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Nov 08, 2007



@Ola Fosheim Grøstad

>>What's wrong with virtual worlds is that they have too many players per world.

Fascinating, do you think there is a limit? I ran a seminar a month or so ago and I thought that given the time there was in the breaks the maximum number of people should probably be just about that number that means that everyone can if they want talk to everyone else at least for a minute or so, or they could talk to the speakers. I felt that this probably put the upper limit on attendees for a single day at about 50.

With a VW I wonder what we are talking - small numbers like, say, a single big guild of 150 to 200 or enough to feel like there is a wider community that one is part of?

Oh and thanks for comment 100 and the other commentators, this is a really interesting thread.


Ola Fosheim Grøstad>Richard Bartle is starting to sound like Richard Stallman re "freedom"...

Starting to? I didn't have that attitude 25 years ago, I wouldn't have put the concept of virtual worlds into the public domain.



@ Richard, do you know that movie, " Interstate 60 " ? 2002 i gues , USA/Canada . A guy there say something like : " isn't it weird ? i mean we fought for freedom , liberty and all , and once free , what some ppls chose to do ?! they chose to become slaves ! "

In the movie, it was about a drug , " Euphory "; but i guess we could count , among money, drugs, sex, power ,the VWs too. " Enslaved to Illusions ", sounds ....


I have a level 24 Spiritomb. Wanna trade?


@Ren: I don't think there is a fixed limit, because the design and the structure of the world matters. And you can have many visiting players that only stay for a few weeks. I am more referring to the feeling of building the world together without feeling that others are setting firm limits for you. I suppose up to 15-20 wizards logged in on the same time can work, but an online community meeting doesn't work well with large numbers if you want a flat structure. Maybe metaplace can fill this space.

It's not like you can't visit other worlds, just because you want your home-world to be a small cooperating community. ;-) I think many long-term players might feel more satisfied when they get to directly affect the world in significant ways.

Sure, you can have big worlds like SL, but you do you get to live in your own world then? Isn't the "awareness of all the others constantly knocking on the borders"? It is more fun to run THE world, than a subsection of a suburb?


@Ola: several of your points make, I think, the main point that VWs are, inherently, "freeing" in a creative and communicative sense.

You ask, "Is it more fun to run THE world than a subsection of a suburb?" Well, most people don't ever get to even run a subsection of a suburb. And having the choice of small worlds, or split servers, is one experience, vs. an "everybody into the pool" world like SL. Though SL does, of course, allow for private islands. Does knocking on the border count if you can't even hear them knocking?

I agree that the design of the world is important... but not necessarily that firm limits always reduce the freedom. One type of freedom, granted without limit, can end up greatly reducing many other experiences, thus limiting overall freedom. For example, the ability to (without limit) alter other players' avatars and/or objects sounds like "more freedom," but it would (I believe) end up limiting how involved people would become in their creations. If all it takes is some noob w/ a vandal's eye to screw up months of my hard work, I'm not going to feel very "free" to express myself.

The same holds true with rules in more game-y worlds. If I'm free to invent new quests for my guild (which would be, I think, cool), but there are no limits as the the XP I can grant to any trivial quest... that would limit the freedom to move between guilds, as a "hard" guild wouldn't necessarily appreciate a newcomer from an "easy" guild.

Freedom often requires structure in order to be meaningful, else it is simply chaos.


The primary danger here is trying to understand what goes on in Second Life as separate, different, or (least of all) "freer" than what goes on in the real world.

Like any fiction, SL is at best a kind of intensification of relevant concerns, interesting only because these concerns become more honest as the "authors" hide behind the EXCUSE of their "make-believe." I would never demand to be abused, or whip my partner! I'm not actually violent or abusive or self-punishing in nature. I believe in equal rights! This is just play. Really. I don't even like leather.

Utopia is appropriate here, but not in the simplistic way that people are using that term so far. SL is a desperate attempt to think a way out of a very large unhappiness. Most of the time, nothing comes of this. Our rebellions often seem already scripted for us. They are, really, already part of the system we're trying to imagine a way out of. And SL citizens overwhelmingly repeat the same problems they have in real life, spending too much money and divorcing their second virtual husband after they catch him cheating with a prostitute.

In the end, Second life seems interesting in that it makes these kinds of traps obvious. It shows most clearly our INABILITY to be free, to imagine otherwise. It helps sketch the shape of our cell.


That's one of the best comments about SL I've read in some time, m, and it connects in an interesting way to Andy's comment, I think.

Andy is absolutely right that the constraints are just as important as the possibilities when it comes to what prompts us to be creative in human life. We therefore have to be sure to think carefully about the constraints that are operant in SL, despite its libertarian tenor. In addition to the wide-ranging constraints that the code itself brings to the table, there are the established dispositions of all the users. They all come to SL from specific places and times, with specific experiences, and they remind us -- in doing exactly what m describes -- just how impossible it is to imagine ourselves outside of our inherited expectations. This is not to say that nothing new ever happens in how humans live, but it does give the lie to the modern individualist romance that we can simply set about to make it happen because we want to do so.


@ m and (sorta) Thomas: Any freedom is only appropriately examined in the context of all the other freedoms that limit and expand it. I may have "freedom of the press," but if a press is sufficiently expensive, I may not apply that freedom. Or if some large percent of the population is illiterate, that freedom is, well... less free.

Looking at SL as a space in which you will be "freed" from the constraints of those things that are virtual within SL is, as m points out, not a great bet. Some RL relationships and issues can be highlighted there, some can be foggier. But, contrastingly, looking at a virtual world as a place where the only kind of freedoms that can be sought are those that relate to a virtual-to-real connection is similarly a bad bet. I don't only go into a virtual world to escape from Real Thing A into a simulation comprised of Virtual Thing A.

I am clearly not "freed" in SL from my biological needs. And while a house in SL can be fun, I can't escape from the need for a place to hang my PC in RL. But in RL I can't build a house in a few hours, while I can in SL. The freedom to do so is not, in any way, going to mitigate my need for a RL house.

When it comes to relationships, yes... it gets tricky. And the outliers that are always publicized (divorcing RL spouse for SL lover) take the attention away from a more important issue: I can have relationships in SL that are simply not possible in RL. Or on a phone. Or via email or mail. It offers different features. Not better, not worse, not a replacement for RL activities... simply different.

And access to different technologies with different feature sets *does* increase freedom, especially when we start to view them in contexts with each other. Being able to read and having access to cheap books gives me access to all kinds of ancillary freedoms, not just those specific and relative to reading. Yes, I am free to read. But when books are cheap and plentiful enough to make available an "Idiot's Guide to Minor Plumbing Repairs," I am then, also, free to fix my own sink.

I'm not an SL fanboi. And I do take issue with over-the-top, Stephensonian references to how it is linked to the future of everything. I don't see that as of yet. But I also think it is more important than just "another chat site with bad 3D graphics." There is something there. And freedom(s) is (are) part of it.


boy, this thread got lost (in an interesting way) on what "liberation" is!.

Low and behold, people get around down to the fundamental precepts of life according to plato!

But there is a simple answser. Anything that gives you more choices sorta by definition frees you... might give you enough slack to hang yourself with .

But you know, we already have lots of freedoms. Few people in the US are so poor they couldn't put together $100 for a guitar and start playing scales on a public park bench. Cheap hobbies abound but people still pick some that require expensive equipment.

In the US at least, our bonds are often based on perception or attitude.

But the vw do incrementally offer people social outlets that didn't exist before. If you're stuck at home with kids, after they go to bed you can join friends on line to take on little puzzles of key punching and avatar manipulation to write your latest segment in 5 silly friends vs X instance, with a few of you getting little prizes that you're happy to get in context. You can laugh and tease.. say hello, say you missed them...a bit better than just watching a sopranos re-run.

Its a new alterantive..situationally liberating certainly...can it be abused.. does it have meaning is it better than what you would have or should have been doing? I dunno..but its a choice and more choices is more freedom


but, the other side of the coin... the enough slack to hang yourself with..

Liberation can be dangerous.

If the games create a viable and interesting new reality, what you have been liberated from is the non game real life.

Putting asside issues of skinner box exploitation, (they are real issues but lets put them asside), if a game succeeds in being engrossing and providing outlets for human emotional and creative needs... If it is doing a really great job perhaps, to the extend it suceeds, its suceess is a liberation for a time from reality.

We can understand that too much of this good thing might not be so good at all... well we can get all philosophical about the meaning of life etc but we can agree that its not generally perceived as a good thing to be entirely separated from flesh and blood reality.

We could then tweek the liberation argument asking if the game play time leaves us better able to cope with the world generally called real. I think that a great many games and bridge and chess enthusiasts fell victim similarly to our newer mmmorgs, could reach levels of frequency and engrossment with their chosen games... levels of involvement that clearly had detrimental effects upon other levels of living.

Liberation from reality might not be such a good aim.


@Shander: Which reality/life are you concerned that we may become separated from? I have my work life, home/family/father life, romantic life, creative life, community life, social life, religious life, educational life, etc. etc. Each has various requirements on time, money, attention, effort, etc. Am I being "separated from flesh and blood reality" when I work at a job that requires 70% of that work to be done on a computer? If my main way of staying in contact with friends and relatives out-of-town is through email... is that a flesh-and-blood separation?

Re-read what you wrote, but put "books" in the place of "games." See if it seems as sensible. Because books, just as much as games, take us away from flesh-and-bloodiness.


"Because books, just as much as games, take us away from flesh-and-bloodiness. "

It's not true. When about a book, you have an author, a real person, sharing to you it's views /experiences of its real life.

When about Real Life games, you interract with a real person in its " entireness ".

Sitting in the front of a PC and typing anonymous to an avatar is not communication nor significant interraction.

RL game and play have their educational importance /significance until the age of 12/14. After that , it's called " entertainment".

Any book tolds you something about the Real Life as perceived by another real person; any Virtual World tells you about how Rosedale wanna make money.

The Virtual Worlds have no subject, no author, no moral/ethic message , so them are just money-making tools.


"If my main way of staying in contact with friends and relatives out-of-town is through email... is that a flesh-and-blood separation?"

You can stay in contact via e-mail - wich is an UTILITY - using yahoo and a 486 PC.

VW's are useless and expensive even for that purpose.



Books would certainly fit into the same type of "liberation" from reality I brought up.

My point wasn't so much that morgs were bad for this sort of liberation, but perhaps the better at it they were, the more issues arrose.

I think there are people who compulisvely read novels.. who enjoy the vicarious pleasures of reading to a point were it impedes other sorts of personal enterprises or intereaction.

And certainly telvision has been accused, probably appropiately, of being an big oppiate of the people.

I don't really think we can say, nor did I mean to entirely say escapist_fantasy = bad_thing.

Richard Bartle's theme about mmorg giving people a chance to try out and grow into more empowered self images is a good one. I also believe that as "laughter is the best medicine", that these games can provide a therapudic outlet for people recovering from tragic traumas, or perhaps other blights of mind, attitude and trapped cirsumstance.

The escape, while pontetially therapudic or empowering, can also be a quagmire, which traps and instills erroneous expectations between effort and rewards, breeds ideas that interactions with friends can be turned on or off at will...well to explore game specific faults isnt my point.

The point is, that many MMorgs are designed almost by definition, to provide pesisintent altertate realities, and to the extent they succeed, they can Liberate huge chunks of time form RL reality and create habits and expectations that work in the virtual world into the RL world.

Yes, a pile of a few hundred novels, might distract in a somewhat simlar way. Making the family a nice dinner might seem like a increasingly tedious chore keeping a person from their reading.

But I think we're not giving mmorgs enough credit for thier differences to compare them just to reading a novel or watching tv. While those medias might engage the reader/viewers imagination somewhat, the MMorgs require a larger level of interaction, which even if it is repetitive, almost certainly invloves a person on more levels.

Certainly having an involving, invigorating pass-time can be a good thing. My point would be that the mmorgs can fail to be self limmiting...they dont have natual beginning and end periords (if you cook a meal, you rarely feel the urge to compulsively cook another).

While certainly many players game with responsible moderation, and while college students have always found means of distraction to keep them from studying when they should, the whole idea of a virtual reality designed to be persistently engrossing certainly brings heightened risks of over-indulging.

I've recently taken a break playing games after playing mostly every night for a couple years. For the vast majority of the time, the game play was moderate enought not to blatantly get in the way of other repsonsibilities. (there were a few months here and there where I was engrossed enough to regret time away from the games while on vactiion etc).

Its interesting, though, I cant hardly bear to watch TV.. and even novels are irritating in that I am powerless to steer the action in them.

I've done too many crosswords and sudoko's. If I can translate my habit of interactive involvment over to drawing or learning an instrument or something, the game play time will have bred good habits. But I find myself wanting to accumulate small perks and points. Playing a guitar chord more clearly , or a scale a bit more quickly doesnt quite have the repetitive pleasure of an ore vein, and the lack of people in IRC chat to interact with at my option makes it a bit lonely compared to the gaming.


OK Andy, I made that too complex and persoanl... here is the real gist:

Someone creates a new activity that they'll sell for a small fee...a mmorg perhaps.

It is fun, satisfying to play, stimulating mentally and socially...its nuances and the way it entertains doesn't get boring (a neuroscientest might quantify things in terms of dopamine, gaba, serotonin...a socialiogist might use words like achievement, social position, etc).

Because the game is eternally fun and satisfying it tends to take more and more of a person's time because, well, in the outiside world fun and satifaction tend to be more insterpersed between less fun activities and sometimes irratiingly absent.

Now the person still needs to earn a living. And still has family and friends. The outside world is perhaps irritatingly less predictable and less forgiving... especially in comparison to the game reality. Expectations perhaps have shifted.

In one sense, perhaps in the original thread context of marxist goods and the idea of freeing one from scarcity, the game has fufilled a great many desires..no need to work extra hours for senseless things like fancy cars or new tennis shoes.

Work enough to feed, house and pay for health care and your life feels complete with the excellent engrossing game.

The whole idea of creating something persistently engaging and stimulating is in itself dangerous. Ultimately, if combined with economic efficiencies, people living in ergonomic appartments, working three day 12 hour shifts, within walking distance to work... people could responsibly fufill societal obligations to pay their share and be fully satified.

Well, science fiction writers have painted the picture better than I. I am not really trying to even play the addiction card... I'm just talking about the danger of actually achieving what is already being achieved to a degreee.

There are kids, who like the college grads waiting tables to ski all day for a year or two, who take easy jobs so they can play even a socially limmited and repetitive game like WoW.

Making an even more engrossing game will certainly incrementally keep more people involved longer...

Rest and relaxation are positives the games give us... "liberation" is more a two edged sword..good only as long as it doesnt' cut us too far adrift from our present reality, and doesn't allow us to pressopose game goals as the dominant themes floating through our minds most of the week.


@ Amarilla, who says: "Sitting in the front of a PC and typing anonymous to an avatar is not communication nor significant interraction."

Says you. Nice that you can make that judgment call for everyone. Also... I'm not sure there's an MMO/game out there that doesn't have developers, writers, designers, artists, etc. putting themselves into the product as much as the authors of a book put into their work.

@Shander: This reminds me of arguments I have with Libertarian friends of mine. When we get into debates about how much government is "enough" or "too much," we always end up at a stalemate, because "too much" ends up equaling "any government you like that I don't." That is, "good is good and bad is bad."

Historically, the fictional novel was decried as a waste of "real life" time. Any reading of them, not just reading to an extreme. A life spent in theater for their children was once as dreaded by parents as a life of crime, because it was seen as frivolity and a waste of time.

Is "too much" of an MMO a bad thing? Sure. "Too much" implies "bad."


"The Virtual Worlds have no subject, no author, no moral/ethic message , so them are just money-making tools."

I think that the wrongness of that assertion is summed up by the fact that it's self defeating. If VW's are money-making tools then they carry a message about themselves been a) tools, b) money making; but of course they carry many more messages created by many authors. Take a look at Bogost's recent 'Persuasive Games' about the underly lying rhetoric of artifacts like this. I think that you will find that just about any human made artifact has some kind of value if only in the presumptions of use established by the social context in which is it created and used, and indeed the fact that these presumptions might be overturned by practice - something that we seen in VW's all the time.


Wow...lol..did I really sound like I had views of virtual worlds akin to a libretarians attitude toward government? ! lol that would be negative.

The idea that the games could be a bit too fufilling rather than just time squandering hit me a bit firmer. I gotta worry about what I wish for.


"Andy Havens says:

@ Amarilla, who says: "Sitting in the front of a PC and typing anonymous to an avatar is not communication nor significant interraction."

Says you. Nice that you can make that judgment call for everyone. Also... I'm not sure there's an MMO/game out there that doesn't have developers, writers, designers, artists, etc. putting themselves into the product as much as the authors of a book put into their work. "

They all've put themselves in the position of God.
Mein Kampf did the same . The difference being : in the VWs, the " authors " acts towards and manage my ID, my RL bank account infos and all. They reserve the " right " - and have the power , without any checks and balances and accountability, to sell my ID, to edit my chat and to tell to the CIA : " look, Amarilla said FU Bush ".

Not much like a book, eh ?!

"...I think that you will find that just about any human made artifact has some kind of value if only in the presumptions of use established by the social ..."

the values you take away from players are their time and money and the emotional involvement; what you give back are the ...." perceived values ".

So, in your view, the valuable subject/message is : " this is a tool " , like a gun , and : " this gun can make money for me ,when i use it against your wallet". Ofcourse we must ignore the established laws/regulations/common sense , because it's about...Her Greatness the Virtuality.

Nice human made artifact.
Even a sh** is carrying a message, in your view : " i'm a **** and i smell ". I know why it was created and why it's used in the " social context ", but it's still not a book, nor valuable nor desirable - except for its promoters .


"Do virtual worlds liberate us?
Ren Reynolds "

I don't care very much, as long as : me , the americal player - oops, participant - in a VW , based on my chat there in the VW i can be labeled as "suspect enemy combatant" ; i can be abducted while visiting my WoW guild m8 in France, transferred to Iran and imprisoned for years without " habeas corpus " , lawyer or trial. All these , based on the suspicions rised by my ingame chat. Sounds familiar ? Are you looking for freedom and liberty where, in a Virtual World ?


The creation of any new affordance is always in some sense "liberating". But in this case I see the liberation as largely confined to those with larger amounts of disposable income and time than most (in some cases to those who have neither but are grossly irresponsible). What on earth this does for the most oppressed, those in greatest need of liberation on the most basic levels (poverty, starvation, disease, physical and racial oppression, etc.), I have no idea, and it boggles the mind to think that countering the supposed "boredom" of the well-off is at all a serious issue.


Thinking about virtual worlds as of virtual mirrors of the real one make me feel more optimistic in some way. People who are trying to runaway from the real world find all the same in the virtual one, no matter what story it has, or what art or political system.
Virtual worlds are created by humans, that live in the real world and they bring their thoughts, their persuasions and their attitude to the virtuality. Thats why no matter what idea someone trying to implement, creating one more virtual world - nothing would change, until anything changed in the thoughts and minds of players.


I regret being so late to the party, but this thread was very compelling.

It seems, whether on purpose or on accident, VWs are the answer to a question. The question is "When you have a world with no inherent objective (that is, all objectives are participant-created), no inherent physical attributes (all aesthetics are within your hands to control), and no need to maintain survival, what will people do?"

So far it looks like people will mimic the world they know: get money, seperate yourselves by class; essentially they create need and the fight that RL offers begins anew.

The next question is if this can be reverted. Do people want freedom (from those properties of RL) or are we inherently driven by them? Do we just not know anything else?

I don't dare suggest that people want VWs or RL to change, but I do. I want to see VWs become a reflection of our hearts when unfettered by the need to survive and cope, and ultimately, to have that reflection influence our Real Lives.


this really sucks why can t i just play im a mature young lady about 18 and i want a man!!!!!1

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