[MUD-Dev] Moral / legal responsibility of games

Sasha Hart hart.s at attbi.com
Sat Jan 25 13:08:47 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


[Koster, Raph]

> Media do have an influence, but it seems to be largely because we
> are lemmings.

The example in question wasn't people crashing their cars because
they heard of other people crashing their cars, but (ostensibly)
because the state team lost. Are you saying that a small seed
increase in car crashes might give rise to a media-mediated large
increase? That seems possible, but where did the initial increase
came from to begin with? The fact that the impressively large
increase is mediated by feedback does little to diffuse the initial
causal contribution of the football game. Of course, it is still
possible that one would need to completely emulate football in order
to produce the same effect (e.g., big games, massive group
identification and the whole group loses at a time, certain kinds of
emotional investment that don't come into play without a pigskin) or
that this effect of football was localized to some county, time,
etc.  Though neither point is impressively convincing, they're
possible.

But - and this is just food for thought, not a PROOF of anything -
if MUDs attain or will attain anything like the attachment that
people have to football in the future, we may just see the same
phenomenon (people actually dying en masse because of game
outcomes). But, while the quoted article suggested some alarmism, I
don't see football being shut down or turned into a fully
cooperative sport anytime soon just because people crash their
cars. Whereas it does not seem too much of a stretch, in light of
recent conversations, to suppose that it will become more and more
common to blame MUDs for what happens to their players, both morally
and legally, and perhaps even to forbid the games entirely, if the
public outcry reaches the right pitch.

Different people will reach different conclusions (and should).
However, that I have not heard any general outcry about football
games (regularly causally implicated in the killing of MANY people),
but have witnessed vast alarm and saber-rattling over the even more
weakly demonstrated correlation between MUDs and fewer deaths - says
to me that there is an intense double standard. It is taken to be an
argument for very extreme caution that MUDs *might* be *causally
involved* in a death (much as low blood sugar might), implying huge
moral and legal liability. So why not for football? Because more of
us like it? Because it affects a lot of people at once? Because
individual deaths are horrible, and thousands of them are just
numbers? Because we need to sock it to game-makers any way possible?
Or because the games really, certainly are involved and (despite
appearances) football has nothing to do with the deaths it is
correlated with?

Sasha



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