Virtual Citizenship Association

 Posted by (Visited 9909 times)  Game talk
Jan 122007
 

The Virtual Citizenship Association appears to be a recently founded group to promulgate rights for virtual world users. There isn’t a rights document per se up there yet, but it does start out by bluntly declaring that “living in a virtual world gives us the status of citizen there,” which under strict definitions seems a bit overreaching.

Their social contract includes the following points:

  • Defending citizen rights, which includes participatory democracy.
  • Online universes that are free software, public standard protocols, and under GNU licenses.
  • Data related to a citizen as being property of the citizen — including freedom of exchange, download, etc.
  • “We will defend the right for everyone to create new game servers, with identical data (except personal data), without any fee.”

Whew.

This group seems to be the same folks who were working to get the Ryzom codebase released to the public — so they’re based in France.

Now, I am as much if not more of a virtual idealist as most anyone. That said, the elements in their social contract seem shortsighted and (gasp) restrictive to me.

  1. Some online worlds might not be suited for participatory democracy.
  2. If all worlds are free and open completely, that does make it harder to make a profit, which is probably a goal we wish to preserve in the overall ecology of virtual worlds.
  3. Data being citizen property actually puts a HUGE burden on world operators. Now they could be sued for losing it, for example. Or they might not be able to extract certain sorts of metrics from it.
  4. Does the freedom of exchange mean eBaying gold? ‘Cause that’s how I read it… Not all users want this — shouldn’t instead the contract preserve variety and diversity in worlds instead?
  5. Whee! Gray shards for everyone. I am actually a bit of a sneaking fan of gray shards, because of my mud background. But at the same time, gray shards can be very damaging to a smaller service… plus, what stops a Microsoft from cloning Puzzle Pirates?

All in all, not all that well thought out, I think… I’d prefer any such social contract to focus more on how operators have to treat players, than on forcing particular business models on operators.

  23 Responses to “Virtual Citizenship Association”

  1. stated in the Social Contract, is to protect our elementary rights; living in a virtual world gives us the status of citizen there, and our rights have to be recognized and enforced. Raph Koster, he of the Declaration of the Rights of Avatars, has his doubts.

  2. I subscribe to the notions that virtual worlds are not real worlds, and that virtual worlds are social networking services. The activities of these social networks (e.g., trading, buying and selling virtual goods, combat) revolve around bringing people together. I think this perspective also eliminates the whole “user entitlement to virtual property rights” shebang. The people who use these social networks are also, realistically speaking, users or consumers of a service to which the only “citizen rights” guaranteed are those promised by their associated physical governing body and the service provider.

  3. I can’t tell what’s a metaphor anymore.

    Where is Marshall McLuhan when we need him?

  4. I want almost the exact opposite… I want virtual worlds to continue to be run with an iron fist by the Devs, for all the data in my characters to belong to the company so that I can’t (legally) make a profit selling it (stay away, IRS!), and client software and protocols to be closed and tamperproofed to the extent that that can be managed.

    I want this because its the most convenient state of affairs for the kind of GAMES I like to play to operate in (World of Warcraft et al). If we bend or break the rules too much, governments and taxmen will likely butt in and regulate and make a big mess of things. Financial controls, liability, etc. are all bad for the companies that make these games—they cost lots of money, and therefore its bad for me because the games will also cost more money (if they are even still around)

  5. Why is it that these “players’ rights” advocates always target the virtual world developers and never the people who run guilds?

    Richard

    PS: Wouldn’t it be amusing if a virtual world developer banned membership of such organisations under its EULA?

  6. I understand this feeling of citizenry and the desire to have ‘rights’ in virtual gaming worlds, I truly do, but I sometimes feel that some of these advocates are loosing sight of why they care so deeply about them. I’ve always found that its the frustration of being reliant on the GM’s mood when a player has a certain problem either with property or gaming or speech or suspension a.s.o. But this is what gaming forums are for, isn’t it? There you can enforce some form of democratic governance and be heard – democracy doesn’t belong in most virtual online games, if you ask me. But I do understand the feelings of attachment and the need for ‘rights’ to protect virtual property and self, which is why I feel it’s a good idea to have forums outside the worlds to discuss issues of ‘injustice’ and property.
    Sometimes I worry that one day a gamer is going to sue another gamer for stealing their loot in a real life courtroom (or has that already happened in Korea?) – now, where would be the fun in gaming if I worried that I was going to be sued by another player for being a tad vicious?

  7. I’m a big believer in resident or game players’ rights in virtual worlds and I put my money where my mouth is.

    But either you believe that private property is a guarantor of rights or you don’t. Either it’s a fair and quitable guarantee for all or it isn’t.

    So often people screaming about their “rights” are actually screaming about having an extremist Bolshevik movement where they “expropriate from the expropriators,” that’s all. There’s nothing rights-based or universalist in their concept at all — it’s just a big grab.

    The rights discourse has superceded the old Marxist language to gain credibility, but it’s just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Those exploiting the rights terminology for Marxian goals aren’t at all willing to accord all human rights to all, or have any checks or balances on their own grabs.

    This group sounds like the typical copyleftist extreme leftoid types that believe all corporate property is “theft” because they hate evil corporations but their own desire to steal corporate or private property isn’t theft, and is sanitized by their “oppressed” status. It’s one of those deep Marxist contradictions.

    Why would players on a game get the right to own property they didn’t create or have the copyright to? In a closed game environment, obviously the game company hires artists and illustrators who make the stuff, and they have to pay for those people and the company has copyright and sells subscriptions to pay for itself. Why does some snivelling whining Bolshevik get to come and grab their stuff — just in the name of having rights for avatars that would include checks against unreasonable search and seizure, or checks against grabbing of user-owned creations?

    More practically, how do these avatars gain their rights to grab property except by hacks and exploits? And what’s to stop them, after they have grabbed a company’s property that they don’t like because it is wealthy or capitalist or neo-liberal or whatever, to stop at that and not steal their neighbours’ property? This is always how these extremist movements go.

    If everyone has to live in a climate where copyleftists can constantly grab and grab, disguising greed as “rights,” how can a game company stay in the market?

    I’m not understanding why Richard Bartle would think that rerouting these players to bang on guilds would satisfy their agenda, or deprive the game company of some obligation to supply some basic avatar rights. Guilds might be able to affect game play — how can they affect property?

    (I’ve already sent a query to Matt Mihaly to see if his new Groves concept is going to be property that players can trade, sell, transfer, etc.)

    I agree with Raph that the rights battle has to involve placing game companies or virtual companies under the rule of law — even their own TOS and CS laws. So often, the problem with them is their arbitrary, uneven, selective, and even vindictve prosecutions and practices. So job one is to get them even to adhere universally to their own TOS fairly.

    Then, if you are going to root avatars’ rights within their property rights, which they have gained either by labour (skilling up to gather various swords and helms) or by creativity (making intellectual property), than you have to accord the same rights to game companies who have property rights, too. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  8. Great – Game Worlds that run like 60’s era Soviet tractor factories. Wee – bring it on , I cant wait 🙂

    The companies will build the factory for the good of all players then just give it away for the rights of the players. Oh ya there is a substainable model of growth.

  9. Raph wrote: I’d prefer any such social contract to focus more on how operators have to treat players, than on forcing particular business models on operators.

    That’s where I’m at. Personally, I feel this will come out of the evolution of ESRB. That ratings system only covers the consumer until they get it home. “Content may change throughout play” is nowhere NEAR enough of a statement to make about the ever-changing experience had within a persistent online world though.

    As an industry body with credibility, I think they are an analagous organization will be a better kicking off point for player’s rights. Mostly this is because either companies will be interested in developing a profitable (or at least non-loss-based) method to fulfill the needs, or they’ll be made to.

    I personally think companies will seek something like this out soon-ish anyway. They can only afford to hire so many CSRs and keep them all relevantly trained.

    The big wrinkle I see is with globalization. The above almost requires games with servers entirely localized to a country, to the exclusion of others. So an intrinsically sharded game is more appropriate for this I think that uniserver games without boundaries.

  10. Well, there’s the Entertainment Consumers Association. Obviously, they’re not as gung-ho about avatar rights and that whole ball of wax, but it would be neat to see if they’re on the level or not.

  11. […] Raph Koster writes about a new group that calls themselves “The Virtual Citizenship Association”. It’s a new group advocating virtual citizen ehm ‘rights’. In his blogpost he points out the relevant problems with their social contract – which I completely agree with – so I’m not going to bother repeating it all in my own words here – you should just read it – I can’t do his words justice here! But entering the site – I was quite intrigued by how they define themselves:”We’re a group of MMORPG professionals, people who enjoy playing in online universes in general and people who advocate the use of Free Software.”I find that interesting. When I think of ‘MMORPG proffesionals’ I think of game operators and designers – not players, but it’s a relevant point! Why shouldn’t players be labeled as MMORPG professionals? I kinda like it – it tickled me! As for what they’re advocating, I agree with Koster when he writes:”I’d prefer any such social contract to focus more on how operators have to treat players, than on forcing particular business models on operators.”Too right! And in case you don’t have the time to read the comments, I have to paste glorious Mr. Bartle’s comment – where would this industry be without his precious sense of humor?”Why is it that these “players’ rights” advocates always target the virtual world developers and never the people who run guilds?RichardPS: Wouldn’t it be amusing if a virtual world developer banned membership of such organisations under its EULA?” […]

  12. I am pixelated therefore I am? Naw, a revolutions is predicated on actual effective mechanisims to wrest control or rights via legitimate or illigitimate means. No effective mechanisims exist where access can be denied.

  13. […] I had a why didn’t I think of that moment seeing the headline to this Raph Koster post about a lobbying group for virtual citizens’ rights, but Koster more or less nails the problems with this particular instantiation. The group has a guaranteed-to-be-unsuccessful manifesto rather than a practical focus on effecting systemic changes thru collective bargaining power and lobbying. « DVD-AACS Copy Protection Apparently Cracked   […]

  14. >Naw, a revolutions is predicated on actual effective mechanisims to wrest control or rights via legitimate or illigitimate means. No effective mechanisims exist where access can be denied.

    We shall see about that! To the success of our hopeless cause!
    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/02/25/003.html

  15. Prokofy,

    Your ability to pull the esoteric out of your hat (unfoiled, because I admire your passion for your cause(s) sometimes) never suprises me 🙂

  16. […] On the Virtual Citizenship Association which I don’t view as necessarily a rights organization as a group using the rhetoric of rights, on Raph Koster’s blog. […]

  17. Problem is, that these people ask gods to only create worlds where particapatory democracy (as this would be the answer to everything) is viable.

    And this leads to the question: Can’t you think outside the box?

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  19. […] one. Xavier Antoviaque wrote:Edward wrote:Any word on whether Areae will be open source? Given Raph Koster’s standpoint on VCA, I doubt it. I should find the time to write a public answer to this btw… I don’t know his […]

  20. […] those who never read Raphs blog post: https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/01/12/virtual-citizenship-association/ Its been a while since I read Raphs blog entry about the VCA, but IIRC he has a point. One […]

  21. […] Raph Koster writes about a new group that calls themselves “The Virtual Citizenship Association”. It’s a new group advocating virtual citizen ehm ‘rights’. In his blogpost he points out the relevant problems with their social contract – which I completely agree with – so I’m not going to bother repeating it all in my own words here – you should just read it – I can’t do his words justice here! But entering the site – I was quite intrigued by how they define themselves: “We’re a group of MMORPG professionals, people who enjoy playing in online universes in general and people who advocate the use of Free Software.” […]

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