Online Video Games Rules Debate

Opening night at the State of Play: Reloaded conference at New York Law School on October 28 saw an animated debate of the rules governing the behavior of participants in virtual worlds and a majorannouncement from conference co-sponsor Linden Labs.

During the first session, “The State of Play,” moderator Julian Dibbell, contributing editor, Wired magazine, and panelists considered: Who makes the rules in virtual worlds? Who is responsible for enforcing them? What rights do players of these massively multiplayer online games have? And how might different games affect their ability to compete with each other based on their systems for making and enforcing rules?

Peter Ludlow, a professor of philosophy and linguistics at the University of Michigan, raised the issue of virtual worlds’ terms of service (ToS), which often give the parent company the right to terminate a player’s privileges for any reason “or even for no reason,” he said. “Kicking people out (of a virtual world) just is not feasible,” Ludlow commented. “We have to find ways to work with these people.”

Andrew Tepper, president of eGenesis, which created A Tale in the Desert, described the ways that denizens of this virtual society make their own laws. Players can start petitions, gather signatures, and place proposed laws on ballots to be voted on. If enough players vote for a new law, Tepper will change the code of the game to incorporate it. “Anything that can be reduced to code, can be written in a law” in A Tale in the Desert, he said.

Linden Lab Completes New Financing Round

Linden Lab, creator of Second Life, announced earlier in the day of the closing of an $8 million round of financing. The round was led by Benchmark Capital, with participation by Omidyar Network, a new organization led by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and software pioneer Mitch Kapor, an existing investor. For more information, go to http://lindenlab.com/press_3.php.

The conference continues at New York Law School on Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30 with game designers, entertainment software industry executives, and legal scholars attending and leading sessions. The conference is sponsored by New York Law School and Yale Law School; co-sponsors, in addition to Linden Lab, are The American Museum of the Moving Image, Intel, and The Themis Group.

For more information or to register for the State of Play: Reloaded conference, go to www.nyls.edu/stateofplay.