[MUD-Dev] Gamasutra: Online Justice Systems

Sayeed yu219121 at yorku.ca
Wed Mar 22 15:29:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

> Raph Koster wrote:
> My friend Derek Sanderson wrote an article
> for Game Developer quite some time ago on
> methods of handling playerkillers in a 
> commercial online world.
> http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000321/sanderson_01.htm

Interesting article, but I was hoping he'd mention one
of the most fundamental causes of anti-social activities
in online gaming; the ease of avoiding responsibility.  
As I see it, the ability to have multiple characters 
contributes above all things to the failure of justice 
systems in online worlds.  Which of us wouldn't let out 
our wilder, less responsible side if we could do it 
under a different persona? Which of us wouldn't try 
a little "vigilante justice" (or worse) if we had 
extra lives to throw away?  
Multiple Lives = Multiple Ways to Avoid Responsibility.

Of course, the obvious response to that is online worlds
are a good way to allow you to express those different 
personas.  What fun are online worlds if you can't use 
them as a release of responsibility?  My answer to this 
is two part.  Firstly, just by being in a fictional world, 
we are using online gaming as a release.  If there weren't 
dragons and sorcerors and demons and we "played" online 
in a modern world of social complexity and rigid order, 
just the ability to be Someone Else would act as recreation, 
no matter How much all too familiar order existed within that world.  
The second part (rather obvious) to this is that it is 
really the LACK of recognizable order which creates 
dissatisfaction.  Justice systems are such an issue 
in the MUDing world because we crave the recognizable 
order of the Real World in a new and interesting 
format.  We want law and punishment and a semblance of ordered 
society in a fictional format which makes it interesting.  It is 
obvious though, that the reason society can exist as such 
is because of responsibility-mechanisms, and without these 
mechanisms, no world, either real or fake, can have the 
level of peace that we desire.  Multiple characters is the 
primary reason these mechanisms fail in online worlds.

On a related note, there is no such thing as crime-prevention.
Committing a crime is fairly easily, any of us could do it, 
despite the police and army and fire department.  I could 
walk into the bank and wave my gun, JC could collect the 
money, and Raph could neutralize the security guards.  There, 
crime committed.  The real trick is with Ola, driving the 
getaway car.  The real trick is evading the responsibility 
for the crime.  When you can log off, in the blink of an eye, 
and not be arrested, when you can instantly transport yourself 
to another location far from the responsibility-mechanisms, 
when you can run quickly to the far side of the world where 
completely different people frequent and not be tracked,
here arise real problems to the justice system.

A few more interesting and slightly random thoughts...

- I gave an example about a serious crime, robbing a bank, 
but responsibility also curbs minor misdemeanors.  I won't 
swear because people will hear me and judge me, I won't 
harass because people will think I'm an jerk, I won't smoke 
because I'll be an outcast.  The severity of the act doesn't 
matter, because responsibility covers all the bases.

- Normal people with no overriding authority can be a strangely 
effective means to curb behavior if responsibility-mechanisms 
are not destroyed by Multiple Characters or other "tools."  
If this is my only persona, then I will probably want people 
to respect it, so I'll try to act with a little more dignity, 
a little more class, a little reserve.  The censure of others 
can be a permanent branding.

-A few next generation graphical MUDs in development, (Horizons 
and the Awakening Project are two), are toying with the 
idea of single characters.  I assume that they came to 
the conclusion that within a more ordered fantasy world, 
people can have a LOT more fun, and the sacrifice of having 
other simultaneous personas is worth the benefit that such 
order will provide.  I'm very interested in how they will turn out.

-A general law I noticed about society:  The main purpose of 
justice is not to bridle criminal actions, 
it's to bridle criminal thoughts.


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