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Apr 27, 2004



Hayot and Wesp mention how politically imbued readings of VWs/games might become.

How much transfer can there be between in-game and out-of-game political value systems? Beyond even role-classification (do more Democrats play clerics?!), I would be sceptical of how well basic game-play behavior/ motiviations etc. correlate with external political behavior.


Hey, Nathan,

I'm pretty sure (though I can't speak for Ted) that by political we didn't mean "Democrat or Republican," but something slightly more unconscious (that might manifest itself eventually, to be sure, in a voting booth choice).

That is, if EQ convinces people that, for instance, "success is a matter of hard work" (which seems likely to be one of the consequences of a system in which all avatars are created equal), they would be likely to resent twinks who achieve the material trappings of success without the labor. At the same time, they might also resent what I'll call "whiners," people who complain that life is hard, that things are unfair, and then beg for handouts from higher-level players.

Does that translate into RL politics? Hard to say. But: GWB is a twink; people on welfare are "whiners" (not what I think, but how the analogy works). Depending on your relation to EQ, and the manner in which it implements or doesn't implement rules that you believe should regulate these kinds of behaviors (twinking, begging), it seems likely that you'll have a much more intense relationship to that set of rules than you do to the RL political versions (the inheritance tax, Aid to Families with Dependent Children).

And then, given that your relation to the EQ versions is more intense (and therefore more unconscious), I could imagine a situation in which EQ effectively "teaches" you a RL political stance.

That said, in the preceeding stuff I've just been acting as though "political" was only a RL category. But as the various articles published by Terra Nova writers have shown, categories like "person," "property," or "economy" operate in online RPGs--even when the people involved don't know that those categories operate. "Politics" seems to me to be a similar kind of category.



I agree with all Eric said. You might also be interested in Beth Kolko's "Bodies in Place: Real Politics, Real Pedagogy, and Virtual Space."
You can find it in High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs.

Kolko builds on work by Amy Bruckman and Donna Harraway to point out how creating virtual identity and operating within virtual societies must entail political considerations. Actually, the Kolko article is a lot closer to another paper that Eric and Ted presented at the Princeton conference. I'll probably post something about that one before too long.


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