Commentary on “Still Logged In”

 Posted by (Visited 2583 times)  Game talk
Mar 152017

I seem to have touched a bit of a nerve with my talk at GDC! (The page for the talk with slides and video is here). Some of the coverage and links so far:

While the official talk title is “What Social VR and AR Can Learn From MMOs”, it gradually becomes quite clear that anyone working in tech nowadays — or for that matter, anyone interested in the future of real world governance — should watch it too..

Why are new VR/AR developers so slow to learn from past MMO experience?

“I think a lot of them don’t even think to look,” Raph tells me, “or think with the goggles first, like I mentioned in the talk. After all, social media web people didn’t look either.”

New World Notes

It also hit BoingBoing, where Cory Doctorow wrote quite a little essay around it:

Raph describes this year’s speech as “darker” than in previous years, and I don’t know if that’s the right word — more like “angry.” Koster is angry at the proliferation of abusive behavior in online worlds, especially in the new VR and AR worlds, which are recapitulating every stupid mistake made in share online spaces all the way back to text MUDs.

But the designers of Koster’s era had an excuse: they were making mistakes no one had ever made before. The current crop of designers — all the way up to Marc Zuckerberg, who so disgusted Koster during a job interview that Koster publicly says he never expects to work for Facebook again — are making mistakes that have been lavishly documented, and the only explanation for making these mistakes again is either cruelty or depraved indifference to cruelty.

— BoingBoing

After the talk, I was also asked a bunch of questions by the MIT Technology Review:

Raph Koster, a high-profile video-game designer whose hits include the multiplayer online game Star Wars Galaxies, thinks VR trolling is in fact likely to get worse. He used a keynote at the gaming industry’s giant GDC conference in San Francisco earlier this month to warn that VR companies need to do more than offer victims defensive tools such as space bubbles and mute features. He says companies will have to start more actively curating, investigating, and punishing bad user behavior, for example by hiring dedicated staff.

“If anything, the behavior now is better than it will ever be,” says Koster of the current moment in social VR. He says his experience launching Ultima Online, one of the first virtual environments that could host thousands of people at once, showed that when more people start visiting a virtual space, trolling becomes more of a problem because they feel more anonymous. “When you get strangers bumping up against one another they behave more poorly,” he says. “Peer pressure is one of the things that keeps people behaving well.”

MIT Technology Review

This also led to an article over at Massively Overpowered, where there is a lively discussion in the comments.

So… here to speak for people who’ve played sandbox MMORPGs is veteran MMORPG designer Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Crowfall), plainly quoted in the article to point out how adorably innocent and naive the VR devs are about human nature online in virtual worlds.

MassivelyOverpowered also joined the fray:

Koster speaks to the social and ethical implications of “turning the real world into a virtual world” and that MMORPGs have provided a foundation for such through lessons learned over the course of their history.

The hour long presentation explores some of the issues and ethical conundrums that both players and developers face when participating in VR/AR games. His contention is that game designers are in the best position to help others enjoy life.

In addition, it popped up on the usual places like MetaFilter and Hacker News and even in some extensive coverage on in Japan, and there were a lot of great comments from Twitter:

  3 Responses to “Commentary on “Still Logged In””

  1. Awesome. Glad you collected all this commentary in one place for your readers here. Really glad you’re addressing this topic.

  2. I always like your talks, slides, etc. That said, it seems like everyone is using their bully pulpits as an opportunity to make some political statement about the US election. I was ultimately disappointed, annoyed and turned off by your smattering of political comments… even while in agreement with the spirit of their meaning.

    Have you ever had friends go through a bitter divorce? Have you watched them waste their life savings while they and their attorneys push every bitter and petty argument to gain an upper hand? Every event, comment, and action is given exaggerated meaning and slant. Both sides are absolutely sure, without further consideration, that they are absolutely right and the other side is absolutely wrong. It seems so sure and clear cut to the combatants. How could any of the rest of us not take the “correct” side?

    Ultimately, neither wins. Friendships and relationships are destroyed, because neither side allows for a more neutral and conciliatory position.

    Worse, the audience to these bitter battles become desensitized to all the mud throwing and a could sometimes miss legitimate issue that could be amicably resolved.

    Bringing your political disappointment into this important talk was distracting and ultimately counterproductive.

  3. Oh, I don’t think that either side is “absolutely right” or anything. But the connections in this particular case were too close to ignore, and made for useful object lessons, just as the lessons of Gamergate were deeply relevant to the talk.

    I spent quite a lot of time actually talking with Gamergaters — it wasn’t all that visible on the blog, but highly visible elsewhere — and while clearly on one side in that mess, I also tried to strike a tone of mutual understanding. So I do think I get what you are saying.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.