RE: virtual nation building

From: Richard Steven Hack (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 19:36:32 MST

At 02:40 PM 2/24/02 -0800, you wrote:

>Hmm. I wasn't thinking transhumanists when I wrote that. More libertarians,
>or at least those who don't like stupidity and government in every bowl of
>cereal each morning.
>By "those with a like mind" I mean people who want to spend a significant
>fraction of their time socializing/living/working in the virtual nation.
>This doesn't have to overlap with a particular political or socioeconomic
>view if they're just doing it because it's fun or economically beneficial
>(see the taxes thing again).

How do you get a critical mass of people in to the game if you can't make
it fun or economically beneficial without that critical mass? Sounds like
a chicken and egg problem. Unless you go with the sex idea - no problem
getting people in on that basis, I would guess.)

> > I would like Reason to detail how the Everquest people are doing
> > black-market economics in the real world.
>The EQ dictatorship (Verant), with the cooperation of the US and EU legal
>systems, forbids the trading of EQ intangibles for real world money. With
>some cooperation in suppression from real world marketplaces (such as eBay).
>Therefore all such markets are black markets; you are breaking real world
>contracts (and possibly laws) and EQ laws if you do this.

But is anybody doing this? And if so, how? And how do you know?

> > See my reply to Reason on Hakim Bey's (Peter Lamborn Wilson) "T.A.Z."
> > (Temporary Autonomous Zones) - a similar concept. I wonder if Wilson has
> > considered MMORPGs.
>URLs? Google uncharacteristically gives me a bunch of junk commentaries
>rather than original sources.

Don't have any URLs. This is underground sort of literature - anarchist
stuff that shows up only in certain catalogs like Loompanics or Last Gasp
of San Francisco. Do a search on Autonomedia - I think they publish his stuff.

> > The problems with Reason's notion that the game could be designed to
> > support a lib development is simply that the game rules can be subverted,
> > hacked, or - if irritating enough to enough people - simply
> > abandoned. The
> > more the game must approximate the real world, the less likely the game
> > world can control real-world behavior *in* in the game.
>True, and that's the goal to be aiming for. There's nothing wrong with
>subverting or abandoning rules if the populance of the virtual nation want
>to do it. Goes on all the time in existing games, and it's just another part
>of the cultural complexity.

But how do you keep the game going as you want it to if no one is playing
by the rules? What distinguishes the game from being the real
world? Where is the benefit of playing a virtual world if in fact it is
indistinguishable from the real world? I'm having trouble understanding
your point. On the one hand, you suggest creating a game that supports a
lib viewpoint, on the other hand you say if doesn't matter if the players
ignore that viewpoint and act against it.

>My original point was not to control people's behavior; I'm very much
>against that. It's to provide a place to start over with a new nation (a
>slew of new nations), which can prehaps prompt people into seeing that there
>are other, better ways to run a society beyond the one that has been settled
>on in the meat world today. If they then want to abandon that and recreate
>big, invasive governements as virtual nations then so be it. But in theory,
>there are enough libertarians in the world to populate a libertarian virtual
>nation; such would arise in the natural give and take of virtual nation
>ecology once the concept goes mainstream. And if the claims about
>laissez-faire capitalism are right, said nation should wind up very

"In theory there are enough libs." I'm not sure. And I really doubt there
are enough libs - let alone Transhumanists - to provide several hundred
thousand or several million members of a given VN enough to provide real
economic benefits to the players let alone clout in the real world. I
think you are much too optimistic on the numbers. On the other hand, if
you abandon the lib VN concept, one could create a VN with large numbers of
players IF there was a hook (such as sex) to draw them in in the first place.

The Libertarian Party has been trying for thirty years to build its
strength. They have probably no more than 30,000 members - out of a
national population of 300 million. And it took them thirty years to build
that - an average of 1,000 members a year. And these are relatively hard
core libs. You'll never get 300,000 libs into a VN at that rate.

If you drop the political stance, however, the question arises: what will
the VN look like? (I do need to research the existing MMORPGs, I suppose,
if I can find the time.)

> > I agree with you that it need to be more than just "fun". But "fun"
> > shouldn't be ignored. How about a game where sex and its pursuit and
> > satisfaction was a factor. THAT might bring in a LOT of people
> > and be VERY
> > profitable - and influential as well in altering attitudes. That would
> > attract state oppression, of course, but the state's inability to control
> > the 15 million or so porn sites bodes ill for their suppressing a virtual
> > "Sex World" - especially if the system were as distributed as the
> > Internet
> > is and more so using encryption, peer-to-peer technology, etc.
>This game is being played right now on dating sites the world over. You
>don't need to put this into a game; it just happens. The same goes for
>everything else; economics, social hierarchies, politics, sex -- it will all
>fit itself into any space in which more than three people are talking on a
>regular basis. All the designers of the gamespace have to do is not get in
>the way.

If sex - or anything else - doesn't need to be put in the game, then what's
the point of the game? I'm trying to pin down what this game is supposed
to do besides waste time in imaginary pursuits. On the one hand, you
suggest all sorts of benefits - on the other, you say these things already
go on without the game. So why play the game?

Richard Steven Hack

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