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Oct 07, 2003



I devote some space in the book I am writing to the way that MMORPGs embed messages of all kinds in the wiring of the world. The one that seems most salient to me is the eradication of male/female skill differences; clearly, something is being said there.

Even though the worlds are not built by consciously political actors, nonetheless, they do express politics. It's just a politics chosen to maximize profits from users.


Another thing: A political game is not a political game unless it is a game. A game is not a game unless it is fun. An interactive software with an over-the-top, self-righteous message is going to be so oppressively dumb that it won't be fun to play.

With 'September 12' we have an interactive software that has abstracted most of the essence of the terror/counter-terror problem just to be able to call America stupid. I mean, I could build a game call "Albanian Refugee" where the player has to manage the boatloads of Albanians who arrive from time to time on Italian beaches; every one that is turned away becomes two more inbound refugees the next round. The message: Don't turn away those poor refugeees. Duh. Boring.

Games with political messages have to capture the conundrums that give rise to political conflicts or they just won't be good games. In that sense, discussing politics with games is probably better than doing it with speech - the constraint of making it a good game imposes self-discipline on your political thinking. With speech you can just reduce the essential complexity and say 'Never hunt terrorists, you just make more and more.' With a game, you can't get away with that.


"A game is not a game unless it is fun."

Er, no. There's unfun games out there which are still classified as games. For that matter, formerly fun games grow unfun over time.

Back on LegendMUD we got into political brouhahas all the time. The game was based on history, so we can Jewish moneylenders in heavily Catholic countries depicted--that offended some people. We had slaves in colonial Africa--and people could kill them OR kill the slaveowners--mostly because you could kill anything. We had ritual human sacrifice in Tenochtitlan. We had the opium trade in the south seas, so players could effectively be British drug-runners. We had an area based on the Crusades, which is not exactly neutral religious territory. Lastly, we turned down (several times, in fact), area proposals to dramatize the life of Jesus, because we just didn't want to go there.

Our fallback position was always "that's how things were," but there's no doubt that ideology could and would creep in sometimes. There's a quest to free the slaves in Africa--there's no corresponding one to help the slaveowners.


-One hand washes the other-

Not sure how we could claim that MMOG's make economic statements without claiming that they also make political ones.


"[...]any thoughts on the question of whether specific virtual worlds today target specific political demographics or embody political positions?"

No thoughts. Just a sample. The present-day equivalent to the movie The Last Starfighter... America's Army.



A game that isn't fun is just work! :)

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