[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun

Koster Koster
Mon Jun 29 11:03:28 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Mike Sellers [SMTP:mike at bignetwork.com]
> Sent:	Friday, June 26, 1998 8:09 PM
> To:	mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject:	[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun
> At 04:30 PM 6/26/98 -0500, Dr. Cat wrote:
> >Raph Koster wrote:
> We all talk even
> >> on this list about things like this, and the sad realization I came
> to
> >> is that players aren't ready for it any more than they are in the
> real
> >> world (how many are actively involved in their local government in
> real
> >> life?)
> The players aren't ready for it, or the designers don't understand the
> ecological-psychology and sociology enough to design it?  
Touche. :) Does anyone, would be the next question.

> There is no doubt
> some element of the former in this, but I strongly believe that it is
> more
> the latter.  I've discussed "ex nihilo" community formation with many
> sociologists and anthropologists over the past few years and guess
> what --
> *THEY* don't know how to do this. 
They're not particularly good at doing it even when it is not ex nihilo,
cf the remark I made above about local government involvement. The
classic democratic model relies heavily on exactly that sort of
engagement with the local community, which in practice tends not to

>  The topic of wholly created societies
> does not exist in the literature in any form that speaks to online
> communities (beyond the level of the likes of Howard Rheingold and
> Sherry
> Turkle, which doesn't take us very far).  Given that, it's not
> surprising
> that a bunch of (here I go again) young white mostly-unmarried male
> suburbanite refugee designers haven't been able to do it either.
FWIW, I don't really fit that profile. :) Hispanic background on my
mother's side, married, and spent most of my formative years in
locations such as Haiti and Peru, usually not cited as models of good

>   Still, I
> think it *can* be done -- and frankly it bugs me that people place the
> blame on the consumers (the players) rather than the producers of
> online
> game-communities.  
I think we have to share the blame. For that matter, I don't consider it
"blame" as such as a plain old recognition of facts. I do not think the
average Internet gamer who plays a mud is ready for self-governance. I
also do not think the average real world citizen is fully engaged with
their local community or participates in THEIR governance either. Did
you vote in your last local election? I didn't, and thus I am pointing a
finger at myself as well.  I am not saying that I have all the answers.

> >> I think a true roleplaying game can survive and thrive--as long as
> it is
> >> small. But to grow beyond a very elite audience, it will have to
> accept
> >> the fact that it will need to direct players very firmly along
> >> predetermined ethical lines, it will have to shoulder much of the
> burden
> >> of organization on either the code or admin side, and it will have
> to
> >> sacrifice that sense of complete freedom. A large-scale pure
> roleplay
> >> game would basically have to be a fascist state. :(
> This is true only if you believe that Stalinist politics was the
> pinnacle
> of human achievement -- translated to the physical world, that's
> basically
> what you've described.  
Urgh. I most definitely do NOT think that Stalinist politics was the
pinnacle of human achievement. Hardly. I believe in freedom of thought,
freedom of action within reasonable bounds, freedom of expression,
choice, and so on. I also believe that if we are creating an environment
which curtails some or all of these, then we are CODING a Stalinist
government. What's even less palatable to me is that we kinda HAVE to,
at the moment, because it's the best we can do. And the impetus to get
beyond that stage of development underlies a great deal of what I'd do
in designing a virtual environment.

If you are coding a system whereby nobody can strike another person
*even in justifiable circumstances*, what sort of society have you made,
and what sort of ruler are you? A system where it is not even possible
to rebel against the thoroughly oppressive government, for that matter.
In the virtual setting, we have as designers and admins, the power of
gods. And yes, there are plenty of people willing to live under the rule
of jerks, plenty of people who would prefer to live their virtual lives
in a game where bullets can't fly by the laws of physics, where you can
wave a hand, but are programmed not to swing a fist. But I find it
unpalatable persnally--and also find it limiting to the development of
our code in that it reduces the problem set past the point of reason. If
you, as I know you do, Mike, feel that the work we do here is working
towards greater things in the colonization of the Internet, in the
development of virtual societies and virtual realities, then you must
also concede that we are not going to solve the issues that those
environments will create by coding in piles of restrictions that curtail

To get back to what you said, I think that a pure roleplay game of large
size will have to be a Stalinist setup, yes. And I don't LIKE it. Then
again, I think that MANY muds currently use such a restrictive setup.

> Dr. Cat wrote: 
> >I feel like the question of how these issues play out in an
> environment 
> >with no combat coded into the system is glossed over or ignored on
> this 
> >list.  
> I'd alter that a bit to say that I feel like the question of how to
> deal
> with social issues has been viewed through a very combat-centric lens.
> It
> is not the case that every social issue needs to be solved with a
> sword,
> nor that to find other solutions you need to remove combat from a game
> entirely.  
There hasn't been a government I know of that has not wielded the sword
in order to enforce its mores. That's what police are: the government's
sword. The fact that your average cops-arrest-robbers scenario does not
actually come to shots fired doesn't mean that it is not combat. Not
every social issue needs to be solved with a sword, very true. But
sadly, the ones that can most easily be solved by discourse tend to be
at a higher level of social development than the issues we're facing in
virtual settings. Right now, virtual worlds (and other Internet games)
are basically full of roving warbands with no allegiance to any form of
government, and the odd occasional peaceful village that has moved
beyond pillaging and into a more stable form of society. We're not
discussing zoning much yet. The pressing issues are the ones of murder,
harassment, destruction of property, robbery, assault... I'm all for
town council meetings, but you're not going to get there without
tackling the topic of police forces first.

> we as designers/developers must provide
> via technology the *mechanisms* by which the users can resolve their
> own
> social issues.  Anyone who thinks this is limited to new types of
> weapons
> just isn't using his or her imagination.  
Well, of course. But to leave weapons out strikes me as equally
limiting. There are many many non-combat related thing s we can do to
help player self-governance. Providing basic models for organizational
structures is a good example. (Though a concern of mine is whether we
will be limiting the possible forms of governments too much by dictating
structure too much).


More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list