[MUD-Dev] Re:Blacksnow revisited

Joe Andrieu kestral at ugcs.caltech.edu
Thu Apr 25 14:19:44 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Matt Mihaly

>> You corporate devs have been disingenuous in making us believe we
>> were building anything or acquiring anything.  To the extent that
>> it is the devs fault for giving me these false expectations, I'm
>> angry.  Frankly I hope you guys do lose in court and it turns out
>> players have some rights.  I'm not holding my breath.  I expect
>> that things will stay largely as they are and I will continue to
>> feel cheated and feel that you guys are going to do things the
>> way you always have.  Congratulations, you've turned an avid
>> player into someone who doesn't want what you're selling anymore.
> Well, you are building someting. You just don't own what you
> built. Someone used an analogy earlier, where one goes into
> LegoWorld, spends days or weeks or months there building this
> incredibly intricate Lego castle. Does that mean you own the
> castle? No, of course not. Does that mean you didn't build
> anything? No, of course not. Does that mean it wasn't enjoyable? 
> No, of course not.

> Further, what exactly do you want to do with these items you wish
> to own that you can't do now? You've stated you don't care about
> selling them for physical world currency, so what is it that we
> evil dev guys are depriving you of? I personally think you're
> making a big to-do about a non-issue.


You're missing the point. And perhaps Norman is too. And I apologize
if I missed someone else make this earlier in the thread.

The issue isn't whether or not one has the right to own their
virtual stuff... at least not in the sense of current legal holding.

What matters is the potential value of appropriate property rights
in online worlds.

Property rights exist in the real world because they create
value. In fact, the value of property rights (or the value of having
a system in which property rights are maintained) far exceeds the
cost of having such a system.  Otherwise, the systems without
property rights would prevail. See Demsetz's seminal "Toward a
Theory of Property Rights" 1967.

I posit that property rights in virtual worlds will also create far
more value then they cost to maintain.

I'm not saying it's easy to do. The costs are non-trivial. The legal
pitfalls are non-trivial. Setting appropriate user expectations is a
challenge all on its own. But you can do it. It is definitely
possible to include a property regime that provides analogous
services to the real-world property regime, and even one that allows
an interface to real-world property, e.g., cash or a mobile data
format & registry or such.

So, the issue (to me) isn't whether or not one could legally assert
their ownership rights to objects they "earned" in your MUD, but
whether or not ownership rights are "worth it" as the
designer/owner/entrepreneur of the game world.

I say they are.

Eventually, I believe property rights will be asserted, just as the
right to self-determination has repeatedly asserted itself over the
dominant feudal and dictatorial regimes. Sooner or later, IMO, the
corporate-centric domains of today's online worlds will yield to
property-oriented systems of significant liberty and user freedom.

The first to get it right have a potentially huge advantage over the
soon-to-be decaying empires living in their own dysfunctional
autocratic bubbles.  Of course, consumer revolutions don't shed
blood, but you might find the red ink a bit disturbing.

"Let them eat digital cake," you may say now...


Of course, in the meantime, I'm looking forward to the launch of next
big empire. Should be fun while it lasts. =)

Joe Andrieu  
mailto:jandrieu at caltech.edu

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