[MUD-Dev] [DGN] MUD developer's motives

Patricia Pizer ppizer at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 12 11:06:27 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Brandon J. Van Every

> Before the mud-dev dinner I attended an IGDA roundtable, "Are
> Massively-Multiplayer Games Blazing a New Trail for Humanity?"  I
> was mildly surprised at the level of concern that certain vocal
> people at the roundtable expressed, at catastrophic convergences
> between real and virtual social protocols.  I pointed out that
> social protocols are self-limiting by the real part of the
> equation: if you offend someone enough in person, you'll get your
> teeth knocked out.  I'm heavily on the side of gamer purism, I
> care very little for what's happening on the virtual side of the
> social equation.  In hearing a few people's strident concerns
> about the social consequences of virtual action, and the "mantle
> of responsibility" they felt this placed on developers, I quickly
> became the champion of "the sky isn't falling" camp.  In fact, I
> don't see evidence that much has changed over the past decade.  No
> new trail for humanity is being blazed, hence no cause for alarm.
> And even if it was, why react with alarm?
> So why do these particular MUD developers stridently participate
> in the imagined and projected social consequences of their
> actions?  Is it a form of social activism, much like rock stars
> trying to save the world?  Is it a fascination with systems of
> social engineering, as opposed to fascination with systems of game
> mechanics?  Is it a fear of losing control, and a mistaken belief
> that we can actually do a lot to affect online social evolution?
> I do not believe that life gives you the control over it that you
> might like.  I accept a certain loss of control in order to keep
> breathing.  Yet, where these developers' comments led, I was
> wondering if they'd go so far as to legislate online behavior.  I
> saw many parallels to debates about sexual harassment in the
> workplace.

Having moderated the roundtable in question, I'd like to at least
correct one small inaccuracy, if not others. The people in the room
were not strident, though many were passionate and felt strongly
about the subject.

If you took the vocal members of the roundtable and separated them
into 2 groups, you'd find all the concerned members in the group of
those that actually have experience designing, publishing and
running successful MMOs.  Funny so many of them have come to the
same conclusion, isn't it?

What do I want to accomplish in making MMOs? A difficult and complex
question to be sure. I started making games 14 years ago for
Infocom. I still want one of the same things I wanted then: to make
the world a better place for my having been here.

At one time, I was satisfied to make people laugh or keep them
entertained and worked on games that reflected those things. I now
see that the MMO *is* the gate through which we shall *all* pass and
that it goes well beyond the realm of "game." Read "Snowcrash"
again; read Vernor Vinge's "True Names" which is as pertinent as it
was nearly 20 years ago. Science fiction, is, after all, a
projection of society through the lens of developing technology. And
it isn't fiction any more.

The common thread among the supporters of this notion is that MMOs
go *WAY* beyond being games. It's not really about games anymore;
it's about how we will live and act in Cyberspace.

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