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Sep 22, 2003



"I am a player, and I am unhappy with how things are, they said. Listen to me."

Grimmelman focuses on the evolution of these political activities exclusively in an ingame setting, but I think there is more. If we say that games have the potential to influence people's RL behavior, then revolts, protests, player petitions and sit-ins are something we should respect, if not necessarily encourage.

A year or so ago, Alan VanCouvering, EQ's Community Relations Manager, issued a plea for players to stop sending in elaborate petitions with dozens of suggestions, numerous signatures and threats of cancellations. He said that this was ineffective and taxing on his resources and asked for individual comments and suggestions. I wrote in a long letter in sharp disagreement. Even though it is hard for him to manage as a game representative, as a society this is JUST what we want! This might be the first "political" experience of any kind for the youngish players. For them to feel that they can band together and demand change within the existing power structure is exactly what we want our participative citizens of tommorrow to feel. Not that EQ should acquiesce to their requests, but just not tell them that it is the wrong way to go about it. After all, we want these people to collect signatures someday in support of same-gender marriage or write to their senator objecting to legislation. We LIKE this, it is a GOOD thing.

Alan wrote back a sweet but beleaguered note along the lines of "Society needs to take care of itself, I have a job to do and so many hours in a day".

Taking a political stance in a VW in place of action in RL is not a good thing. Using VW action as a practice session for future involvement in RL issues is a great thing.

"I am a voter and I am unhappy with the way things are. Listen to me."


"I am a voter and I am unhappy with the way things are. Listen to me."

I'll expand that: "I'm a customer and I'm always right."

In the world of corporations, nothing speaks louder than the dollar.

I remember reading EQ's EULA years back, going into their forums to find out if I wanted to try this game and seeing how they treated their players... The treatment was like the community was a nuissace to them, I could see things being plunked down on unsuspecting players seemingly arbitrarily. There was absolutely no respect for the community that was forming around them. I talked with my dollars, by not buying it. ... Years later a friend showed me EverQuest since I never actually played it. I was very puzzled. The guy liked this game, to me it was an immature game run by egocentric children. When I read about them banning eBay sales I was not surprised at all, given the glimpse I got sometime before that; just as I wasn't surprised when news of EQ bannings hit the sites - There's nothing I wouldn't expect after what I saw back then and all the happenings in recent times have only confirmed and reaffirmed my view.

There are certainly other great games out there that don't ask me to stomach those attitudes or the draconian EULA - And even if you can't find one today, just wait until the 40 or so MMORPGs that are in the pipeline get released.

When choosing a game like this I have to go beyond the gameplay elements, you are going to make a significant investment in time, money and emotional relationships (to the game experience and to the people); Personally, I'd like that investment to hold it's value for a long time, and I want to be treated with all the respect a customer deserves. I especially don't take kindly to a company that seems so lawsuit-happy and ban-happy. You can equate this to searching for a lifetime partner; You want your time/money/emotional investment to be long-lasting, you want the respect a partner deserves, and you are not going to pick someone with a track record for divorcing or sueing their partners. ... After all, you will more likely be spending more time in this game than with your partner...

Just let the almighty green dollar do the talking...


I can fess up here that I'm treating this blog as a kind of workbook for ideas that I want to pursue in print (and the great thing is that other people tell me how wrong I am). So I'm gonna break about 15 blog conventions and repost someone's comment from LawMeme. I don't feel quite so bad since the poster is anonymous, and the info provided is interesting and pertinent. Oh, and I'll never find it again if I don't stick it here:

"As a member of the group who created the tax protest, I can tell you very well what it was about.
In SL, each region is a server with clearly defined limitations - 10 thousand prims, which stands for primitive shapes (cube, sphere, cylinder...)
Instead of getting a fixed amount of space, like what happens when you purchase some space for a webpage, the developers thought it would be better to create a virtual economy to distribute resources to everyone.
Just to give you an idea, a prim costs 10 Linden dollars and is taxed at $1 per week, more if its far above the ground, if its very large, or if it is a light.
Taxes are meant to prevent rapid resource depletion. Without an economy in place, a malicious user could fill up a server in seconds, and a particularly creative user playing normally could very well fill it up on his own.
As you can see, the limits imposed by the game constraint our imagination a bit, and force us to learn some efficient 3d design techniques, keeping the details in the textures and doing only the basic structure with actual polygons.
This is what everyone's angry about. They came to SL with the expectation that they could build to their heart's content, and started doing so, but quickly hit a wall where their income could not pay for their taxes anymore. So naturally they felt frustrated because they didnt want to delete anything. The tax system has been tweaked a bit and now everything is going fine. "


Well Dan, you gotta admit while at first glimpse the economic model I saw on SL seemed interesting and shaped to control server resources directly, It quickly became a hindrance.

I am among 2ndLife's paying customers and quite frankly I've typed up a detailed "farewell" letter already with the points I think would improve 2ndLife going forward. It's not because the game is bad, the game has enormous potential and I absolutely love creating things (I was building stuff on ActiveWorlds many eons ago, and this is light years ahead). I loved my experience there, everyone was very friendly -well, except maybe one of two people, but a number of factors make it totally unsuitable for anything but a hardcore gamer. The interface, the actual building, and last but not least the very limited resources you have unless you are a pitching in in a significant manner into the community are among the critical barriers to entry here.


A couple of questions for DivineShadow, or others with a stake in Second Life (and who, unlike me, have managed to get their act together and signup):

DS: "[reasons for leaving include]...the very limited resources you have unless you are a pitching in in a significant manner into the community are among the critical barriers to entry here."

Can I ask whether 2L provide social feedback mechanisms to encourage community stakeholding in these projects? And are the limited resources that one has simply a matter of one's pocketbook IRL?



"Can I ask whether 2L provide social feedback mechanisms to encourage community stakeholding in these projects? And are the limited resources that one has simply a matter of one's pocketbook IRL?"

Yes, there are social feedback mechanisms that are right there to encourage you to participate more actively. The limited resources you have in 2nd Life have absolutely nothing to do with your RL pocketbook; they seemingly do, however, have a lot to do with the technology behind the game (as well as your time dedication and skill building things).

The flow (simplified greatly) seems to be:
Limited game server resources-->Player Scoring system-->Player Weekly payout--->build objects-->Exchange object copy (sell/destroy) for more server resources-->Object tax-->Limited game server resources.

I went into 2ndLife not too long ago, and was simply awestruck. Before going in with CC in hand I did a little trial, read the boards, realized the community was strong, the developers listened, the 'game' per se was still very much an experiment of sorts. Overall the climate is very friendly and helpful from the company down to the players, and it really is the best thing I could find out there that would cater to the 'builder' or 'creator' in me.

You could build things and actually use them, and you would actually bump into people at other places than the "log-in point". ActiveWorlds, the other 'building' community I've belonged to has gotten very old and stale (haven't seen many changes in what? Five years?)

The initial problem for me was the difficulty of building things. In 2ND life you can essentially move along a two-axis plot in activities with your time. One axis is the purely social interaction, the other axis is the object builder. You don't get rewarded for much anything else beyond these two activities. People in 2ndLife socialize while showing off their creations or building them, which via a voting system (vote on how good a player's creations are, etc) ties back to your social standing which itself ties back to your economic level via a weekly allowance. Essentially the more people vote that you build good stuff, your avatar looks spiffy, and you're frienly, the more money you get to try and build more stuff. You can sell the things you build in exchange for more credits. To counterbalance every object that you create has a cost to exist in the world and has an ongoing cost in the form of a tax.

My problem stems from two aspects one personal, one game-related. On the personal side I just don't have a huge amount of time to play. On the game side, building things can drive you insane; although the interface acts in many ways like a CAD program, which limits playability, when it comes down to building things you have to use some very-very-very crude tools and get only your 'perspective' view to work on your object. I can grab a CAD package -your pick- and whip up simple things like a champagne glass, a plantbowl or a step ladder in two minutes flat. On 2nd Life, however, that task could take me over an hour. Who is 'at fault' here, me being clueless or the interface being ill-suited, is actually beyond the point; Point being: Building stuff is a key element and even the simplest construct is both difficult and absolutely worthless as far as your in-game standing goes.
With the social system being tied to the building system, and that being tied to the economic system it means that a breakdown anywhere on this chain means failure of the rest. Hence since I could not build much in the time I have, my social standing is substandard, hence I get little cash per week (more like zero). The problem with little cash: I'd like to try out other people's creations, and they're expensive for a pauper like me. So essentially the game kinda shuts me out unless I work on what poses the greatest challenge; and when this challenge seems to me a technological one, and not a 'gameplay' element, it turns me off.

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