Thursday, November 1, 2007

Religion and Politics in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Botanybay:
Would such a behaviour become more common, as soon as some quests evolve around politically relevant topics?

That's a really good question. It's often a mistake to think that changing the rules of a game won't change the behavior of the players. (In the realm of political economics, for example, this observation leads to calls for "dynamic scoring" instead of static analyses that assume you can, for example, raise taxes and collect more revenue because people won't change their spending habits.)

In the case of a Star Trek MMORPG, is there a reason to think that the game world (including players) would become less fractious if real-world political questions (in science fiction forms) were part of the game, that online gamers would change their behaviors to become more mature when their beliefs are challenged, rather than less mature?

It's an interesting possibility. I wouldn't mind seeing an experiment of that kind tried in some game.

I would just hope that game would not be Star Trek Online, because my guess is that no, people won't behave more responsibly -- either individually or in groups -- when a game they're playing tells them through its reward structure that not only are their beliefs wrong, only Bad People hold those beliefs.

I could be wrong about that, but I'd hate to see a Star Trek MMORPG be the game that proves me right.

Originally Posted by Botanybay:
I think the beavis_buttheads of this world are actually a minority. So why is the majority afraid of them?
"Afraid of" is a loaded expression; it implies that conclusions on a subject are merely the products of emotion (fear) and thus can be dismissed, rather than being based on facts and reasoning and consciously developed opinions that would require a serious response. So I think "concerned about" is more accurate.

And the reason for being concerned about features that promote jerkish behavior by a minority is because a minority of people can have a disproportionate impact in a highly social environment. It doesn't take many jerks to drive away significant numbers of non-jerks... and when that starts to happen, you're on a path toward the world being owned by the jerks. Who wants to stay in a place when you can see the jerks taking it over?

Human beings in the 24th century may somehow have become mature enough to handle sociopolitical challenges to their deepest beliefs. I doubt strongly whether enough online gamers are there yet.