The Politics and Economics of Closure

Toontown is shutting its doors. (Thanks Pidge Fielder for the tip.) When gamer properties close down, the gamers rant and, understanding that no one will actually listen, move on. Toontown is a Disney property, however, filled with ordinary people. They've started numerous petitions at Change.org, a place dedicated to windmill tilting."Disney! We insist that you ignore your bottom line and do what we want instead! Or else, or else..." Or else what? You'll throw away your Mouse ears? You'll stop going to horrible movies like Planes? You'll refuse to go to theme parks that charge a million dollars for the experience of standing in two-hour lines while eating food that would kill a buffalo?

One of the petitions is targeted appropriately. It asks Jesse Schell, a developer of the world, to take it over.

If I were Jesse, I'd consider buying the property and creating a new format for the industry: The Community MMOG. Make it a corporation and sell all the shares to users. Like the Green Bay Packers. Set up by-laws to regulate affairs among shareholders. Have an annual meeting to appoint a board of managers. Running a community MMOG would be a natural stepping stone for young people who want to build their own.

It would be good for the world if old virtual worlds were sold to their users in this fashion. And if it doesn't happen, I will refuse to purchase any Jesse Schell branded merchandise, INCLUDING the bobble head, the mud flaps, and the his-and-hers towels. Who's with me?


Comments on The Politics and Economics of Closure:

Brian 'Psychochild' Green says:

I think the last few years have put the lie to the old chestnut about MMOs never really dying. We've seen plenty of games that have went away, and for the most part the universe hasn't fallen apart.

The important thing for the players is the community more than the game. (For future developers, it'd be nice to have access to the game to understand it in its historical context, of course.) But, the community can move to another form, such as a forum.

I think one thing that makes virtual worlds so interesting is having a bold idea and direction. I'm pretty sure Jesse Schell has enough stuff to keep him busy that he doesn't need to go salvage an old game from the scrap heap. Without his (or some other central developer vision), would the game be the same? I don't think so.

This might seem strange or even sacrilegious coming from me, but perhaps the best thing for the community is to let the game go gracefully into oblivion rather than having the corpse forcefully reanimated by committee.

Posted Sep 8, 2013 8:36:34 PM | link

Adam Yoksas says:

Even failed states have relics of times when they weren't failed states. What sort of relics do failed MMOs give their citizens?

Game closure puts to the test a lot of the assumptions we had about this genre in the early 2000s. Are these worlds institutions that can be compared with their analogous counterparts in reality? Or are they just powerful illusions--like casinos without the promise of a payout--that bear only a surface resemblance to their real world counterparts?

I'm reminded here of Hannah Arendt's table in "The Human Condition." A table relates a bunch of people who would have no relation to one another, if the table wasn't there. But when you remove the table, the people present around it have no structure that holds them together.

This is even worse when we see the game as the "table" holding MMO communities together. In MMOS, Bill and Mary aren't the beings that matter. Gruunak the Ork (played by Bill) and Ezelda the Elf (played by Mary) are the beings that matter, and the game gives the relationship form and context. When it goes, the relationship the two players goes as well, unless buttressed by a real relationship, external to the game, that can function independently.

But I'm skeptical that these games promote such connections regularly. Putting aside the occasional feel-good story about players marrying outside the game, I'm more inclined to believe that the communities that are built there share more in common with the communities of regulars at the casino or the crack house. It's all well and good when it's there, but when it gets taken away, people go through a reality check about the nature of the thing that they wasted their time playing, and now no longer have.

Because that's when it all becomes a waste, doesn't it? Becoming a hardcore raider only makes sense if there's a long and bright future made easier by the effort made today. But if there is no bright future, if the game has no future because of a shutdown, all that time given over to productive activities becomes wasted time.

Posted Oct 16, 2013 3:32:41 PM | link

Urizenus Sklar says:

omg I just saw this. All I can say is Noooooooooooooooooo!

Posted Oct 21, 2013 10:27:52 AM | link