[Mud-Dev] Virtual Suicide (Was: Money supply in game economies)

Dave Rickey daver at mythicentertainment.com
Fri Apr 6 12:24:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: J C Lawrence <claw at kanga.nu>

> On Thu, 5 Apr 2001 13:17:08 -0700
> Raph Koster <Koster> wrote:

>> "Opportunity for exit."

> Without restating your point, which I'm now going to do anyway,
> perhaps the primary difference in the evolutionary pattern of RL
> versus VR is that in VR individuals can, with rare exception,
> excape, compleatly and utterly, and they know it going in.  RL
> conversely has the tawdry quality of having your body both stuck in
> it, and of it being largely unremovable.

There's an obvious exception to this: Suicide.  I've been mulling, but
not talking about (because the few times I've brought it up in private
it always seems to punch buttons), a theory where account cancellation
is the effective equivalent of suicide.

I don't mean in real terms they are equivalent, or in any way to treat
the subject of suicide lightly, but they do have certain parallels.
The "cry for help", the "suicide by cop", the "gesture", the giving
away of possessions, etc.

One thing that I found interesting (and actually started me thinking
in these terms) is that one of the seminal works of sociology from the
19th century defined suicide as a *socialization* issue, beyond all
other factors the one common thread in suicides was alienation from
the social mileau of the suicide.  People had various proximate causes
for suicide, from debt to loss of position, but one thing that seemed
to define the difference between someone who had problems but stuck it
out, and someone who committed suicide, was the strength of their
social connections.

Various followups have made the link even stronger, frequently the
apparent "proximate cause" wasn't really.  Somebody didn't commit
suicide because they lost all their money, but because that loss of
funds cut them off from their peer group.  They didn't commit suicide
because they had gone to prison, but because the stigma of being a
criminal had made their friends and family shun them.  The list goes
on, the significant thing was that "proximate causes" for suicide in
traditional terms always turned out to be one step removed, and it was
their social impact that actually led to the suicide.

*If* the analogy holds up, the obvious conclusion is that the stronger
your game's community is, the lower your churn.

--Dave Rickey

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