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Jun 09, 2006



I love this idea -- in fact, it's such a good idea that if you feel, for example, SL is threatened by some Senate committee, I hope you will provide little kiosks inworld that rez out and provide a ready-made template for writing letters on email to Congress. Though...I'm a little sceptical of email campaigns to Congress -- they're an inch deep and a mile wild. To really influence your congressional representatives, you have to be prepared to back up something like a superficial email campaign (they can just dump mass emails in a folder or answer them with stock key-worded responses) with RL phone calls, visits, lobbying groups, street demonstrations, media articles, and everything else.

If you're going to invoke democracy, be prepared to see what happens when the millions of Myspace.com teens *parents* make NotyourspacebecauseIsayso.com type of spaces and fight back. And they may fight back, Cory, even if they aren't your stereotypical "religious nutters" and "loony right". In fact, until you've seen how easily your child's reputation can be damaged by the rapid spread of false information on Myspace.com and similar websites, you can't really feel the pain of both parents and kids who criticize these tools because of their destructive potential -- and from liberal notions of limits on rights to protect everyone's rights, not from some putative "right-wing nutters" notion of squelching everybody's fun. I know of at least one very liberal school principal in New York that sent home letters urging parents to take their kids of myspace.com not because of scare stories about being murdered, but because of the destructive rumour and ridicule mill.

BTW, I so love this idea of mass-messenging to pieces, that I hope you can *also* (while you're making the kiosks for me to write to Hilary with) make some little dinkier kiosks that help democracy and letter-writing *right here in our world in Second Life* so that we can prevail on *you* as the game devs to change some of *your* policies -- like the toleration of aggressive security orbs. Oh, and P.S. *please* put NO into the voting features, we can't have democratic grass-roots movements without the ability to say NO just like you'd like us in RL to say NO to would-be regulators of our games! kthx!


In the United States, it is probably far more important and practical for the major pubilishers to form a PAC and lobby politicians than it is to do letter writing campaigns. It's worked out very well for the RIAA (hasn't been a peep out the PMRC for quite a while) and I imagine it would work for the video game industry.

Not to say the letters won't help, but money (and a willingness to run attack ads) matters way more in the current US political system than individual voters -- especially if there's the perception that the voter in question actually doesn't.


The point is that rather than just having the ESA or EFF out on their own, to back them with the existing communities who have vested interests in certain shared goals. That way you have both the lobbyists in their snappy suits but thousands or millions of voters as well.


That way you have both the lobbyists in their snappy suits but thousands or millions of voters as well.

Millions of people, just by numbers alone, don't make up a social movement. What do these millions of people do ordinarily? They just go on Myspace and play video games. They don't leverage that power into letter-writing campaigns about Darfur or the war in Iraq with those sheer numbers (though some of them might take part in social movements not related to MySpace). So...can we reasonably expect that they'll right-click and send on an ingame lobbying memo? Maybe, if game gods spoon-feed them enough and if site owners make it not only easy, but beneficial. Imagine if you could get game gold to do this!

So the question really is...can people who are masses and millions be coalesced enough around fighting for an issue that relates to their very source of entertainment. Perhaps. I wouldn't want to get too fanciful about their power just yet when they haven't organized into anything other than passive consumers so far.


Cory, I have some additional thoughts on your interesting proposal via the trackback (http://www.brownianemotion.org/2006/06/09/one-click-activism/>One-Click Activism) and a question/challenge to game/world designers for further thought.


Actually, recent AOL-sponsored surveys indicate that 45% of all gamers play something online, and of those who play online, an astounding 33% play in relatively sophisticated places like their favorite MMORPG !!!

Therefore, I have considerable confidence that if you could provide a gamer with address, phone number, and email address of their local senators and congressmen, plus a sample letter for them to "mod" as they see fit, the results might well be surprising. After all, if someone can figure out how to provide interesting services on their SL property, or get past level 5 in WoW, they can't have THAT much trouble modding a letter to their three local congressmen (both senators and the representative).

In general, the barrier to such things are:

(1) the issue isn't important enough to inspire someone to write (I don't spend my life writing congress about every issue on the planet);

(2) they are too lazy to figure out whom to write (hey, I'm guilty of this a lot);

(3)their command of the English language in sufficient to express their ideas. (thank you, US Public Schools).

In any event, for a software operator (game or otherwise), the cost of developing this kind of software "aid" to grass-roots lobbying might be a better investment over the long haul than a lobbyist. Especially if you happened to pick someone like Jack Abramoff as your lobbyist.


Well, they could just use http://thomas.loc.gov and www.house.gov and such to find their representatives by state, and also pull up the text of the bills.

Cory: "That way you have both the lobbyists in their snappy suits but thousands or millions of voters as well." (emphasis added)
Therein lies the rub. Such a threat must be backed by a reasonable percentage that will actually vote. Gamer's are notorious for not following through (e.g. You did _____, I am canceling my account!").

I think James Grimmelmann was talking about some sort of lobbying group like this at some point... and as to the industry having a PAC, Jason Della Rocca of the IGDA has some really interesting takes on his field, and I'd love to hear what he thinks about this idea.

If there's one message I wish I could inject into the public dialogue right now, it's that media are just another part of culture, and demonizing them gets us nowhere. We've done it since before the comics code, and all it does is alienate young people. The evidence for the negative effects of media on violence and sexuality, if you look closely at the studies, is contradictory and based on some really questionable operationalizations of "violence" and "aggression."


Jeff: Therein lies the rub. Such a threat must be backed by a reasonable percentage that will actually vote. Gamer's are notorious for not following through (e.g. You did _____, I am canceling my account!").

But, as we've learned, the politicos don't know that much about gamers... though they know ALOT about not following through on things.


The problem with the lobbyist grind is that the payoff is often small, and the rules of the game are broken (hence all the calls to nerf campaign contributions in the US). Also, there aren't enough factions to choose from.


eBay also takes responsibility to remove grossly inappropriate items from sale when brought to their attention (and sometimes before), and to protect its customers from predation, abuse and fraud. They are proactive and responsible to the extent possible. Would you use those adjectives honestly to describe the game industry?

The game industry hides behind "it's only a game/it's not, it's art", depending on the audience, and denies any responsibility for or even influence over culture and values -- except, of course, when trying to sell advergaming or Pentagon training or edutainmsnt products.

Rather than contemplate how to pay for our own lobbyists, how about a respectful, serious conversation about our responsibility, as creators of popular culture, for the design choices we make and their effect on society and citizens?

We complain when Joe Lieberman singles out Hot Coffee as representative of the entire industry - but then, we single out Joe Lieberman and his ilk as if his arguments were the only ones around, and the only ones that matter.

We love to promote the books about how playing games teaches all sorts of valuable life lessons -- in the same breath with which we deny those who ask us to be conscious about what lessons we teach.

Anyone here who touts "Everything Bad is Good for You" and yet denies even the legitimacy of discussion about the possible social impact of game playing is a hypocrite.

Perhaps if we took more responsibility ourselves, there would be less pressure from moralists who seek to take it from us.

With great freedom comes great responsibility. When game developers start talking about the latter at least one tenth of the amount they talk about the former, we will have grown up into a serious industry.


I think gamers and online dwellers are the LEAST likely to be moved to action if it requires getting out of their seats -- if they can't get it done online, it won't get done. Give them a virtual protest in SL or wherever and they'll be all over it. Ask them to actually go to a RL location and demonstrate in person? I bet the turnout would be laughably low.

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