Nasty, brutish, short, and furry.

This column proposed that traditional MMOs are more appealing to more people because there is a moral code, a purpose to one’s existence, and a set of laws that must be obeyed.

This premise appeals to me. In fact, it matches up with years of professional observation. There is a minority that would prefer a total free-for-all, but most people like having Something To Do and Cops To Arbitrate Disputes. However, the link ran on the front page of the online Post next to a column link pointing out that the rule of law no longer seems to apply to gold farmers.

I just thought the juxtaposition was fascinating.



  1. Rick said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Sanya, what’s the converse to your first paragraph? Tradtional MMO’s are more appealing than what?

    I don’t want to wade into the Virtual World vs. Online Game debate that raged a couple weeks ago on some gaming blogs, but it seems to me that comparing Second Life and LOTRO is a poor comparison. Isn’t this column a rehash of MUD vs. MUSH arguments from 15 years ago?

    Without “a purpose to one’s existence, and a set of laws that must be obeyed”, do we have enough structure for a game environment?

    I could see a comparison between perhaps Eve Online and LOTRO and compare the linear quest-driven gameplay of LOTRO with the openess of Eve, but I suspect that both games include a moral code, a purpose to your existence and a set of laws to be obeyed. The impetus behind those conditions comes from different sources (either the developers or the players), but I don’t think either game tends toward the anarchy Gerson describes.

    I’m not disagreeing with your observations. I tend to agree with you. I just don’t know that Gerson describes an effective counterpoint.

  2. mystery said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Isn’t this column a rehash of MUD vs. MUSH arguments from 15 years ago?

    I swear, I was thinking the same thing. I love the idea that fully 3D worlds have advanced to the state where the MUSH vs. MUD argument comes around again. When we were all fighting that battle the first time around, it was an argument that was completely alien to anyone to which you attempting to relate it.

    I used to tell people that listening to others describe their experiences in a MUSH was like listening to people describe dreams: You hear it for about 30 seconds and then you spontaneously start yawning.

  3. Sanya Weathers said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Laugh 🙂

    For me the distinguishing feature of this article was the rule of law aspect – and the juxtaposition of this column with other columns about respect for law. I was also amused to see the two columns given nearly equal placement in the nation’s capital’s paper of record.

    The sandbox versus amusement park stuff has indeed been done to death for decades. I barely cared back in the beginning of time, preferring the entirely selfish point of “Am I enjoying myself?”

  4. Servitor said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:59 am

    It seems like every article about gaming has to have the word “addictive” in it these days.

  5. Gwirad said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Part of the articles failings is that while it mentions some of the bad being done in Second Life, and compares it with rampant Libertarianism. It fails to address the underlying reason, namely there is no long term consequence to the action. In our “First Life” we generally (at least under normal circumstances) dont run around killing people just because we can.

    Second Life fails to live up to the “spontaneous order” envisioned by many Libertarians simply because there are not repercussions. In that regard, the article is very far off the mark.

  6. Goedel said,

    July 6, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    It doesn’t help that “spontaneous order” has about the same empirical validity as Freudian psychology and the gay mafia.

  7. BruceR said,

    July 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I apologize if I’m missing the joke here, but the second link appears to me to go to E.J. Dionne’s column on Scooter Libby. Who may or may not be a gold farmer, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  8. Zaphod said,

    July 6, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Also interesting that the article mentions Marc Rich and Scooter Libby. The comparisons are easy to make but I also find it interesting when you consider Rich’s attorney during his time of trouble… good ol’ Scooter.

    Moral code and purpose have existed in good single player games as well across several genres, I don’t think the are a MMO phenomenon, but they may be part of good RPG design.

  9. Calhoun said,

    July 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    I’ve yet to see an RPG or MMO that incorporates actual tangible results or repercussions for moral choices beyond the superficial “decal” level. You Are Evil So You Get Black Armor just does not cut it, I’m afraid. Furry ageplay bondage porn aside, I think we’re still waiting for something dynamic enough to say: “You are a horrible person, and this is the repercussion of the empty filth void you call a soul.” Still, it’s nice to dream. Perhaps someday…

    Also, Empty Filth Void would make a pretty good punk/industrial band name.

  10. Feeble said,

    July 6, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    I’m sorta reading the linked article amongst doing some university stuff, but I read that law enforcement agencies are interested because of the moral lapse of underage sexual fetishes.

    That to me begs a question; are they actually doing something wrong? I don’t think anyone can doubt that should they actually do those crimes they should go to prison, but… they aren’t actually acting upon this bizarre urge of theres in any real sense because there is no victim, they’re both consenting adults, no matter how much in bad taste the act was.

    I found that to be the most intriguing piece of information that I have so far read in that article, so I’d like to apologize now if I de-railed the topic

  11. DaveN said,

    July 7, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Based on the press I read, I think it safe to assume that everyone in SL is either an ageplaying furry or John Edwards. And who knows? He may occasionally enjoy donning the porcupine suit…

  12. Grimjakk said,

    July 7, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Gwirard nailed that one on the head.

    The old problem of ‘net annonymity makes a “spontaneous social order” unlikely to ever form online. There have to be repercussions (other than changing ISP’s and registering a new account) for social mores to “gel”.

  13. Dartwick said,

    July 7, 2007 at 11:25 am

    It seems to me most people trying to analyze “Second Lefe” are averting their eyes from the elephant in the room.


    Other online gamers would hardly care about “Second Life” if hadnt become a den of virtual kinky sex.

    Most MMOs(both sand box and games with rules) satisfy a desire for something we cant have in real life. Killing dragons, meeting aliens, going into battle as a knight, even getting rich through good business sense. Through out all of history those are the type of ideas we tell stories of and dream about.

    Kinky sex on the other hand through out all of history the partakers have generally hid their involvement, and society has frowned on it.
    In a MMO however kinky sex is quite visible but the players are still anonomous.

    The real issue is sex.

  14. mythago said,

    July 7, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    That might be your real issue, but “virtual kinky sex” has been an issue in MMOs since the dawn of the emote.

  15. TPRJones said,

    July 7, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Agreed, about the sex thing.

    As real life societies become less restrictive about sex and people learn a more healthy and less repressive attitude about it, then the obsession with it online will fade. Come back in 20 to 50 years and there’ll be a much different dynamic in the virtual worlds of that time.

  16. Taemojitsu said,

    July 21, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Airy, intellectual, and pretentiously predictive article… but that’s what writing such articles is about, anyway, and it does lead to discussion =p

    Paul Barnett of WAR fame said something in one interview that I rather liked: the determining factor for game decisions should be whether it’s fun. Or whether it draws people into the game, for other environments like SA (which isn’t really a “game”).

    SA wasn’t always the way it is, as I’m sure you know. Lack of rules does not always lead to sex. But certain types of communities and memes tend to propagate, and unfortunately that’s what happened to SA; I guess its environment was just too vulnerable to that kind of thing and no effort was made to curtail it. Possibly SA’s… I don’t know if devs is quite the right word… had no financial incentive to want to stop the spread of porn and consumerism in their RMT world.

    I was going to say something about sampling bias, but that’s just attacking the “libertarianism” generalization, and doesn’t have anything to do with whether lack of rules is good for a game or not. So. Compare WoW US/EU with WoW China. Totally different culture, with respect to RMT and the resulting change in value of different types of achievement. So less rules. And WoW China has, I think, as many players as WoW US and EU combined, if not more. So a culture with less rules can be just as successful.

    But I think it’s not stable between those points. Certain rules and values will propagate and resist change. Having these social rules broken by other players when you expect them to be kept does make the game less fun. Bottom line, you can’t really generalize (example, WoW would have been less successful with less freedom in world PvP… back when there still was world PvP). Particular restrictions should just be evaluated individually; the bottom line is still whether or not it’s fun.

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