Ted's Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University convened the second Ludium Conference this past weekend in Bloomington. Attendees were charged with hammering out a well-considered platform to guide virtual world policy. We were successful, and the Declaration of Virtual World Policy [Edit: along with its wiki] has been posted by the conference's designers, Studio Cypher. Here it is for your perusal and comment (along with more details):
A Declaration of Virtual World Policy
made by representatives of law, industry, and academia, assembled in full and free convention as the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.
Whereas virtual worlds are places with untapped potential, providing new and positive experiences and effects, we resolve that:
-A self-governance group of virtual world stakeholders should be formed
-A players’ bill of rights should be drafted and should include the right of free speech and the rights to assemble and organize.[Edit: FN1]
-A universal age verification system should be created to support the individual rights of all users
-Virtual world designers should have freedom of expression
-Virtual worlds should include plain-language End-User License Agreements (EULA) to enable all individuals to understand their rights
-There are different types of virtual worlds with different policy implications
-Access is critical to virtual worlds, so net neutrality must be maintained
-Game developers shall not be liable for the actions taken by players
-Fair use may apply in virtual worlds that enable amateur creation of original works
-The government should provide a comprehensive package of funding for educational games research, development, and literacy
[Edit: FN1 Modified to reflect correct wording voted on at Ludium 2.]
SWI plans to send this platform to all major candidates for the presidency and for all contested congressional seats in the coming 2008 election. I'm sure these statements will prompt a lot of discussion and debate (I hope so), but I thought I would remind everyone that the congress is concluded, and these are SWI's policy recommendations, at least until the next Ludium ;-). I'm sure that registration for that one will be open, as it was for this one.
The Ludia are conferences structured as games, and this one was modeled
on a political convention, the first Synthetic Worlds Congress. Studio Cypher deserves a lot of credit for creating a game that generated incentives to both compete and collaborate. All attendees began in districts (of three delegates), and started by forging platform planks, combining them regionally (3 districts to a region, 3 regions total) by the end of the first day. On the second day, all voted in multiple straw polls on 30 potential planks, with merging of planks and refinement of language prompted by the game design, the end goal being a list of 10 planks, as determined by a final vote. The list above is the result. In addition, the conference elected me as its Speaker, which basically puts me forward to direct the traffic of media and policy-maker inquiries about the declaration to the appropriate legal, industry, and academic experts. In the process of determining the speaker as well there was a greater interest amongst the nominees (Corey Bridges of Multiverse, Joshua Fairfield of Indiana University Law School and TN, and myself) in focusing on the platform, and the breadth of expertise in the room that would be able to speak to its specific planks, then on the race for the position.
We all know that well-designed games are good at generating incentives for their players, and in a way I took it as a sign of the success of this one that before the first day was even completed many players were eager to concentrate on the content of the planks rather than press for every advantage that the game mechanics gave them to accumulate "influence points" or the currency, gold coins. It quickly became apparent that the Ludium had sparked useful ideas and discussion about virtual world policy. The feeling that we were succeeding in hammering out a useful set of policy guidelines only grew over the course of day 2.
The Ludium was also the setting for related news from Ren Reynolds, who took the opportunity after final voting was completed to let us know about the Virtual Policy Network he is spearheading, and organization based in the UK that will tackle similar policy matters from a European as well as global perspective. Bravo, Ren!
[Edit: Some Ludium2 reports from attendees have appeared. Christian Renaud of Cisco has a post here, and Mia Consalvo has a post here. Ron Meiners has blogged about it at Virtual Cultures, Garrison LeHearst weighs in here, and Michelle Senderhauf of ARGNet posted during the conference. Richard, of course, blogged about it here, and Peter Jenkins has a post on his blog as well. Any I've missed? Drop a comment below and I'll add the link!]