments. That doesn’t make everything he says right in every applicable case (yet another fallacy….). This is why I spend more time weighing in with my ‘vote’ so to speak in most of my posts. I enjoy seeing other people’s thoughts, comparing and contrasting, as well. I can’t get into the big debates like I used to because I tired of basically just continuously iterating the same point of view to deflect from constant mis-representations of what I was saying until its so wrapped up in exceptions and qualifiers I can’t even remember what my own position was. Advanced debate in high school taught me you can learn more and influence others more with questions about views than constant statements of your own.

    Try, “Richard, what affect do you see ‘view a’ having on ‘game system x’?”

    he responds

    you follow, “Wouldn’t ‘playerbase tendency y’ be hard to reconcile with ‘view b’?”

    In the first example, you might learn something, in the second, Richard might have pause to consider something nuanced he might have overlooked, being somewhat outsider-ish as you seem to indicate. This is how you engage in cognitive interactions!!!

    bleh, my brain seriously hurts, now

  156. The odd thing in this thread is how few of you consider that there is enough technology to build your own worlds and use them as you like.

    The phrase “You can’t cheat an honest man” is from the world of confidence games in which you can’t hook someone unless you can persuade them they can have something for nothing or at least less than market value. It is the conspiracy itself that traps the mark.

    When you sign up for Second Life for free, you are getting a service that you didn’t obligate yourself to but then realistically, neither does LL have an obligation to you. You may sign up for Terms but that contract is the legal extent of the commitment. If you pay for WoW, you have a better claim to service but still within the contracted terms.

    If you rent a world (the Ogolio model), you possibly have a contract limited in time but should include more guarantees of service.

    When you build and host your own world, that is as independent (for the comparison, “honest man”) as it gets. But then like a band who opens its own nightclub, you have to get marketshare (butts in seats) and that is the hook of the free worlds such as SL.

    Talk community as much as you like. Use all the classical arguments of objectivism vs communal obligation. It will come down to the company offering the service, the terms, your willingness and ability to litigate and their willingness and ability to contest your litigation.

    For those reasons and others, businesses are beginning to look at the SL services with some skepticism. They may take that skepticism to the ogoglio project types as well, but given limited terms, they have reduced their risks. Companies and individuals who choose to host their own worlds assume all costs and risks, but also all control. The question of note here is what technology they choose to apply.

    And that is where the next generation for virtual worlds business will evolve: purchase of self-hosted worlds. Now server software, libraries, id management, accounts, and so forth become the issue. The long conversations about change while philosophically interesting are moot. The change is local and so is the control.

    Evolution is not about choices. It is about the choice of choices. Emergence is statistical but the choice of choices is wholly political.

  157. Ben Franklin=Socrates.
    The story goes something like this. Ben Franklin walked into a tavern, it was full, all the seats were taken. So he walks up to the tavern keeper and orders an ale, and then orders a bucket of ale and instructs the man to take it out front for his horse. A bunch of men followed the tavern keeper with the bucket of ale outside, and Franklin finds himself a comfortable seat by the fire. When the men come back in, they complain that his horse didn’t drink the ale, and Franklin replies something like “Yes, I’ve never seen him drink it either.”

    In the early days of playing UO I used to go to Dungeon Covetous allot. Once, a player comes running towards the exit yelling “OG”, and everyone, I mean every last soul, cleared out. Except for me. As players were running past me I asked “OG?” Someone stopped long enough to explain that Og was the most feared PKer, maxed in skills and with the best equipment, and would make PK runs through entire dungeons killing everyone around.

    So, a few days later, I was there again. And as usual, it was full of players, and I was having a tough time getting any loot myself.
    Following the Franklin example, and the Socrates example in a way, I started running out yelling “OG”, and watched as most of the players made a hasty retreat from the dungeon. Another player asked “what’s OG?” I explained that he was the most feared PKer, able to clear out entire dungeons by himself. So the guy hesitated, then asked “Where is he?”
    I said “Right now? I don’t know. I just wanted to make some room for myself.”

    Ah, UO had life like no other game.

  158. And RMT and player rights and all that, it can’t give you what a good game can give you. It’s two different animals. There’s a place for both.

  159. Having managed to read through most of this thread, I can’t confirm that anyone actually managed to answer the proto-question of “whether VW’s should influence the real world?”. The various Hitler and God vs The Atheist’s arguments rather obfuscated that train of thought with a few attempts to bring it back online. Damn interesting reading however, like sipping a beer while standing on the fringes of the Mensa cocktail party. Having sipped enough ‘beer’ to become brave, I venture to inject my thoughts.
    Should We?
    If we accept the concept of games and virtual worlds as a valid medium of communication, then all the other rights to artistic expression come along. Anyone who has created games knows that in the act of creation there is an opportunity for artistic expression. Most game companies try to remove any political expression since it could be bad for business. So we see the primary political expression happening in indy games. For example, (IMC (Inevitable Movie Comparison)) Die Hard is a corporate generated movie, Super Size Me is the work of an indy movie maker.
    Can We?
    Whether the artistic expression changes the real world is an ongoing debate, but we certainly know by now that the artists will never be silenced nor will their critics. I think that we have some pretty good evidence that virtual worlds do influence the real world, sometimes in ways that the designers hoped, often completely differently.
    Will We Try?
    Here in in my 15th year of game development (cue the John Williams music), I know that my own impulses are to use my craft and opportunities to try to create something of lasting positive impact to my culture, to transcend mere entertainment. The last GDC really seemed to have a number of us gamers feeling that way. We have mastered the basics and now we want to do something significant. IMHO – I think this is completely natural and human, and has been the pattern for all communication mediums throughout history. Go VW’s, go VW Developers! Yes, try to inspire those who play in your worlds, try to influence the real world.

    Thats my answer to your question Raph!

  160. Thanks Michael

    But I wrote all this 6 years ago, when I still publicly called myself a Christian, before I read Joseph Campbell, so I’m out of date.

    I found Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell both a little troubling. I use to find it comforting that when you strip most religions of their rituals, secret words and funny hats they have fundamentally the same message, despite emerging from cultures that are geographically remote from one another. Campbell’s work, although amazing, left me feeling that religion is more a product of human nature than grace. There comes a point beyond the intellectual gymnastics where you just want the truth. Despite learning enough about human nature to understand why you want to know and the ways we fool ourselves into believing things that may not be real, it doesn’t change that desire to know God.

  161. Prok, well, a bit late to be returning to this, but I was speaking of co-creator in terms of the items being sold. In effect, in WoW, at best you can create something layered above the work of the developers. You can label this co-creation if you’d like, but it’s really parallel creation in my mind. The devs have precious little to do with what the players build around their work, and the players have nothing at all to do with what the devs have done. It’s not just a lack of user generated content in the case of WoW, it’s also that nothing ever changes no matter what you do. Nothing I make exists except in my head and the head of the people I communicate with. When I walk away, and when they walk away, it ceases to exist. There’s not even any meaningful interaction with the game outside of using the systems that they’ve given me in very narrowly defined ways. I’m on rails the *whole* time. No matter what intangibles I can create when I interact with other *players* I do not consider that to be co-creation with the *developers*. For me I don’t even have sufficient connection with my character or the game world that any intangibles are created beyond what would be generated in a linear single player game like BioShock, and certainly not that I’ve generated outside of simply experiencing the content, something I’m not willing to take credit for. I’d also hardly put discussion of system mechanics or socialization about out of game things as co-creation with the devs, the first is examination not creation, the second is completely divorced from anything they’ve done beyond providing a chat system. And those two things are about the extent of my in game communications. The hardcore RPers might feel differently, but they’re also not likely to sell their characters, for them it’s more about being something and less about creating something. You have to define creation on a much broader scope than I’m willing to in order to say that WoW really has co-creative aspects. We’re getting into Ivory Tower philosophy when we start saying that there’s a co-creation aspect involved in simply experiencing content. Intangible byproducts aren’t really worth talking about when we’re speaking of ownership of tangibles.

    This however, is a function of the fact that WoW is set up the way it is, and not something necessarily inherent to the genre. SL is *very* different. You’re using your own art, your own models and your own code, even if the tools belong to Linden. If I rent you a brush and some paint you’re more than free to keep the painting you make unless we specifically agree that I get the rights to it afterwards, and Linden doesn’t do this. SL is selling you the right to make use of their tools to create your own work, so you own that work. WoW is *only* selling you the right to have a good time, and it’s not designed to do anything other than provide entertainment so any creation aspect becomes rather parallel to the actual content in the game. The difference in what the product is determines whether or not you have a right to expect RMT. It’s just a matter of division of property.

    It also cannot be stated enough that the mechanics in a game world do not reflect the real world in a perfectly analogous way. The game world functions under very different assumptions due to the inherent rule structures and the expectations of the genre. They don’t necessarily spill over into being real world analogies, and even when they do, or even when they’re deliberately created to do so, they don’t necessarily result in the messages you’d expect. A mechanic can be used to promote a concept by being it’s opposite; even having RMT, for instance, could end up supporting socialistic ideals if the surrounding mechanics make it seem extremely ridiculous (intentionally or not). No mechanic exists in a vacuum.

    But something like WoW is still seen a game, not a world and games carry a certain expectation of fairness that worlds do not. If the players view WoW as a game, it falls into the expectations of what a game should be, so calling methods to promote fairness socialistic is missing the point. You don’t call the attempts to main a fairly level playing field in professional sports, like salary caps and bans on performance enhancing drugs socialistic, because it’s also considered to be ‘just’ a game. And you really don’t get to argue that it doesn’t matter because baseball isn’t trying to change the world either; neither is WoW. Not all games attempt to do so, or should attempt to do so, and this will remain true going forward. Games specifically aimed at affecting social change on a larger scale and those that aren’t probably won’t even look the same, and the existence of the former doesn’t cause the latter to suddenly change so that they become social motivators.

    And then there are the different *types* of changes that the worlds can cause. Richard argues that playing a character in a virtual world results in the player growing, but that growth has not a thing to do with the economic systems in the world and everything to do with their social interactions with others. A lack of RMT and player ownership doesn’t inherently teach the players anything significant, unless you can point at places where people playing WoW turn into socialists when they showed no predisposition towards being one? But the social mirror that the game provides *does* teach the player about themselves, if they’re willing to look into it. That mirror only requires other people and a way to interact with them on a meaningful level, most of the functionality in the games we see today is unnecessary for that process. This isn’t promoting social change on a large scale, or fixing reality… this is promoting player growth and Richard constantly says it only really makes them closer to their ideal self, it doesn’t change them in ways that they wouldn’t have gone. Earlier in the thread he even says that they may not end up being better people as a result if they really *were* a pretty awful person deep down.

  162. I found Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell both a little troubling. I use to find it comforting that when you strip most religions of their rituals, secret words and funny hats they have fundamentally the same message, despite emerging from cultures that are geographically remote from one another. Campbell’s work, although amazing, left me feeling that religion is more a product of human nature than grace. There comes a point beyond the intellectual gymnastics where you just want the truth. Despite learning enough about human nature to understand why you want to know and the ways we fool ourselves into believing things that may not be real, it doesn’t change that desire to know God.

    Isn’t that the point though? Nothing ever really changes the desire to know God, or truth, if you want to define it in less religious terms. Nor should anything. If you ever come to the point where you really feel you *know* the truth, you stop looking. Once you stop looking, you stop growing. It’s the continual process of seeking understanding that’s vital, not the actual obtaining of it. G’kar’s answer to the question “What is truth and what is God?” in Season 5 of Babylon 5 manages to express this pretty well. He speaks of God as the result of a search for truth, not the goal of that search. It’s about the quest, about the seeking, and not about the finding.

    Explore, observe, think. Everything else will attend to itself.

  163. Michael, what the hell are you all pissed off about? I said “interesting” because it looked like a good discourse. But you retaliated with insults, and mingled just about every Christian belief into one despite the fact that they all differ. If you don’t believe in a God that is part of an established religion, that’s fine with me. I don’t believe everything either. We all sort of pick and choose, or not, it’s up to each one of us. But your views seem to be quite hostile towards those who have a different opinion.

    Gene…”Thanks Micheal”?? What, you too? You guys take quite a bit of liberty in wanting to see religion be wrong. It’s not that you argue the point, it’s that you have this strong distaste for religion and anyone who has that point of view, that faith. To the point of insults and an inability to cordially talk about it. I’ve been polite and cordial throughout, and you guys come back with backhanded insults to me and my faith. Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I only have two cheeks to turn, so _uck off.

  164. Oh, and I said:

    String theory is based on this event, or I should say it’s an integral part of the theory.

    And Michael the says:

    False. Disproving String Theory will not disprove the Big Bang theory.

    And quoting some real experts:

    String theory — the concept that all particles can be represented as strings or string-loops of incredibly minute length, oscillating at various frequencies — was initially developed to help explain why quarks, the tiny fundamental particles that make up protons and neutrons, are always confined within larger composite particles. However, string theory has evolved to allow scientists to deal with some wider issues. For example, they can use string theory to devise explanations for some grand problems in cosmology, such as the state of the universe — its shape, size, etc. — just after the Big Bang, when quarks roamed freely.

    http://www.physorg.com/news63041667.html

  165. Link didn’t take…

  166. It didn’t have a close tag — just an opening href. I edited it.

  167. Wombaticus wrote:

    The various Hitler and God vs The Atheist’s arguments rather obfuscated that train of thought with a few attempts to bring it back online.

    Amaranthar wrote:

    You guys take quite a bit of liberty in wanting to see religion be wrong. It’s not that you argue the point, it’s that you have this strong distaste for religion and anyone who has that point of view, that faith. To the point of insults and an inability to cordially talk about it.

    Since there’s a completely off-topic religious discussion in this thread, I have to point out that there are significant differences between an atheist and an Atheist, as well as numerous categories of atheists. Refer to the Wikipedia article on atheism. Not all atheists espouse hatred of religion or evangelize deific nonexistence. Many atheists simply lack god beliefs and are perfectly accepting of the diversity of beliefs that comes with being human.

    I’d also like to point out the article, “Dealing with the ‘Irrational’ Negotiator”.

    “Negotiators who are quick to label the other party ‘irrational’ do so at great potential cost to themselves,” say HBS professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman. Their new book, Negotiation Genius, combines expertise in psychology with practical examples to show how anyone can improve dealmaking skills. In this excerpt, Malhotra and Bazerman describe what to do when the other party’s behavior does not make sense.

    The lessons of the article are worth keeping in mind when you debate, often fruitlessly, about politics and religion.

    http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5721.html

    Moreover, political and religious discussions are almost always comprised of insults and incessant bickering over trivia. That’s why manners dictates that we not talk about politics or religion. But if you do, recognize that you chose to participate, fully aware of what would likely happen, and so you shouldn’t get upset or angry about what was said. Political and religious discussions tend to occur in a vaccuum. At the end of the day, die hards on either side of an argument can sit down and play a game together, shouting “I own you” and “newbie”, as though they were never at each other’s throats hours earlier.

  168. Morgan: That’s why manners dictates that we not talk about politics or religion.

    I don’t know. I think that might be cultural, although people might avoid such topics because they are tedious… Still, we can’t discuss the two most important topic in the world? No wonder the world is corrupt.

    Does this hold for the virtual world politics and religions too? Players complain about drama, but they want drama. They just don’t want to be on the personal-insults side of drama, but why are dissing politics, religion, guilds and playstyles experienced as personal attacks?

    Anyway, Amaranthar, turn the third cheek. Those who don’t believe (in anything) are obviously at loss. There is nothing to be lost from believing, and you have everything to loose by not believing. So the most rational option is to believe. In the end believing, any belief, is better than believing in nothing.

  169. What, you too? You guys take quite a bit of liberty in wanting to see religion be wrong. It’s not that you argue the point, it’s that you have this strong distaste for religion and anyone who has that point of view, that faith.

    I’m sorry to have caused offense. That was not my intention and I read Micheal’s post as a stand alone and liked it. I didn’t see any insult (still don’t) and I’m a little confused. I have no desire to be right or wrong in this (sometimes I do, but not in this conversation). I am learning something from other people’s perspective but I am undecided. Behind ritual and ceremony, every religion has a fundamental teaching – the way they see God. This is usually what interests me. I am still looking for what I believe. I don’t see how that can be offensive.

  170. Re-reading my original post, if it was the reference to “funny hats”, my sincere appology. I had no particular religion in mind and it was just a reference to the fact that many religions have dress codes.

  171. No, I think I’ve figured out why you’re offended….

    “Despite learning enough about human nature to understand why you want to know and the ways we fool ourselves into believing things that may not be real, it doesn’t change that desire to know God.”

    I didn’t mean that you (Amaranthar) are fooling yourself with your religion. This was very much more about me, and my struggle to find some truth. Those moments when you think you’ve found something and then see it disappear after a little critical thinking are frustrating. That doesn’t mean the desire to find God isn’t there for me nor do I think it’s a futile search. If you, Amaranthar, have faith, then you’re a lucker man than me.

  172. No, Gene, you seemed to toss you hat in with Michael, who said:

    than some anthropomorophized and pathetic child of ten millenia of storyweaving, who in modern churches is espoused as this dainty little Santa Claus receiving prayer letters in Heaven and dispensing judgments on his naughty and nice list.

    And now I have to apologize to Michael. I misunderstood the meaning of the word “pathetic”. I see what you meant now.

    I’m sorry.
    Moreover, I was the one guilty of assuming meaning, not you. That changed the outlook of your entire comment. Damn, I hate it when I’m wrong. But I have to step up and admit it.

  173. And I keep forgetting to close the tags. The first paragraph was Michael’s quote, then was my comments.

  174. Ola Fosheim Grøstad wrote:

    Still, we can’t discuss the two most important topic in the world? No wonder the world is corrupt.

    Politics and religion are hardly the most important topics in the world. What about poverty? Genocide? Or survival? Political scientists would tell you that politics is a series of opinions. Religious authorities, such as Catholic priests or Christian youth ministers or Buddhist monks, would tell you that religion is one method that people use to confront and resolve truly serious issues.

    I don’t think the Pope in 1994 would have said, “I believe promoting our faith, and God as our father, is more important than ceasing hostilities and ending the wholesale murder of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans.” I think he would have said, and probably did say, something similar to “here’s what I think we can do to resolve the situation.”

    Both political and religious organizations use their influence to pursue humanitarian causes. They don’t pursue altruistic ideals because they think their faith and opinions are more important. Blind faith is blind, and having an opinion just to have one is just as senseless. People require purpose in life to sustain them, whether that purpose is handed down from a creator of sorts or established by a perceived need in the proverbial marketplace. Politics and religion help people determine and fulfill their roles in society.

    The problem with discussing politics and religion is that participants often avoid finding common ground. Instead, they push and push, hoping their “dog in the fight” wins. People can have casual, civil, and enjoyable conversations about politics and religion, but doing so requires discipline—discipline that few people develop.

    Secondly, the world is not corrupt; the world is amoral. People are moral; people can corrupt and be corrupt. Should virtual worlds change the real? No. Virtual worlds can neither change reality nor do anything substantial on their own. Virtual worlds can have the capacity to influence human thought for better or worse, but people have to use them in that way.

    In the end believing, any belief, is better than believing in nothing.

    Now you’re just insulting Zen Buddhists. ;)

  175. Poverty and genocide follows from politics. There is enough food and land in the world.

    Regarding religion. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. His faith was the most important thing in the world. You need to have another chat with those Chatolic priests… Doing the right thing is more important than survival. What meaning is there to mere survival? In what belief will you ground its importance? DNA? Surely Buddhists aren’t aiming for survival? Mulslems and Christians are aiming for Afterlife…

  176. Ola Fosheim Grøstad wrote:

    Poverty and genocide follows from politics.

    Opinion cannot be held responsible for action. One can act, without opinion, while another can opine, without action. John Adams was thoroughly unimpressed with the First Continential Congress, which he considered a front for political manuevering—where men would imagine themselves nobles, enjoying the sounds of their own voices—instead of as a means for resolution.

    There is enough food and land in the world.

    How do you propose we distribute that food and land? Think about the logistics. Logistics constrain distribution, which limits the resources available to any particular course of action. While in total, there might be enough food and land in the world for everyone, economics comes into play, requiring that one group loses out while another gains. How do you propose we distribute that food and land? How do you choose who starves and who eats? How do you choose who lives and who dies?

    Doing the right thing is more important than survival.

    Tell that to the charity organization in this case. Doing the right thing is not necessarily opposed to survival. Doing the right thing in an intelligent way might entail, figuratively speaking, running away to live and fight another day. Doing the right thing might also entail causing suffering to one group while bringing happiness to another.

    This is the point where we wax philosophical, about what’s right and what’s wrong.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/

  177. Okay, I haven’t read the whole thread (I tried to though, but there are some things I just want to respond to already). I also tried to read the original brokentoys thread; that one had so many thousand-word posts in it that I ended up outright skipping most of them, mostly Prokofy’s… sorry, but I guess brevity does count for something. Apologies in advance for not being brief myself.

    Raph wrote:

    It is generally dangerous to try to apply the principles, cultural patterns, mores, and customs of a small group to the whole.

    In a healthy society, everyone is pushing. If anything, it is moments of total unity that are most to be feared, for from those moments come dogma.

    Two sort-of contradictory statements. I think I know what you were trying to say in the first one, but the second one could almost be stated like this: It’s generally dangerous to try and apply the principles, cultural patterns, mores and customs of a large group to the whole. If I may draw a cheeky conclusion from this, it would be: Principles, cultural patterns, mores and customs are dangerous, and we should do away with them. (Oh, and democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to have for lunch.)

    Raph wrote:

    Ideologies can be bad. But it’s the people who do the evil.

    In a lot of cases its actually the institutions that do the evil, not the people who make up the institutions. Capitalism for example, only provides loaves of bread to those people who can afford to pay for them. Neglecting the basic need to feed the poor is an evil that is promoted by the institution of capitalism. But I think its unfair to single out any of the individuals participating in that capitalism institution and blame them for this particular evil. Much of the evil in the world is done by institutions–whether they be political systems, religious organizations, large corporations, government agencies, etc. Institutions also tend to take on a self-preserving or self-enhancing role, and act in self-enhancing ways, even if that is seemingly in conflict with their actual mission/charter/stated beliefs. But who should be blamed for the evil that is done? That’s part of what makes it so hard to recognize and solve the problems caused by institutions. It’s a lot harder to fix a flaw in capitalism which causes some people to starve and die on the street because they are unable or unwilling to procure a loaf of bread for themselves using the approved capitalist methods. “I was just following orders” is now considered an unacceptable defense, but it was the *fascist institutions* that Hitler built, not any individual evil actions of his, that caused most of the damage. Concentration camps required administration, they required an efficient rail system, they required large ovens. None of those things were individually evil, but the institution that combined them in a system for exterminating people was very evil–so evil that we blame all the individuals who participated in that system, which we don’t do with most institutions.

    Andy Havens wrote:

    You can’t know that by saving your family and your own life and killing the other guy — even in legally justified self defense — will be, in the long run, better or worse. You can only know that you have subjugated another’s life to your idea of right/wrong. You can argue that, yes, well… him meaning to kill me means he was doing that to me. Right. His intent to kill me is evil, too. But you can’t meet evil with evil and call it good. You can only call it the evil that you prefer.

    I disagree with this. My views of right and wrong, good and evil all stem from an idea of “basic fairness” (and the golden rule, Do Unto Others as you would have them Do Unto You). I think you have the right to your own life, and to protect yourself and preserve your own life, and also to protect and preserve the lives of people you care about. Another person intending to kill you may or may not be evil (depending on the reason for his intention; but in 99% of cases, yeah, its evil). When faced with a person who intends to kill you or a loved one, defending yourself and/or your loved ones is absolutely the right and moral thing to do and is not evil. I believe that your right to live has greater weight than anyone else’s desire to kill you. I don’t believe that killing is inherently wrong, but as a society, we collectively agree not to kill each other, because we wouldn’t want it to be done to us (the golden rule). My view is that we have all (collectively) agreed that our own right to live has a greater weight than anyone else’s desire to kill us, which means that self-defense when faced with a life-threatening aggressor is entirely justifiable and a morally unassailable act. Of course, not everybody views it this way, and I respect your right to believe differently from me.

    Andy Havens wrote:

    Let me be clear: I in no way pretend to any level of goodness. I merely explain that there are, I think, some pretty clear lines. Yes, there is mental illness (dad’s a shrink… know that for real good). Yes, there is ignorance. Sometimes, bad things happen for no reason that have similar outcomes to evil acts. But whenever someone knowingly puts their own interests ahead of others’, and ahead of their own beliefs… that’s evil.

    I don’t think it’s evil (or even wrong) to knowingly put my own interests (or those of my loved ones) ahead of the interests of others. It’s often selfish, and it might be worthy of scorn in some situations, but I think there are other situations wherer it’s the only right and proper thing to do. And even when it isn’t, I don’t presume to sit in judgement of the priorities of others, and I’d appreciate it if they don’t presume to pass judgement on mine. We all have to share this Earth and try to get along, so I’m all in favor of tolerance for other people’s values and belief systems. The place where I draw the line is where others start trying to impose their values or their belief systems on me. I don’t mean to take your statement out of context, or accuse you of any such thing, I’m just stating my opinion about such things. =)

    Prokofy Neva wrote:

    I wonder if it is really worth bothering to take part in a debate where I’m named by the original poster thoughtfully, but then when the original poster is then sort of prodded and pushed into making a public apology for being “politically incorrect” about me, and then I have to endure Andy Havens accusing me of not conforming to Terra Nova again — and oh, where Richard Bartle will refuse to acknowledge my existence.

    If you want to engage people in debate, then I guess you will have to “endure” their responses. And as you hopefully are aware, Richard Bartle does not refuse to acknowledge your existence, but rather, he refuses to respond to your baiting of him. Perhaps he refuses to waste his time trying to persuade you with a reasoned argument, because the past few years have demonstrated that you are not willing to be persuaded by a reasoned argument?

    Prokofy Neva wrote:

    The problem with you, Andy, and others on TN in the Orthodox School of Ludology, is that you think if you’ve patiently rebutted an argument, if you’ve tediously outlined what your thinking is, that why, someone like me should just “come around”. They should just “change their mind”. They should just “realize” that they must join the tribe. Well, why? I disagree. You’re wrong. I’m right. I understand your argument. And I did not find it persuasive.

    Perhaps through the strength of your convictions you can somehow persuade everybody else that they are wrong, and you are right. I really doubt it, though. And flaming them or ad-hominem attacks on them or distorting their arguments are not likely to persuade them, either. The religious fundies believe that my views of God and the universe are “wrong”, and their views are “right”, even though I believe the exact opposite. So I treat them like crackpots and ignore them… big surprise!

    Michael Chui wrote:

    Hell is considered by some theologians to be the separation from and absence of God. In that sense, I think the game gods have it figured it out: ban. Follow the rules, or get banned. The main difference being that the game gods aren’t waiting for you to murder millions of people before they ban you. They just set up arbitrary rules, like “No RMT” or “Pi = 3.14159…” or “You shall have no other gods before me”, and if you’re not cool with that, then you get a slow roast in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles (to plagiarize Ebert), or whatever the hellfashion is these days.

    +1 Interesting!

    Andy Havens wrote:

    In fact, the only moral codes that don’t disappear under relativism is one where you at least *try* to take the other guy into consideration before acting. That have rules based, to some degree, on the value of “other” over-and-above the value of outcome. We don’t, for example, euthanize very sick or very old or very needy people just because it would be cheaper and better for the majority if we did so.

    Prokofy Neva wrote:

    As I said, you game kids fight dirty.

    Richard Bartle’s method of fighting seems particularly nasty precisely because it is cunning and subtle — don’t answer, stall, use the passive/aggressive method, etc. for months and months and now weeks — But…we’re all here on the Internet lol. So…if you answer somebody else, I still see it.

    You have a curious tendency to see maliciousness where none exists. You act as if Richard Bartle is on some sort of crusade to *get* you. I’m pretty sure this supposed vendetta of his exists only in your head, even after your repeated attacks on his good character. Occam’s razor suggests a simpler explanation: maybe he’s just tired of your bullshit and doesn’t intend to waste any more of his life thinking about or responding to it.

  178. Sorry, my response to one of Andy’s points didn’t make it into the post.

    Andy Havens wrote:

    In fact, the only moral codes that don’t disappear under relativism is one where you at least *try* to take the other guy into consideration before acting. That have rules based, to some degree, on the value of “other” over-and-above the value of outcome. We don’t, for example, euthanize very sick or very old or very needy people just because it would be cheaper and better for the majority if we did so.

    I think its kind of depressing that we often force them to stay alive if they don’t want to, though.

    Any civilised society would allow its old folks to end their lives with dignity rather than force them to continue to live and suffer through painful, debilitating health condition (for example). I believe the right to life necessarily includes the right to end that life when you want to. I also believe that in a civilised society (one with a lot more social responsibility than ours!) old folks would not want to be a burden to the younger generation. However, it would also be wrong to allow social pressures to cause old folks to accept euthanization when they didn’t really want it, and I think that’s the real reason western societies have all erred on the side of no euthanasia at all.

    I also interpreted your comment as saying “the ends don’t justify the means” which is perfectly true.

  179. Andy Havens wrote:

    Prok… I go back-and-forth in my own head about whether or not created things can be inherently good/evil. For the most part, I do think that tools aren’t one or the other. And much of the best medical, industrial and chemical research that now graces us with wonderful benefits originally stemmed from military work. That being said… I agree with Lynard Skynard, who said (sang): “Hand guns are made for killing, they ain’t good for nothing else.”

    On the contrary… Handguns are great for personal defense. They are a great equalizer, because a frail 20-something woman can defend herself with one against a 6-foot 200-pound aggressor with one. My understanding is that handguns are used defensively millions of times per year in the United States, but most of those uses don’t make the news. Most of them don’t even involve shooting anyone–just pulling a gun on the perp is usually enough to abort a robbery, home invasion or attempted rape. It requires only a few days of qualified training to learn to use one safely. Almost nothing else can make the same claim… perhaps many years of martial arts training could, but even self-defense classes will tell you that you should always try to run away and only fight when its unavoidable. Unfortunately, having something like a handgun gives you a lot of potential to harm others. It’s a big responsibility, and a lot of people feel that you should not be given the chance to own a handgun and shoulder that responsibility, because it’s too dangerous or something…

  180. That changed the outlook of your entire comment. Damn, I hate it when I’m wrong. But I have to step up and admit it.

    I’m glad that you did. I have a nasty and difficult-to-quash habit of becoming pissed when people take offense when I didn’t think I had offered any. Case in point, every time I’ve made a genuine offer to debate with Prokofy on this blog, I was boxed, labelled, and shipped.

    If it makes you feel any better, I often find myself defending religion to atheists, and I’ve never regretted doing so.

    By the way, fifty points if you can identify the five non-Biblical religions I cited. One is obscure, so I don’t expect anyone to get it.

    With respect to comment #160,

    You said (1) String Theory is based on Big Bang Theory and (2) String Theory is an “integral part” of Big Bang Theory. If I got either of those wrong, then nevermind.

    First, while I’m not intimately familiar with the beginnings of String theory, I’m fairly sure that it did not come out of cosmology. According to Wikipedia, it came out of quantum theory. If the Big Bang theory were refuted, String theory would not be.

    Second, I’m pretty sure that the Big Bang theory did not come out of String Theory. As I understand it, people were reasonably certain of it before String theory was even conceived. So I don’t see how String theory is integral at all.

    Can each theory make contributions to the other? Sure. They both have cosmological implications, as well as relevant bearing on the theory of everything. But “String theory is based on this event, or I should say it’s an integral part of the theory” is not a true statement, and that’s all I said.

    I hope that didn’t come out as an insult. :)

  181. Well, string theory came about as the result of people trying to answer unresolved questions about the Big Bang theory. So that’s how they are intermingled. Once they started down the theoretical formulas, they found not only that it made sense with the Big Bang, but it opened up the revelation that there may be an infinite number of coexisting universes, each an alternate reality. But there’s debate about that too.

    5 non-biblical religions, I don’t recall that anywhere. I’m guessing that you mean modern day? Sounds like a good mind twister, so I don’t want to cheat, but I’m too tired now. Tomorrow I’ll think about that one. Quickly, some eastern origination, some pre-christian, like the one that worshipped Mythra.
    I’ll be going to sleep thinking about that fat earth mother figurine. You’re ruining my dreams, heh.

  182. I guess he means this list?

    Track B gives you Gilgamesh, Loki, Hermes, the Trickster Fox, fairies, Isaac Luria, Job: Protagonists.

    Babylonian; Norse; Greek; not a religion but a European folktale; also not a religion but a primarily British Isles folktale though there’s elements of what we might today call Druidism; Kabbalah; and either Biblical (technically, Jewish, since the Book of Job is Old Testament and discussed in the Talmud) or Heinleinian. ;) Though I suppose if he meant the latter in a Cabellian sense he would have cited Koshchei. I don’t see how else I get to five, since I refuse to count the Trickster Fox or fairies.

    If that was the list, fifty points is pretty easy to get. He could have gone for trivia and swapped Enkidu for Gilgamesh…

  183. Handguns are great for personal defense.

    Now that we have covered politics & religion, I sincerely hope we don’t get into handguns and abortion, or I may have to close the thread. :P

  184. Andy, no, games aren’t special.

    I’d have to disagree. Gamers are different from books, and different from movies and different from comic books and different from paintings.

  185. Amaranthar said,

    Well, string theory came about as the result of people trying to answer unresolved questions about the Big Bang theory. So that’s how they are intermingled.

    I’m a little confused, then; you could say the same thing about just about any law or theory in the books. Of course they’re intermingled; it’s the same universe.

    Raph said,

    I guess he means this list?

    Oh, my mistake. I should’ve pointed out exactly where I was referring to. This part:

    I may walk the Middle Way without seeking nirvana.I may respect my ancestors without lighting incense to invoke them.I may believe that the royal son resurrects the imperial father through ritualized revolution without expecting that he rules the dead and makes the plants grow.I may anticipate futures and ponder histories without expecting human beings be taller in those times.I may chart the moons and stars in the sky without predicting apocalypse during a dearth of sacrificial virgins.

    I guess you could argue that #2 isn’t really a religion. I’m not going to fight over that, though. And you’re not sufficiently average for an American, Raph. I’m not sure it’s fair to let you play. :P

    Anyone who misses #1 loses. I really have no sympathy there.

  186. [...] some folks who believe “games aren’t special” and my friends who believe “games are art,” I strongly hold that games transcend [...]

  187. Raph: Now that we have covered politics & religion, I sincerely hope we don’t get into handguns and abortion, or I may have to close the thread.

    Don’t worry. We skipped the handguns and went straight for The Big Bang…

    Thanks for bringing up abortion… I am for it.

  188. It is amazing how much esoteric debate can be used to skip the essential question.

    Is McGonigal justified by her proposition of games changing human culture (if not humans themselves where evolution is glacial), to create games for the Beijing Olympics while the government of China suppresses Tibet by violence? Should IBM have been selling technology to Germany in WWII?

    Good of the many? Good of the few or the one?

  189. I’m a little confused, then; you could say the same thing about just about any law or theory in the books. Of course they’re intermingled; it’s the same universe.

    Yes, that’s true.

    The five religions….
    “I may walk the Middle Way without seeking nirvana.”
    Buddhism.

    “I may respect my ancestors without lighting incense to invoke them.”
    Hinduism?

    “I may believe that the royal son resurrects the imperial father through ritualized revolution without expecting that he rules the dead and makes the plants grow.”
    Not at all sure here. Egyptian? Japanese? Central/South American?

    “I may anticipate futures and ponder histories without expecting human beings be taller in those times.”
    Oh wow, this is a tough one.

    “I may chart the moons and stars in the sky without predicting apocalypse during a dearth of sacrificial virgins.”
    Ahh, Mayan/Aztec.

  190. Is McGonigal justified by her proposition of games changing human culture (if not humans themselves where evolution is glacial), to create games for the Beijing Olympics while the government of China suppresses Tibet by violence?

    Yes.

  191. It is amazing how much esoteric debate can be used to skip the essential question.

    Is McGonigal justified by her proposition of games changing human culture (if not humans themselves where evolution is glacial), to create games for the Beijing Olympics while the government of China suppresses Tibet by violence? Should IBM have been selling technology to Germany in WWII?

    Good of the many? Good of the few or the one?

    That is not the essential question.

    Those who have an issue with McGonigal do not understand what her goal is, or what her means are. Have you ever wished that your day-to-day job could be more ‘fun’, instead of being a horrible bore? Have you ever wished there could be something interesting in the usual? (ofc there is, but not to everyone)

    That is what she attempts. Her talk at GDC was just a general motivational speech; she wasn’t saying ‘zomg we can fix economic problems and politics by making an awesome MMO’, she was saying game developers (and everyone else!) should try to fix the problems available to them or whatever else possible.

    The question for the audience then becomes, WHAT can you do, not IF you should do. You do not try to fix ‘capitalism’ in the Real world, as Prokofy Neva is so afraid of, because it’s just not relevant to your tools and domain of action.

  192. @181 Rik: Games are different, of course. But music is different than poetry is different than painting is different than fiction, etc. etc. The question is really: are games *differently* different? We know that arts and style can change culture. Games can do so to, certainly as art and entertainment. But can games change culture in ways that are more explicitly powerful or specific than other activities or media? I just don’t know.

    @176 moo: The reason handguns are (by some accounts) good for personal defense is because they are so good at killing. They wouldn’t be a (supposed) deterrent if they weren’t.

  193. @Andy: Of course. I’m just pointing out that Skynard was wrong about them not being good for “anything else”. Deterring a crime against your person is not the same as killing someone. Handguns are useful for both. I think their usefulness as a deterrent far outweighs the danger they pose in the wrong hands (after all, many criminals will have a handgun even if it’s illegal… better to let the law-abiding citizens have them too, I suppose). Anyway, this is way off-topic, sorry for derailing the debate.

  194. Hinduism?

    Arguably not a religion, but I was thinking of ancestor worship in the Chinese tradition.

    Not at all sure here. Egyptian? Japanese? Central/South American?

    I was thinking Egyptian. Specifically, the playacting of the pharaoh as Osiris being succeeded by his son. This one’s directly out of Joseph Campbell’s own summary of three or four pages detailing the ceremony:

    Such, then, or somewhat such, was the rite by which the literal killing of the old king and transfer of power to the new had been transformed into an allegory. The king died not literally, but symbolically, in the earliest passion play of which we have record. … Analyzed in terms of its component folkloristic motifs, the plot might be summarized as follows:

    Pharaoh, when it became known to him that the time had come for him to be slain, set forth to procure a token of his qualification for continued possession of his throne. Led by the “Opener of the Way”, he entered the palace of the underworld, where he touched the four sides of the land of Egypt, and with the goddess of the land of Egypt assisting, was thereupon acknowledged by his dead father, Osiris. He received the Will, and in new attire, reappeared before his folk, to resume his throne.

    Oriental Mythology, p77. (Parentheticals removed.)

    Oh wow, this is a tough one.

    Jainism. See here. This article is odd, because I always understood Jain cosmology to be a thing where, in each age, human beings were half the previous height until they were tiny and wretched, at which point they began to double in height and good shininess happened again. I guess you forget a lot in 3 years. I couldn’t find the reference in Oriental Mythology, so it must be in Primitive Mythology, which I didn’t bring to Seattle with me. (Because Campbell is impossibly hard to read.)

  195. @moo,

    1. I am not baiting Richard Bartle. I’m reporting on what he said in Second Life, and characterizing what he said as expounding on socialist ideas. Based on his promotion of these ideas there, and on Terra Nova, I’ve characterized him as “socialist”. You may disagree about this characterization; you may find it not persuasive. But to dismiss it as “baiting” or “impermissible McCarthyism” defies logic and common sense when the man is for such options and features as forced egalitarianism and removal of the free land market in Second Life.

    2. You seem to be saying, like so many, that to be a code, to be a MUDer, to be a game god, is to be “above” ideologies, religions, politics, and just to be a Maker of the World. Well, no. Such personages are just humans, and are affected by their mundate, real-life ideologies which permeate their work.

    3. You are continuing to bang on me as if banging on me will persuade me to join your tribe. You’ve merely upped the ante by making it seem as not only am I like your hated “born-agains” or “religious right” that says stuff you find “crackpot”; I’m also someone guilty of “flames” and “ad hominem” attacks.

    These very notions are actually very deeply rooted in MMORPG culture which is — news flash — a sub-culture that is not shared by most people on the planet, unless of course they’re still living in the Medieval Ages somewhere. The idea that there are classes of heroes and monsters, that among these monsters are “trolls,” etc. — these are all gaming concepts drawn from medieval legends and fantasies — and I don’t see why we must allow the deep, dark subconscious of Man, as fascinating as it is, oh, culturally and historically, to dominate modern discourse with modern forms of communication.

    A person who disagrees with you and belongs to a different school of thought isn’t “a troll” or “an energy creature” or “a flamer” but just someone with a legitimate and different point of view.

    Richard is a socialist. I respect that.

  196. Eolirin

    Playing a game is already an act of co-creation! This should be self-evident! If the game gods understood this, they’d make better games and have more customers!

  197. Games are interactive. That is the principal difference in their ability to affect the culture. Training inculcates habits. One can argue coupling strength but the facts of interaction and training are proven and not in dispute.

    @Taemojitsu: given the part of this thread on religion, the answer to the question asked of Jane is the classic “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Dissembling doesn’t change involvement. That she chooses to take the money is capitalism. But if we are talking about virtual games having a positive change, and in this context, making extraordinary claims about the powers of the game gods, then I have to agree with Prok, and Jane has to accept that she is collaborating with the Tibetan oppressors. Even G.W. Bush gets that. The Beijing Olympics will have a cloud over it both real and virtual.

  198. [...] 19, 2008 19:03 Should virtual worlds change the real? I have had a post brewing in my head for days to weeks now, in part driven by some of the reaction [...]

  199. Ola @post 183. If you’re going to lob one over the fence like that you might as well make the bait a bit juicier. I’m against it for everyone in my circle of influence that I have the ability to influence but otherwise if you want to be a heathen-life-discarding-son-of-a-Barrak-Obama Democrat then by all means. Now THAT is sure to completely derail the topic into yet a fifth direction, or is it a sixth?

    /sarcasm (trying to be funny and not intentionally trolling.)

    In the WoW community they call this a legendary thread. Raph I think you need a blog post that revisits the top 10 blog entries by number of posts. Perhaps reflect on the posts themselves and give a perspective on them dated 2008.

  200. @Derek: Probably a sixth. Btw, I am worse than a Democrat. I am Norwegian.

    Why do the WoW community call this a legendary thread?

  201. They’re called that because of the relative rarity of orange colored items in the game which are “Legendary” items. Most servers have a few hundred, maybe a thousand total orange items in the player database for that server and the items are of very good quality with respect to stats. There’s a few level 60 legendaries that level 70 players still run around with because level 70 purples are side grades and not upgrades.

    So when a forum thread would go on and on for hundreds of pages, people would call them legendary threads due to their relative rarity. If your thread was good enough to keep the attention of the WoW community for hundreds of pages and it maintained some level of signal to noise ratio, then it was labeled legendary by the community. Anyway, that’s where it comes from with respect to the WoW community. I’m sure other communities might have something similar.

  202. >I was boxed, labelled, and shipped.

    You are not sincere.

  203. I know no one is interested in this thread of conversation anymore, but this is an example of how the game itself will NOT change people; only people will change people, a well-designed game simply allows that to happen.

    That’s what Richard said. :P No artistic expression: game, movie, novel, sculpture, poetry, dance: causes change. It simply points out a perspective, and when considered, that perspective is a potential catalyst for change in the viewer.

    Not so. Socialists hide behind that argument, first using “material changes consciousness” to change all the rules of the game. The changing of the rules includes forced egalitarianism, the utopianist “level playing field” that is an actual stripping to forced equality, not an actual fair game with fair rules (which is the meaning of the term, which has become perverted in these discussion). The changing of the rules includes a jihadist raid on capitalism (you’ll find stuff like Danah Boyd positing that there is “capitalism” and there there is “cultural sustainability” as if the former could never have a hand in the latter, and is only destructive. From Richard, we also get advocacy of removal of the free land market in Second Life; we get a blast on rabid capitalists who, merely because they engage in commerce, are not for the freedom of the individual and creativity (!).

    In other words, we get such a bald-faced misrepresentation of this social system, such a starkly unfair and unjust fake level playing field, that you discover you are no longer dealing with a honest broker, someone capable of nuanced perception of basic foundational truths, i.e. that each kind of social system can be pressed to its extremes, sure, but that there is nothing inherent in either capitalism or socialism in a general working definition of the term that automatically involves inhumanity to the individual, suppression of the individual, and suppression of creativity. Yet that’s what Richard Bartle and his cronies do believe and do espouse, against all evidence (including…the evidence of the embodiment of their ideas in commercial for-profit games made by proprietary game companies lol).

    When Richard sets up a stark distopian game world where individual enterpreneurial activity is to be punished and even decried as evil (against freedom of creativity and the freedom of the individual); when Richard sets up a stark paradigm that says “capitalism” is ok only when it is sufficient to generate capital for games and make profits for game-gods, but all vestiges of it must be removed from games — and even open-ended virtual worlds (like his advocacy of removal of the land market from SL) — what he is doing is creating a powerful and very amplified megaphone and even a club to beat people into submission to accept a set of ideas about ideal social systems.

    To pretend that these machines for influencing human consciousness called games and worlds never affect them, and are merely a voluntary choice, is one of the ruses contained in the “material affects consciousness” agenda that pretends to abandon its beliefs when it comes to a comment

    Richard does want games to change reality. He told you so! Read what he wrote!!! And that means…he doesn’t think they are optional thought-provoking little idylls that spur people to possibly make changes. He thinks they *do* make change. That the answer to the OP’s question is YES, and THEY DO and to actively take part in the project.

    One of the obvious ways in which MMORPG culture has bled into social media in truly horrid ways is the concept of “forums etiquette” and “trolls” and “flaming” and “the need to close this thread” and “off-topic” and all the other little questing and boss and monster artifacts that come out of gaming. Ugh.

  204. I’ve read Richard Bartle’s book and I feel I have a good handle on where he stands on the power of virtual worlds. I do wonder on if Prokofy Neva thinks virtual worlds are good ideas, and if so, how and why.

  205. But Prok, what about those of us who want a game and don’t want the outside influence of RMT messing up the in-game economy? What if we don’t want the inflationary results? What if we want a certain sense of fairness in that a player earns what he has in the game, and doesn’t just buy it on an outside RMT market?

    I also don’t believe that Richard means RMT when he talks about changing the real world through games. I haven’t read all his writings, but my impression is he means through moralistic means, as he mentioned racial intollerance which is a very real concern in real life. I don’t agree with him on that, since we aren’t talking human races, but fantasy races. Fantasy races that are depicted quite different. And the idea of turning “evil” into “misunderstood”, if he means that too, well I just don’t see that as a proper goal. There is evil, and it should not be look at as a simple misunderstanding, or even a complicated one for that matter. But we do have to be careful of what we consider “evil”, too.

  206. Prokofy: when Richard sets up a stark paradigm that says “capitalism” is ok only when it is sufficient to generate capital for games and make profits for game-gods, but all vestiges of it must be removed from games — and even open-ended virtual worlds (like his advocacy of removal of the land market from SL) — what he is doing is creating a powerful and very amplified megaphone and even a club to beat people into submission to accept a set of ideas about ideal social systems.

    Well, from this description it sounds more like he is for some kind of feudalism… That’s rather British. What do you expect???

  207. Ok. I’ll jump into deeper water. *puts on oxygen mask*

    Prokofy, what irks me about your use of the word “socialism” is that you use it in a way that is plain wrong.

    Socialism: people get what they need and provide help to others by their best effort. Do what you can, get what you need.

    If SL was to be turned into a communist state then the players would have to buy Linden from SL, then set up a foundation and ask for donations from the players to run it. Then they would make decitions by voting using true democracy. That would be real communism in SL. Alternatively they could run away with the client and code their own server.

    Stalinist-Marxism would be to take over the virtual world by whatever means of power you have. Blogs… Hacking… Then seize the means of production (code), start your own server then set up a hard idealistic regime which is to brainwash the population into having the right ideas under strict control to prevent a set-back, then you gradually introduce communism. Which, of course, is a rather hopeless proposition… Please note that very few marxist-communistic states disposed of capitalism. They had cash.

    Get this:
    COMMUNISM == THE PLAYERS SHOULD OWN THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION (THE CODE AND SERVERS). If players then choose to charge for the work they do for others for a low fee (say $10 per hour) then it could still be consider a communist state given that you can’t make yourself rich that way: you get what you need (money to buy food) and do what you can to help others.

    Now, I don’t know if Bartle has suggested anything like this. But really.
    Why does that concept bother you? How many in SL actually makes more than $10 per hour from their in-world activities? How much would it hurt SL if it was in fact turned into a communist state run by a foundation???

    From your speech it sounds more like it bothers you

  208. I do wonder on if Prokofy Neva thinks virtual worlds are good ideas, and if so, how and why.

    But Prok, what about those of us who want a game and don’t want the outside influence of RMT messing up the in-game economy? What if we don’t want the inflationary results? What if we want a certain sense of fairness in that a player earns what he has in the game, and doesn’t just buy it on an outside RMT market?

    Amaranthar, could you please at least skim what I write? Nowhere have I called for forcing RMT on games; for deliberately messing up ingame economies; for ruining your sense of fairness. Nowhere. No how. And the persistence with which you and others keep saying this is itself a little side study in the amazing inability of any of you gamers to tolerate the slightest bit of criticism of the overall socialist game ethic without flying into hysteria that your very games themselves are in danger (I guess they are *that* brittle!).

    Seriously, there’s something really very wrong and insidious about persistently ascribing to me a fake and totally tendentious position of wanting to invade games and re-do them.

    Try to see if you can understand this critique in the more subtle sense it is intended, and reason by analogy.

    1. This persistent socialism (feudalism isn’t the name for it, no, unless you want to say that Soviet-style socialism is feudal, and perhaps it is) shouldn’t be allowed just to remain as unexamined backdrop — it should be discussed and analyzed for its own sake, but especially when it begins to have pretentions on reality.

    2. Richard Bartle feels none of the restraint about banging on worlds that *do* have RMT and crankily demand that they remove their free economies (on his visit to SL he complained about the land market, said it shouldn’t be that way, and even bashed land dealers as people not caring about individual freedom and creativity. So I ask you — *he* gets to do that with open-ended virtual worlds, and nobody gets to examine it?! He gets to do *that very thing you’re complaining about and imagining I’m doing” and nobody complaints? Hell, no.

    3. Game makers have to think about the larger problem of what it means when these games get larger and larger, and soon, they are entire nations with a severe game-gold problem that they can only solve by heavy prosecution. There’s something unseemly about a business that claims it is in a magic circle, outside of reality, with its own rules that it asks you to obey, then suddenly doubling back and going outside the magic circle to prosecute the hell out of you, not by banning your or taking away your game loot, but by making you go to real-life jail. It’s a profound cheating, and a profound break in the wall of the game. How come nobody is as upset about *that* as they are at Chinese gold-farmers taking the prospect of harvest affluent white-boys’ allowances as a real business?!

    4. Given the difficulty of preserving the integrity of games, and the chronic problem of cheating and gold-farming, and also the emergence of open-ended virtual worlds with economies, will some convergence take place? Will open-ended worlds be forced to become more like controlled games because of fraud considerations or banking regulations? Will games have to become more frank and forthright about selling packets of their game gold for those patrons who would like to skip the grind? These are all challenges for the industry which you can’t pretend doesn’t exist and you can’t say they don’t think about — and a game like EVE Online which is more sophisticated with its economy is precisely that direction of becoming more complex in resolving these issues. So this is an analysis of the industry’s responses and developments; noting that those game companies that figure out how to address this problem (EA-land.com has now welcome user-made content and introduced RMT in its re-engineered Sims Online, for example) may simply attract more customers. That doesn’t mean someone is going to get a law passed in Congress to invade your game and force RMT on you. But good luck keeping up the walls when there are a lot of poor people in the world looking for opportunities.

    5. And that brings me to the most unsettling prospect of all of Richard’s socialistic prescriptions. They are made in the name of dignity and equality for all. But they wind up prosecuting hordes of poor people merely looking for economic opportunity. There’s something inherently wrong with that picture. For the sake of the integrity of his RP fiction, people can’t make a buck and feed their families? I think it reveals the chronic internal contradiction and bankruptcy of socialist ideology. It’s more about maintaining the populist and egalitarian fictions of a ruling class than it is actually about helping people.

    I also don’t believe that Richard means RMT when he talks about changing the real world through games. I haven’t read all his writings, but my impression is he means through moralistic means, as he mentioned racial intollerance which is a very real concern in real life. I don’t agree with him on that, since we aren’t talking human races, but fantasy races. Fantasy races that are depicted quite different. And the idea of turning “evil” into “misunderstood”, if he means that too, well I just don’t see that as a proper goal. There is evil, and it should not be look at as a simple misunderstanding, or even a complicated one for that matter. But we do have to be careful of what we consider “evil”, too.

    You can read right in this thread or the Broken Toys thread plenty of quotes that let you know that of course Richard is for changing the world with his games. He thinks they are benign and good forces for change; he thinks he is benign and well-meaning and good, and that’s why he and others become so offended of my practical expose here of his socialist thinking because I’m also able to show the down side of socialism.

    For one, no one is ever really made egalitarian to the hilt when made so forcibly; there will always be one person that lets another skill him up or pays another to skill him up. When you force everyone into equality and make their trading of skills and services with each other appear as exploitation every time, no one buys it, and it criminalizes people. The good thing about capitalism is that it turns that around and says you can create equality before the law and people can trade their time for a skilled-up character. Eventually, the game companies will figure out how both to sell access to levels themselves, but also create rewards for players that really spend the time logged on and grinding themselves. Would these, too, be hacked? Well, not if they are changed all the time and possibly even involve mailing to persons who give addresses and credit cards. This could revive the flagging postal system.

    There’s plenty in this thread about racism. I can intellectually understand that sure, races of orcs or monsters that you come to “hate” in a game is not the same thing as hating racism of people. We all get that. Yeah, everything in a game is a fiction, and is only a kind of analogy of real life.

    But…I do think all of this takes its toll. There is a horrid MMORPG culture that has brewed on the Internet, been reinforced by geeks, and which bleeds into other creations, not games, particularly social media and virtual worlds. The very notion that someone with a different opinion, who persists in maintaining their view, is an “energy creature” with diabolical will, an evil race, which must be shunned and ridiculed and never “fed” — this is all sheer MMORPGery. It’s awful stuff. All of this creates a terrible culture that has already influenced reality, and for the worse.

  209. I do wonder on if Prokofy Neva thinks virtual worlds are good ideas, and if so, how and why.

    When Richard talks about virtual worlds and their power, he means games. He doesn’t mean open-ended virtual worlds with an economy like Second Life. He loathes the idea of an arbitrage-based land market, for example, and would remove it completely.

    I don’t give some blank check to virtual worlds declaring “they are a good thing”. They are very destructive. They can also be used positively for good. I think most people don’t think about the difference and don’t want to contemplate the consequences. If the anonymity of avatars, especially griefing avatars, was rendered visibly as a white-robed figure with a pointy hat, they would understand it better, perhaps.

    I used to be a lot more enthusiastic about virtual worlds 8 years ago than I am now. Now I’m very, very sobered and concerned about what I see. I do think it’s vital to participate in and shape them. The toxicity of doing this could get to anyone, though.

    I’m simply not going to sit here and warble on like a Linden about those wonderful opportunities for the disabled and the socially inept to connect. To do so merely invites more snarky comments about how SL is for geeks, losers, and shut-ins. I don’t think you mount a defense of virtual worlds on the strength of how you can use them for psychiatric therapy or occupational therapy.

    I think they are a powerful tool and largely unexamined and unknown by the general public, and jealously and even viciously kept from much-needed analysis by their creators.

    If you mean more narrowly speaking the social utility or public good of games as games, i.e. WoW, I would have to raise many questions about MMORPG culture which I find insidious and generally destructive and authoritarian. If you mean the “games for change” stuff, I’m really unimpressed and unpersuaded. I’m no more persuaded by lefty that makes a game about evil American oil corporations because he made his religious tract into a game than if he pressed that tract into my hand on the street — if anything, it’s more of a turn-off precisely because of the sense that he is trying very hard to smuggle a message in under cover of the gameplay sweetener.

    Like any other tool or artifact, it remains to be seen whether virtual worlds can be used for good by imperfect human beings, whether the tools themselves in fact inexorably lead them to *not* do good because of features built into them. Henrik Bennetsen’s questions matter. I reply instantly about what concerns me: things like the inability to vote “no”.

  210. Prok…

    Amaranthar, could you please at least skim what I write? Nowhere have I called for forcing RMT on games; for deliberately messing up ingame economies; for ruining your sense of fairness. Nowhere.

    I didn’t say you did, I was just asking to get a clearer definition of your view point. The rest of your comment answered that very nicely.

    I couldn’t find it (and I’m not going to spend an hour looking for it), but it seems to me Richard has said somewhere that he does not mean to enforce his ideals for a good game on everyone either. So, if that’s correct, I think you are both coming from two directions and meeting in the middle. But (and again, if that’s correct about Richard) neither of you is actually accepting that you’re both in that middle ground.

  211. @Taemojitsu: given the part of this thread on religion, the answer to the question asked of Jane is the classic “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Dissembling doesn’t change involvement. That she chooses to take the money is capitalism. But if we are talking about virtual games having a positive change, and in this context, making extraordinary claims about the powers of the game gods, then I have to agree with Prok, and Jane has to accept that she is collaborating with the Tibetan oppressors. Even G.W. Bush gets that. The Beijing Olympics will have a cloud over it both real and virtual.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=iraq+body+count&btnG=Google+Search

    The question for the audience then becomes, WHAT can you do, not IF you should do. You do not try to fix ‘capitalism’ in the Real world, as Prokofy Neva is so afraid of, because it’s just not relevant to your tools and domain of action.

  212. [...] Should virtual worlds change the real? March 19th, 2008 (Visited 3305 times) Tags: gdc, jane mcgonigal, prokofy neva, serious games, speaking, ted castronova, WoW [...]

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