RE: virtual nation building

From: Reason (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 18:40:08 MST

---> Richard Steven Hack

> >--> Samantha Atkins
> >
> > > Reason wrote:
> > >
> > > (c) design a way to do what you want while staying in the
> > > society by side-stepping, breaking and/or subverting the rules
> > > without getting punished seriously for it.
> >
> >One could argue that the virtual nation is (c). The only way, IMHO, to
> >change society via (c) is to amass enough economic clout to make existing
> >portions of society listen. Anything else is wishful thinking.
> I agree that a VN might help c). See my response to Samantha
> elsewhere. However, I am no longer interested in changing society on a
> large scale per se until I have the technology to do it
> *directly* :-} But a VN (or VC for virtual community) *might* be a way
> change one's *personal* society and survival prospects. And you're right
> economic clout is a prerequisite (along with technology) to having any
> effect at all on society.
> Have you read Hakim Bey's (Peter Lamborn Wilson) "T.A.Z." (Temporary
> Autonomous Zones)? Based on Situationist concepts from the 1960's on the
> "derive" and "permanent party", it's a concept of forming free zones that
> are temporary and mobile. I thought Bey was not convinced of the
> Net being
> of any real use in implementing the concept, but that was before
> peer-to-peer and MMORPGs which might change his mind.

I can see this sort of thing being the next logical step after VNs are
accepted and evolving. Some may do well enough to be able to establish
enclaves in meatspace for whatever reasons they need to do this; i.e.
renting land from real nations or other concerns. This can be a free flowing
affair or more static.

I would anticipate a parallel between the evolution of VNs and the evolution
of e-commerce businesses -- i.e. you have this first flurry of VNs, which
mostly fail, and then a fusion and cross-pollination between VNs and real
nations. (Bricks vrs clicks). A VN backed by a real nation would probably do
far better on the average. But there's still the opportunity for a VN
equivelant to Ebay or Amazon to spring up and do well enough to dicate terms
with real nations or do without their cooperation entirely.

> I do agree with you that 300,000 is definitely a community - even
> 10,000 is
> one. I used to moderate a conference on the WELL in the 1980's
> and anyone
> there will tell you that the WELL is a community. The question is: Can
> you constrain the *kind* of community you build with game rules while
> *still* reflecting the real world enough to build a *real* community?

The answer is yes. Go look at what is going on now in EQ and other MMORPG
guilds. Or FPS clans. There are free-roving communities that move between
proto-VNs even, just to add another level of complexity to the culture.

> The problem with the game notion being a basis for a VN, as I said to
> Samantha, is that the people are there to *play a game* - not to build a
> virtual world that reflects or interacts with the real world. So
> you have a group of people in place. But the more they reflect the real
> world, the more your game world will reflect the real world. Not good if
you intend
> to build some sort of lib community.

And there's nothing wrong with any of this. People can be there just to play
a game and will still found a community if you pass the critical mass of
players. One of the points of the original post was that the motivation of
turning up to play a game seems to be the only successful method for
establishing online communities. This goes right back to text MUD days -- I
played BatMud in Finland during the Zonni era, and that was very definately
a community. Only a few thousand players, if that, but with a vibrant
history and ongoing community. Very similar to EQ in the way it crudely
simulates economic life in the real world too.

> >I would note that EQ can be a "stupid addictive mind-fuck game"
> while also
> >being everything I say it is. "stupid addictive mind-fuck game"
> pretty much
> >describes most people's experience with their meat lives too.
> >
> >Productive is as productive does. Any successful/skilled EQ player can
> >convert their EQ work time (i.e. time spent accumulating platinum, items,
> >leveling, etc) to meat world money quite efficiently, thank you,
> thanks to black markets. There are real world groups that make a living
doing just
> >this; one of them is sueing the makers of Dark Age of Camelot
> right now to prevent them banning such trades.
> Please detail how the Everquest people are engaging in black-market
> trade. I'm very interested in this cross-over.

I think this spans some of the ways:

Most seem "legal" in that they're guides or training -- with that cute get
rich quick language thrown in free of charge. However, some are selling
intangibles (platinum), which isn't. They'll probably be cancelled by eBay

Camelot Exchange is a bunch of guys who sell their fruits of their labors in
a couple of games. They can't do this in EQ, because Verant would kick their
accounts (=exile them) / take other action against them in the real world.

And of course, for everything you can find written down, there were no doubt
a bunch of unwritten trades conducted via the games or via contacts made
through the games.

> >The thesis of my post was that people can pontificate and design
> >bootstrapped virtual worlds all they like, and they'll be
> roundly ignored as
> >they have been for decades. They're ignoring the herd of
> elephants (virtual
> >proto-nations based on games) next door. MMORPGs will spawn real virtual
> >nations; it seems all but inevitable at this point. The only
> question will be which direction will they head in?
> This is precisely my concern. I would suggest that there would
> be multiple VNs heading in all directions - just like the real world. The
> interesting issues are: will they come into conflict? How? Will the
> computer network protocols they run on keep them separate despite
cross-overs of
> people from one to another - or hackers? And will a proliferation of VNs
make it
> easier to select your own desirable community? Will the old lib
> "proprietary community" notion be realized here?

Possibly all of the above, and none of it is bad. People do what people do,
and a vibrant VN ecology should have all of the above, I imagine.

Another of the points to my original post was that this is all about the
creation of new space in which to live your life and found/find a new set of
governing laws more suited to yourself. VNs seem easier, way cheaper and far
more underway than building islands or getting offplanet. EQ cost less than
$1,000,000 to get going, as did DAOC.

> > > Yes. But you have to allow a lot of freedom, at least as much
> > > as in the real-world, to have a true virtual society/world
> > > evolve. You need a set of basic "physical" laws and a few
> > > constraints on the inhabitants. You also need that world to be
> > > taken seriously and have serious potential for real gain and
> > > loss and the creation of real value. It needs more than to just
> > > be "fun".
> >
> >No you don't, no it doesn't. People build complex communities
> with intricate
> >rituals, histories and mores on FPS shooter servers, you know,
> let alone in
> That's true - but I'm not interested in wasting my precious survival time
> like they are on pointless pursuits. There has to be a real-world benefit
> or why bother?

The real world benefit is economic in some way shape or form.

> In the 1970's, I played one of the first "Shoot Down the
> Airplane" games on an Altair (or maybe it was a Processor Tech) -
> I wasted
> two hours on that and, realizing that games are an addicting
> waste of time,
> swore never to do it again. I have played a couple games when I owned an
> Atari 520 ST, and I'm very impressed with the current crop of games which
> are more like movies than games - but that just means I'd waste even more
> time on them :-}

If you develop skill in something, you can always try to capitalize on that
skill. This happens in FPS games (tournaments for money), MMORPGs (black
market trading of intangibles), etc, etc.

> On the other hand, how about SEX? As I mentioned to Samantha, a VN built
> around a "Virtual Sex-World" would attract a LOT of people and
> probably be enormously profitable...

True enough. I'm sure that will happen -- the pornographers are always on
the forefront of the tech curve.

> >I'd suggest you bite the bullet and dive in and play some of
> these games for
> >a little while. Do some research. If you think that people don't
> take these
> >game worlds seriously, that the level of rules and laws are inconsistant
> >with real societies, then you definately need to go look at the
> communities.
> I guess I'll have to do some research, since the notion intrigues me as a
> means of revenue generation [I'm on Welfare at the moment :-}]

Like everything else, it's a job. Which means you have to take time to get
good at it before you have any hope of making money. As it currently stands,
the per-hour compensation is not all that.

Have a look at the journals of fist de yuma: Gives you some idea
on the immersive culture of Asheron's Call, another older MMORPG, and the
issues that players consider important.

> >You get whatever the virtual nation can muscle out of existing
> nations via
> >simply having stuff to trade. Dual citizenship, preferential treatment,
> >access to money markets. Like being an ex-pat. As soon as sufficient flow
> >across borders exists, money changers spring up. So get paid in virtual
> >currency, avoid real nation income taxes, use money changers.
> >
> >I can see income taxes being the first line of battle, actually.
> If you have
> >a significant body of people productively working in a virtual nation and
> >not paying much in the way of income taxes to the real nation,
> that's going
> >to put noses out of joint.
> I don't expect a VN to really be able to muscle any serious
> concessions out
> of real states - they'll go to war first. You have to be able to
> threaten the real state in the real world with real technology. Remember
> - the real states have real guns and those guns work without computers.
> However, real personal benefits such as tax evasion could accrue in the
> physical world, I agree.

A good rule of thumb would seem to be that if
state/organization/conglomerate A has a higher net worth than B, it can get
concessions and deals out of B. As in business, as in life. Look at 1st
world corporate dealings in 3rd world countries.

If we accept that EQ has a bigger economy than some countries right now
(yes, yes, I know it's flawed, but for the sake of argument), then if a
comparable game/virtual nation goes an talks to, say, Bulgaria, it may be
able to sort out trade agreements with that low-GDP country.

War is an economic thing too. If it costs less to come to an agreement, then
agreement will be come to. Macroeconomics and geopolitics are fairly
rational in that respect. So the trick for a VN is to cut deals and offer
opportunities that cost countries less than trying to stamp out a VN --
which would involve stamping on a large number of their own citizens.

I'd view the concessions and deals to aim at being: 1) recognition, 2) tax
issues, 3) dual citizenship for citizens, 4) standard exchange rate
machinations, 5) recognized access to capital markets. None of these are
really going to be a major economic problem for the country in question. If
the country already has Xk VN citizens who are not contributing to its GDP,
it may as well capitalize on them by granting the rights above.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:41 MST