[MUD-Dev] Reality check ...(long) [was Re: Black Snow Revisited]

Sean Kelly sean at ffwd.cx
Tue Apr 9 09:27:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Matt Mihaly" <the_logos at achaea.com>
> On Wed, 3 Apr 2002, John Buehler wrote:

>> What is a virtual sword?

> Quite right. It's a collection of data, not a sword. It's only a
> sword in the context of the game, which, as Raph mentioned, is not
> relevant because at this point, the law rightfully doesn't
> recognize things as happening within the context of the game
> fiction.

And a real sword is only a sword in the context of someone being
stabbed with it.  To the police, and military strategists, it's just
data (okay that's a bit of a stretch, but you see what I'm driving
at).  That law doesn't have any precedents that apply to online
games doesn't mean that they someday won't, or that they might not
rule a virtual sword as a commodity.  The issue is one of context.
These virtual swords have value in two separate contexts (though the
latter is dependent on the first).  In the first, it is a sword
capable of doing blah blah stuff.  In the second, it amounts to
hours spent attaining the sword, prestige associated with having
that sword, etc.

Ultimately, everything is a symbol that only has value or meaning
within one or more contexts.  How would you attribute the value of
stock options?  They're far more ephemeral than a virtual sword, and
yet they have very real value.  The only difference is that there
are established laws regarding them.

>> Consider if game items and game characteristics were swapped.
>> You can't give away your items, but you can give away your stats.
>> Does this make stats a real world item?  You can't see them.  But
>> you can trade them.  You can use them.  But you can't destroy
>> them.  Just because a virtual sword walks, talks and acts like a
>> real sword doesn't make it a real sword.  I believe that THAT is
>> what the law will eventually discover.

> And a virtual sword DOESN'T walk, talk, or act like a real sword
> to begin with! Try cutting someone's head off with a virtual
> sword.

And yet buildings were bought in downtown SF with stock options
during the height of the dotcom boom.

The players sure consider the sword to have value.  And that value
is based on the game setting (how many there are, how hard they are
to get, how cool they look, whatever).  Since we exist both within
and outside of this setting, they have value in both places as well.
If a game company came along and deleted everyone's swords because
"they aren't real anyway, that company would lose a large portion of
its user base.


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