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Apr 10, 2004



Very interesting. In a similar, if over the top vein, we had a contributor named Elias Artista submit a piece to the Alphaville Herald called
"A Free Gamer's Manifesto." Like I say, it's over the top, but I think her heart is in the right place. Here's the link:



Over the top? Of course it is. You don't change society from the centre, but by pulling from the fringe.

Regarding the Free Gamer's Manifesto:
I am leery of claims that seem to be rationalization for hacking. Hacking is often against the social rules of the game space, which IMHO bind you much stronger than the TOS. I have nothing against people violating the TOS, I have something against people violating the social norms.

One thing that resonated very strongly, and unsurprisingly no one in that thread reacted to, was the rant against the theft of IP by the game companies. The claim of ownership of all in-game content, whether generated by players or not, concerns me. Note that I am *NOT* talking about swords here! I'm talking about books and plays that occur inside the game space.

It is evident that the game provider must have the right of distribution of in game content within the game. Otherwise, the game quickly ceases to be multi player :> Similarly, the game provider cannot be held responsible for providing DRM or similar methods to restrict propogation of IP in the game space. However, I do not see how they should be able to demand that I relinquish all my claims to them.

- Brask Mumei


Kevin Parker seems exuberant in his embrace of the consequence of "Challenge Everything":

Realism is delivered in part by means of reductionism -- that is, lower-level rules governing game events. Games that allow characters to pick up and carry any small object, or to push large, freestanding ones, are using reductionism. They are thereby becoming laboratories of emergent dynamics. Not only do such games enable experimentation; they reward it with interesting, unscripted behavior. Low-level political simulation methods, such as individual-based models and tracking of supply and demand, extend this new experimentalism into social dynamics. Electronic Arts’ commercials whisper conspiratorially, "Challenge everything!" And players just might. Freed from service to narrative and empowered by low-level rules, they can dispassionately test political assumptions without consequences. Their simulated civic tinkering will prompt no real nation to topple, no real person to suffer.

I wonder though, if there is a neglected darker, scarier underside to those commercially producting these games... per a point raised by Clay Shirky ("A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy"):

Writing social software is hard. And, as I said, the act of writing social software is more like the work of an economist or a political scientist. And the act of hosting social software, the relationship of someone who hosts it is more like a relationship of landlords to tenants than owners to boxes in a warehouse.

The people using your software, even if you own it and pay for it, have rights and will behave as if they have rights. And if you abrogate those rights, you'll hear about it very quickly.

That's part of the problem that the John Hegel theory of community -- community leads to content, which leads to commerce -- never worked. Because lo and behold, no matter who came onto the Clairol chat boards, they sometimes wanted to talk about things that weren't Clairol products.

"But we paid for this! This is the Clairol site!" Doesn't matter. The users are there for one another. They may be there on hardware and software paid for by you, but the users are there for one another.

As player's raise the ante with greater social, civic structural investments, will this only magnify the forces of those who yell: "no taxation without representation?"

If you accept the premise of "too many people" with a liberation mindset is a designer's nightmare. A small question, then, in the night: is this why AI and the NPC is indespensible: an instrument of indirection, another point where game dynamics can be shaped by rules changes, a dampener in the system of raw human interaction?

Vive la Revolution!


There is of course another danger... with greater responsibilites comes greater risks. If it's shown that companies have greater responsibilites to their players than originally thought it would be enough to make the investment in an "online environment" financially unattractive.

One wonders where these debates were back when the only MMO's were MUD's...


Sourtone>One wonders where these debates were back when the only MMO's were MUD's

The most sophisticated arguments concerning the morals of MUDs in the early days were along the lines of "You know that these things are addictive, so aren't you acting irresponsibly in providing them?".

There were debates that concerned how bad it felt when characters suffered PD, but these weren't couched in terms of "responsibility"; people who didn't like it could go and play some other MUD (or, if there wasn't one, go write their own). The argument "if you don't like the game, don't play it" prevailed.

Of course, in the early days most MUDs "reset" every so often, and those that didn't had stealing and so on, so there wasn't ever going to be much of a market for virtual items anyway. Any IP arguments, likewise, were considered irrelevant because you were effectively a pavement artist - drawing a picture that was going to disappear next time it rained.



The argument "if you don't like the game, don't play it" prevailed.

And in my opinion - still should. Many things in daily life appeal to those with addictive personalities: sports, food, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco (even without nicotine), collectibles, music, pen-and-paper games, etc. The 'responsibility' of the proprieters of said experiences should (and legally do in the US) stop at the point of deceptive marketing or the withholding of health and safety information.

Personal responsibility is too often given a pass these days.

The 'free gamer' in the aforementioned manifesto can leave at any time. She could join a MOO/MUSH or Second Life - games much more in line with her professed method of play.

As Brask said: her position gave alot of ground in a hurry, when she tried to justify third-party programs under the umbrella of sandbox-style play and user-created content.

Any valid point she might have been trying to make, was lost in her second paragraph.


Oh I forgot to mention that this issue of Reason Online also has a piece called "Hobbes in Cyberspace" which touches on the TSO debacle, and in which some of the social problems with the game are attributed to the poor game design. The interesting question raised is this: Did TSO become the "brechtian world of flimflammery" that it is because that is what people do when given a chance, or because that is the outcome of a really bad game design.



weasle>>"Many things in daily life appeal to those with addictive personalities"

Perhaps certain games (or all) should come with a warning label?

"Warning: Video games are addictive and may lead to unrealistic views of property ownership and a belief that the maker in question owes you something for playing"


"Video games are addictive and may lead to unrealistic views of property ownership"

Again, the interesting point is ENTIRELY missed. It is easy to beat up on the aforementioned game manifestos desire to legitimize cheat programs. But why not look at the interesting issues, and cease preying upon the simple ones.

I do *not* think it is an unrealistic view of property ownership to claim that a book I write in UO belongs to *me*. Do you think that is unrealistic? Do you think you have no IP claims to your actions in game?

This is a much more blurry and interesting line than discussing whether people own swords in game. Consider, for example, UO based webcomics. Where do those images stand in the IP pantheon? Clearly, the elements of the scene are all owned by EA. The scene itself, however, is the property of the artist, no?

If I were to stack hundreds of Coke cans of different colours to make a mural, would Coca-cola own the resulting mural?

- Brask Mumei


I think this is missing the point of the manifesto anyway, which is not, as I understand it, a thesis about ownership, but rather a thesis about the ability to modify the gaming environment. Just like free software doesn't mean you get software for free, free gaming doesn't mean you get to play for free. It means that you will not allow your gaming experience to be constrained without some justification. This is similar to the point that Kevin Parker makes in his essay:

"It may take some ingenuity, but free minds eventually break through fake dungeon walls to explore their potential and live their own stories."

The manifesto is just more radical in that it advocates cheating to accomplish this.

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