More Broadswords, Less Crime?

by Henry on September 23, 2003

I mentioned Caroline Bradley and Michael Froomkin’s “paper”: on law in MMORPGs (massively multi-player online role-playing games) earlier today. Its argument is straightforward – these online communities offer a nice way to test legal scholars’ (and social scientists’) arguments about how different rules will affect behaviour and exchange. By looking at how this or that rule in an online game affects how players behave online, we can (with plenty of provisos and cautionary footnotes) reach interesting conclusions about social behaviour more generally.

My tuppence worth: one theory has already been ‘tested’ in this way; the argument that easing restrictions on weapons and their use will lead to a drop in violent crime. If you grant the assumption that MMORPGs are analogous to everyday life (a whopping assumption to be granting, I’ll admit), then the evidence is unequivocal. A society where each can use weapons against each without restriction is likely to deteriorate into Hobbesian anarchy. People will positively beg for a Leviathan to come in and put an end to the Warre of All against All.

Evidence for this assertion comes from the grandaddy of MMORPGs, Ultima Online.^1^ From its beginnings, Ultima has been plagued by ‘player-killers,’ players who go around the realm of “Brittannia” killing other players for kicks and profit. Some people just find this more entertaining than beating up on the computer generated fauna. In the “words”: of one player-killer;

bq. Being a bad guy is loads of fun – there’s more to do, more options to explore. You still get to hang out with lots of great people and help them out, but you’re helping out other Dread Lords like yourself.

This made life especially difficult for new players, innocents who were liable to be lured out of the safe zones by player-killers, and then cruelly murdered. People complained. Most players wanted to live quiet lives, adopting various trades that involved repeating tasks over and over in order to gain brownie points. Perhaps they’d kill the odd computer-generated monster or two, but they certainly didn’t want to be victimized by other players on killing sprees.

Initially, the designers of the game took a hard line; they wanted the players of the game to take action themselves against player-killers. In the words of the game’s head honcho;

bq. “Those who have truly learned the lessons of the Ultima games should cease their complaining, rise to the challenge, and make Britannia into the place they want it to be.”

Unfortunately, these admonitions didn’t work; efforts by players to organize themselves against player-killers didn’t come to very much. Game designers did their best to encourage self-help, creating reputation systems in order to identify wrong-doers. Player-killers soon found ways to game the system, so that reputational signals were very nearly useless.

Eventually, the game designers “gave up on the notion of self-policing”:, splitting the game into different ‘facets.’

bq. Britannia these days exists in two parallel versions, or “facets”—Felucca, where killing other players is O.K., and Trammel, where, except under very limited circumstances, it is not. Four-fifths of all players choose Trammel.

A very substantial majority of players seem to prefer that a Hobbesian Leviathan step in to prevent people from using their weapons against each other, so that they can carry out their trades in peace. They prefer a system in which the sovereign authority (in this case the game designers) rule out interpersonal violence by diktat, to the nasty anarchy which otherwise prevails. And I believe (I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong) that this is true to a greater or lesser extent of all MMORPGs; all of them have peaceful zones where inter-player violence is ruled out by fiat, so that people can just get on with their activities.

As I’ve hinted, I don’t think that this analogy can be pushed too far – the circumstances of online games don’t map very well onto real life. But it’s still suggestive. Experience from MMORPGs suggests that self-help only goes so far in answering the threat of violence. The threat of armed retaliation from individuals doesn’t necessarily work to deter violent crime (especially where the bad guys have the bigger guns). But perhaps I’m wrong: I’m half expecting John Lott to come up with figures proving that more broadswords (or crossbows or fireball scrolls or magic wands) do lead to less crime. Certainly, he’s shown a quite extraordinary flair for fantasy statistics in the past.

^1^ Note of caution – I’ve never played one of these games myself, so take my assertions with a grain of salt.



Chirag Kasbekar 09.23.03 at 6:04 am


You seem to be conflating ‘the rule of law’ and gun control.

the Devil’s Advocate

PS: The devil would also like to know when he can expect your post on “The economics of science fiction”.


Tom K 09.23.03 at 6:12 am

I think your assertion might be in trouble if this is true: Those who spend more time in game prefer the unregulated enviroment. In my experience, with my mmrpg addicted friends, is that the ones who are super hard core and play for 8-10 hours a day prefer the games and situations where they can do what they want where those that play for only a couple hours a day prefer more structure. Then add on that many more people play for only a little bit and you have a perfectly good explaination for why people would prefer the more regulated worlds. Those that tend to do the PKing (killing anothers character) and stuff tend to be the ones who play all the time, and the ones that get pked are the ones that only play a few hours a day. The reason the threat of armed retaliation doesn’t work is because the guys are the best and play the longest are also the ones who lean toward pk’ing. So, if what I think is true from the antedotal evidence is true, the more immersed you are in the world, the more you want the game unregulated.

Just a thought.


Tom K 09.23.03 at 6:20 am

Another thought. These games have often been compared to mafia. For example, if I start playing everquest, a player in real life will introduce me to the group as a rl friend, and then I will be treated to the best items, help leveling up, and things like that, wheras an online friend would get the cold shoulder. Alot of the people who play alot have networks like this, and, like made guys in the mob, they are protected by these networks from pkers and theives and stuff. You don’t mess with Amrocklor because his crew will mess you up if you touch him, but this guy Rentiar, he has no group protecting him, so he is fair game to kill and steal from. Needless to say, those who play all the time are in crews like this (guilds) that really look after each other, and thus have nothing to lose and everything to gain from unregulated play enviroments. Those who limit their play don’t have the commitment or connections to join guilds and would thus prefer regulation to being picked on by those ‘guilded up’


Andrew Reeves 09.23.03 at 6:22 am

Uh… There is that whole little fact that in the world of gaming, you do not actually either kill or die, but rather live out fantasies of doing such. We have a great deal of psychological wiring that causes us to strongly desire not to get dead and makes us a bit leery of killing people. In a virtual world, though, you run no risk of dying, and while creating a new character is a pain in the ass, it is much less of a pain in the ass than being dead in real life, and so one would in a game take risks that no one would in real life.

There is, OTOH, a lot of evidence that, given the spotty nature of pre-modern policing, your average pre-modern city’s crime was much worse than that of even a modern “bad neighborhood.”


Zizka 09.23.03 at 6:50 am

There’s actually abundant evidence about life in lawless places where every man is armed. They level of violence is high, but random violence is low, since it tends to be organized by clans. On the other hand, those without relatives and members of small clans are dead meat unless they gain protection of a powerful clan. The 2nd amendment fantasy that an brave armed man can protect himself is not supported. A man has to be able to protect himself and his family in such a world, but in certain frequent circumstances, his only honorable option is to die honorably.

I realize that this is really about gaming, but the second amendment was mentioned.


The Philosophical Cowboy 09.23.03 at 8:26 am

Are there three seperate phenomena here (unsure, as don’t play MMORPGs)? (I’ll go along with 2nd amendment folk for the purposes of delineating the issues)

1) The comparison is false – the two Ultima worlds are, as I understand it, one where virtually anything goes, and one where it is impossible (in most circumstances) to attack fellow players. I could be wrong, but this seems the easy way to code the issue away, and thought was how it had been done.

If this was a real world choice, then a large part of the 2nd amendment issue (the bits not about just liking guns, and not about King George) would fall apart.

But this isn’t the real world choice – it’s between an environment where either only the “player killers” have weapons, or both player killers and other players have guns, levelling the odds, and bringing us to –

2) Due to the nature of the game, some individuals are massively more powerful than other individuals.

There is some “real world” truth to this. However, there’s no equivalent to the “sword of satan +94” vs a guy with a dagger – if you want to defend your home, you can buy a pretty powerful weapon fairly cheaply. Certainly cheaply enough to be 95% as effective in a domestic environment as anyone who isn’t a member of a high-tech military looking to kill you.

Since, as mentioned above, players who aren’t on-line tend to be comparatively VERY weak, the comparison fails.

3) Can guilds/gangs/clans provide for the security missing in the first case in “1”, a world where anything goes?

To which the empirical answer, in the real world and in the games, seems to be “no”. (MORE COULD BE SAID, BUT WORK BECKONS). It also adds the wrinkle that if there’s a large variance in strength between individuals, those outside of clans will be subject to high levels of random violence….

So – the MMORPG example, IMHO, reconfirms the existing empirical examples mentioned in above comments, that clan/guild social systems are highly violent.

It doesn’t show that a system where there were, say, powerful, but not omniscient guards is safer with individuals also able to defend themselves or not. Or even whether people prefer the former to the latter (speaking as a pop psychologist, I suspect that a popular Ultima would be a game with the sort of “police” found in many off-line computer RPGs (imperfect, but strong against even very powerful characters) and the ability to retaliate against anyone attacking you. The illusion of control and all that. Who knows?)


Jack 09.23.03 at 10:20 am

To second Zizka, isn’t Iraq a fine example of the second amendment put to the test and what are we to make of US gun control in Iraq? Clearly an attempt to exert tyranny over the recently liberated people of Iraq.

Still I think a return to sword bearing would be aesthetically pleasing and a chance to display cultural differences, katana in Japan, scimitars in Iraq, cavalry sabres in the US and rapiers in France.


Doug 09.23.03 at 2:17 pm

Henry, you might even be able to look quickly and easily into some cross-cultural comparisons on MMORPGs. That is, if Ultima has mostly US players (probably heavily self-selected for male, European descent, etc etc), then it will reflect elements of that subset of that society. Legends (IIRC) is the game most played in S. Korea and, while again self-selecting for male, probably reflects long-established elements of Korean culture. Compare and contrast, and you’ve probably got something very interesting.


david 09.23.03 at 2:29 pm

Jack’s mailbox is full, so I can’t respond directly:

I beg you to consider the definition of ‘tyranny’ (A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power) before using the word.

If you are an honest person, you will see that you cannot apply the word ‘tyranny’ to today’s Iraq, although it was quite properly applied to the Iraq of one year ago.


geoffrey ian 09.23.03 at 4:41 pm

The majority of my initial reaction has already been covered in the above posts, but I’ll throw my two cents in here… First off, the comparison is frankly not even “suggestive.” The attraction of online MMORPGs is that they aren’t anything like the real world; they’re uninhibited fantasies that let you act out situations that could never occur in real life — sometimes, because of the rule of law. You might even argue that those who play these games are the most likely to be well behaved in the real world, because they’re emotionally mature enough to vent their feelings in fantasy than to go out and actually shoot someone. Ultimately, people choose whether or not they want to involve themselves in a video game — something that can’t be said of real life.

It does far more harm than good to try drawing broad-ranging scientific conclusions from anecdotal evidence about events with which you have no first-hand experience.


Henry 09.23.03 at 5:00 pm

I’ll grant that I wasn’t entirely serious in making the analogy; it was largely intended to tweak people’s noses. That’s why I inserted the various health warnings. But some of the arguments that people have made about guilds/clans/protection rackets are really interesting, and suggest that there may be something more to all of this than I’d originally thought. Check out Evans-Pritchard on the Nuer, or Avner Greif on clans in late mediaeval/early modern Genoa and Venice – there seem to be some very interesting analogies.

I don’t really buy the argument that this is completely separate from real life, because it’s people acting out their fantasies. These situations can – and do – happen in real life. Look at some of the stuff which happened in former Yugoslavia; or what’s happening in Chechnya at the moment. People may take advantage of conditions of civil strife to act out some pretty nasty power fantasies. This is a real problem – even if it’s not (usually) a problem in situations where the rule of law obtains.


james 09.23.03 at 5:05 pm

The MMORPG comparison with violence breaks down due to the fact that there is no permanent consequences to any action. Your character is killed in the game, it comes back seconds later. The majority of PKing results in minor in game consequences. In the case of UO, lose of items. Even this has been changed over time. Due to this fact, there is near zero risk for a powerful player to attack others. Even if they lose, their position remains virtually the same. In the real world, violence is balanced out by the potential loss of liberty and life.


richard 09.23.03 at 6:00 pm

It’s mostly been said above, but even if you stipulate that the online world has something to say about the real one, the argument is still completely hollow. It breaks down because of the difference between weapons-control and rule-of-law. No second amendment advocate wants a system of self-policed justice (even most die-hard libertarians reject this idea). The comments about Iraq are equally misleading — the problem is the lawlessness, not the guns.

There’s a big difference between vigilantism and gun rights. There’s a big difference between self-defense and self-policing. There’s a big difference between a computer program that can rule out violence and a state that can only partially protect its citizens.

And finally, wouldn’t you agree that if violence could really be “ruled out by diktat”, the need for weapons-control would be gone, and no one should have need to fear (or hate) the other uses of weapons (target shooting, hunting, family tradition, etc.).


Jane Galt 09.23.03 at 6:31 pm

I know I’m just echoing other people’s comments, but while this may have interesting implications for anarcho-capitalism, it says pretty much nothing about your general libertarian “law abiding people should be allowed to own guns”. The question in UO was not whether they should be allowed to own guns, but whether they should be allowed to kill other players, a position that no one short of an anarchist is advocating. Even the implications for anarcho-capitalism seem to be pretty limited, since the real world differs substantially from virtual, most importantly, as others have noted, in that the punishment for murder is trivial (as, to be fair, is murdering someone.)

In fact, one could make a convincing argument that this is far more an indictment of the liberal stance on crime than the conservative, since what seems to be driving the player killings is the lack of severe consequences. . .


phil 09.23.03 at 6:39 pm

Diablo II is another MMORPG that offers some insight about player-killing. (Though I’ve never played Everquest so it’s hard to offer an opinion by way of comparison.)

In Diablo II, anyone can PK anyone else, but there are certain rules that make it more difficult and the benefits are very limited — you can loot the player’s corpse of its gold but not its weapons/armor/items/etc. And in order to PK someone, you have to first head back to town and declare your “hostility” to that person, so he’s first given some warning and can quickly and easily quit from the game if he’s worried.

Another factor (difference?) is that while Diablo II is massively multiplayer in that you could play in the same game with anyone of the thousands of online players, individual games are actually limited to 8 players (IIRC), which means the number of potential PKers that any individual player could face at one time is limited. You can also limit the number of players in your game (even to 1 if you want to play alone) and set a password if you want to play with specific individuals.

I haven’t seen PKing be much of a problem in Diablo II lately, but that might be as much to do with the age of the game as anything else.


dsquared 09.23.03 at 7:39 pm

>>question in UO was not whether they should be allowed to own guns, but whether they should be allowed to kill other players, a position that no one short of an anarchist is advocating.

No, surely? The technical question is one of whether you’re _able_ to kill other players easily, and it turns out that people prefer an environment where you’re not. The question of whether you’re _allowed_ to or not is a social one within the game, and it turned out that even though people weren’t allowed to, they still did when it was easy.

Need to make a clear distinction between those “rules” of the game which are analogous to its laws of physics and which are analogous to laws.


Reg 09.23.03 at 7:48 pm

Heh, this is just funny. You have to play these games before you start pulling sociological conclusions from what goes on. (I played way to much when I was younger).
Do you know how unbelievably fun it is to kill other players? Especially the ones that get way into it, and talk like “Hullo, wouldst thou care to join me on a quest, fair elf?” Thats when you pull out the old black sword of doom.

Also, somebody mentioned it earlier, the fact that people are on such varying levels of ability and power make it completely unrealistic. In real life, there aren’t people walking around out there able to blow away every other person with a meteor spell. If people could actually have that much power over others, then maybe it would be worth making comparisons, or if the game didn’t allow others to get so powerful.


Nick 09.23.03 at 8:37 pm

So 4/5ths want a world without violence, with out guns. Isn’t this strong evidence in favour of having no guns. You could always have a selection of states where ‘anything’ goes. Perhaps Texas.


Sigivald 09.23.03 at 10:34 pm

reg: Gee, it’s fun to kill (in game, that is) people who want to play co-operatively and, er, maybe even role-play a little, rather than just hack-and-slashing each-other?

You must be loads of fun to play near, I reckon. Which helps explain why the non-PK UO shards are so popular.

Everything else I wanted to say has already been said, sadly, especially regarding the lack of consequences flavouring actions. If PKing (or playing in general, for that matter) risked losing your character permanently, it would lose almost all of its appeal pretty much instantly – at least without a gang at your back to insure your victim didn’t have a chance to defend himself.


sidereal 09.23.03 at 10:48 pm

Hmm. . much speculation from those who have not played much. This is where I admit to at one time being a 30-hour a week player of various MMORPG.

Ultima, and most other MMORPG, are poor models for drawing conclusions about behavior from because ramifications of death are almost nil. It’s mostly an irritant, which means a) people don’t behave accordingly (always going out with friends, always being high level and armed before going out) and b) people don’t go out of their way to exact revenge or punishment.

A better model is Shadowbane, wherein the consequences of player death are still minor (teleportation over a great distance), but your Clan can suffer a very substantial death (loss of the city that defines your clan’s existence and is enormously expensive to build). In an environment where substantial loss was possible, even under game rules that made fatal combat easy, the game stratified quickly. Errants joined clans as soon as possible. Major clans banded together for protection, until there were two or three major factions, who then went to war, until only one survived, then there was server-wide hegemony that no one could or would secede from. The game developers actually had to go in and make substantial changes to re-introduce combat and keep the game engaging.

Summary: when there was something at stake, people got very, very conservative and banded together.


Henry 09.23.03 at 10:57 pm

Fun discussion. A couple of people (most recently Sigivald) have brought up the lack of consequences point. If I’m not misremembering, Diablo II has a “hardcore” option under which you’re unable to resurrect your avatar once he/she’s been killed. It would be interesting to know whether there’s a substantial difference in PK behavior between the hardcore and non-hardcore versions of Diablo II – could help us establish what’s going on, and whether there are any legs to this argument.

Jane – I think dsquared is right on this (although his point also implies some highly important disanalogies between UO and the real world). Also – and here I speak from sheer ignorance – what’s the difference between libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism. I’d always thought that the latter was a (somewhat extreme) flavour of the former. Glad to be corrected if I’m wrong.


Henry 09.23.03 at 11:02 pm

Sidereal … interesting stuff – Hobbes eat yer heart out. Reading this discussion, I’m more and more convinced that there’s something interesting here for social scientists – variation in underlying conditions (consequences of death) lead to substantial variations in social behaviour.


A.W. 09.23.03 at 11:35 pm

This is stupid. The major difference between the two is that in real life if you kill at worst you annoy the other person, if you die, it is at worst annoying to you. I mean do you at least play video games? Like say, a 1st person shooter. Do you, in that game take risks with your life that you would never take in reality? Hell yes.

Do you play grand theft auto? in that game you can have and indeed are encouraged to engage in complete mayhem. Kill a cop? Hell it is fun, because then it leads to a police chase that can add up to a good half hour or more of fun, dodging police and FBI cars, running roadblocks, before the cops finally take you out. And then you just get out of the hospital or the prison and do it again.

The key difference here is the consequences and it is hardly a novel notion that people are more willing to take risks when the consequences are greater. So what you are reporting on is what people are like without consequences, to themselves and to others.

so showing the disrespect for others engendered by online gaming actually proves the point of the pro gun crowd. Would you be willing to be such a cretin if you would die in real life too, a la matrix? i am sure at least a number of them would not. And that is exactly the point we pro-gun types are trying to make.

But you on the other hand would like to increase the ability of criminals to act without consequences. Real smart.


derrida derider 09.24.03 at 3:42 am

“the fact that people are on such varying levels of ability and power make it completely unrealistic”
What planet are you living on req? The massive disparities in both abilities and power look just like real life to me.


cw 09.24.03 at 4:25 am

It seems obvious to me that there is something valuable to be learned about human behavior from how the behave in virtual worlds. What is to be learned is how humans behave under a particular set of rules. It’s like each world is a separate experiment. In some form these games ask the question: “what happens when we put a human being in this or that situation?”

I agree that you can’t extrapolate to the real worl with just antecdotal evidence, but with systematic study, I think you could come up with some interesting insights to human behavior.

Theoretically, a group of social scientist could even set up their own games to test particualr theories. It may be the wave of the future.


Bradley Rhodes 09.24.03 at 5:55 am

Dark Age of Camelot went for a two-tiered approach that works fairly well. There’s no player-vs-player violence in the main part of the game, but as you go up in levels you’re encouraged to go to the “frontier” where you engage in combat with two other realms in team-vs-team combat. The three realms (loosly based on Britain, Ireland and Scandanavia) can’t communicate with eachother and the whole plotline pits them as bitter enemies, so it all fits into the game.

A little less than a year ago there were enough requests to do a “let me kill anyone” version that they opened up two servers where they replaced realm-vs-realm with ad-hoc guild warfare, essentially kill anyone not in your immediate socal group. A few weeks ago they merged the two servers because not enough people were playing on them compared to the other 16 non player-vs-player servers.


Reg 09.24.03 at 5:56 am

“The massive disparities in both abilities and power look just like real life to me.”

The gameworld allows people to become so powerful that they are untouchable by all but the other elites. Some level 99 wizard doesn’t need to worry unless he is ganged up on or some other superhigh level character attacks him.
In the real world, guns make everybody equal. Sure the rich can hire bodyguards, and better protection, but its not the same as being untouchable to nearly everybody. Guns are democratic, a great equalizer, no matter who the person is, that person is in no better or worse position than any other person with a gun. The gameworld is completely different. I’ve never played one where the weapons are basically equivalent and there is no advancement in strength.


Russell L. Carter 09.24.03 at 6:15 am

Hi reg,
What about surprise? How do guns make a difference when the main problem is the gun pointed at you? How do you ‘equalize’ that?

The fatal presumption people with little or no experience with the real act of killing reveal when it comes to debates on guns as safety aids is: they don’t understand the meaning of surprise.

Now I out myself. I only killed and cooked 13 doves this season. Every last one of them was surprised.

In view of these facts, this is positively silly:

“In the real world, guns make everybody equal. Sure the rich can hire bodyguards, and better protection, but its not the same as being untouchable to nearly everybody. Guns are democratic, a great equalizer, no matter who the person is, that person is in no better or worse position than any other person with a gun”


dsquared 09.24.03 at 7:12 am

My understanding of usage today is that “libertarianism” is minarchism and “anarcho-capitalism” is something close to what David Friedman believes.

Someone did a bit on the economics of these games on SSRN, though I must say I found it pretty terrible:


Jane Galt 09.24.03 at 3:08 pm

Let me put it this way: trying to prove that libertarianism is wrong because anarcho-capitalism doesn’t work is like trying to prove that social democracy doesn’t work because communism failed.

dsquared, your point is true, but not interesting, since we don’t have the power to rewrite the physical laws of the universe to prevent people from killing others. The assumption that laws banning the ownership of weapons is substantially the same as making it physically impossible to use those weapons to kill others reveals, in my opinion, exactly what is wrong with the thinking at the heart of the gun control movement.


cw 09.24.03 at 3:16 pm

More on social scientist designing games to test/observe human behavior. It occured to me later that computer games would ideal evnvironments for collecting data as well. Every move could be recorded, quantified. The data base would be created and could be interpreted in real time. The more I think about it the more obvious it seems.


Zizka 09.24.03 at 3:42 pm

In the Middle East (actually Morocco, I think, from Gellner) clans are military units and are quantified in rifles, i.e. 50 adult males is 50 rifles. The 200-rifle clans bully the 50-rifle clans. The rugged independence you supposedly get by arming yourself disappears. I think that it’s really only a transitional advantage; person x armed is safer than person x unarmed, as long as everyone isn’t armed; but x might be better off unarmed if nobody is unarmed.

A good argument against gun control in the immediate future is the number of guns already out there. This isn’t a general argument though. By and large I find second-amendment advocates to be addicted to special pleading and fake statistics, and in many cases I suspect, besides dogmatic political affiliation, personal issues. (But don’t shoot me!)


james 09.24.03 at 4:25 pm

There are a number of second amendment advocates who simply see a slippery slope.

First automatic weapons, then handguns, then riffles, then no guns and a loss of a constitutional right.

First hate speech laws, then free speech zones, … loss of freedom of speech and a constitutional right.

Losing one constitutional right increases the risks of losing them all.


Matt Weiner 09.24.03 at 4:29 pm

I hope you mean doves as in birds.

What liberal is opposed to stiff penalties for murder? If there’s a “liberal” stance on crime, it probably has to do with attempting to address root causes–which doesn’t seem like it’s tested in UO.

(Disclosure: I agree with zizka that the number of guns already out here provides a good argument against gun control in the U.S.)


Peter 09.24.03 at 6:07 pm

MMORPGs are more like the highways than anything else. People cut each other off if there is no way for the ones cut off to respond/retaliate. Games like UO and EQ (which I do play) value player’s reputations because that ultimately is what prevents (or at the least slows them dow) players from being jerks to each other. The vast majority of EQ players do not play where they can PvP (kill) each other, yet the consequences of being a jerk can still ruin an evenings play time for up to 80 players.

For those of you thinking about simulating different rules/laws, to do so, make it so that players have 1 and only 1 avatar in the game. That way if a person ruins their reputation, there is no way to hide behind some other avatar. Current versions of EQ and UO can model some economic principles, but waving your arms and translating these games to support positions on gun ownership is severe selective amnesia. In real life (meat space if you will), there are consequences for your actions. In the online games, there is a major disconnect. Similar to the disconnect that younger drivers in the US seem to get (my hypothesis suggests that as one gets older, one has less to prove to random strangers and more of a desire to avoid the hassles of insurance/legal paperwork).


Sigivald 09.24.03 at 8:45 pm

Zizka: You seem to forget that second amendment thought in the US (at least as regards self-defense and “equalising”) is based on the existence of the rule of law, and is thus not strictly comparable with an anarchic tribal conflict (state of nature, more or less).

cw: What kind of data will environmentalists collect from simulations? It seems to me that all they can do (and what they do now with computers) is test their models. The problem with using computer simulation (involving people or otherwise) to model the environment is that your results are only as good as the model – which is why they test models against real-world collected data.

The data one might collect from a simulation involving, for example, people’s choices that affect the environment in the simulation, will be coloured (probably to the point of uselessness) by both the terms of the simulation and the fact that they know it’s a simulation… much like MMORPG PKing doesn’t act like real-world murder or war.


Zizka 09.24.03 at 11:26 pm

2nd Amendment and rule of law. A lot of the 2nd Amendment advocates seem to assume that the rule of law has broken down, or will. The intensity of committment to the Second Amendment seems proportional to the intensity of fear of lawlessness. And there sometimes seems to be a rather anarchic preference for self-protection to protection by the state. I personally would feel much better unarmed in a peaceful, well-governed state than I would armed in the US. But the people I’m thinking of really want that gun in their hands.

Basically I was writing about the 2nd Amendment advocates I run into, not the 2nd Amendment itself.


cw 09.25.03 at 7:03 pm


I said “social scientist,” not enviromentalists. Theoretically, social scientists could create games with rules that mirrored present society (which might be tricky, yes, but maybe not so much). Then once that was working, they could tweek the rules. The could give everyone guns, they could create a total socialist nanny state, they could make all males wear hats. Then they they just sit back and watch what happens. Rats in a maze, really.

You don’t even have to create a complete mirror societ, you only have to design games that deal with a certain area of behavior. It seems like there’s lots of things to learn.

If nothing else this is a good starting point for a SF novel.

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