Regulating Virtual Environments

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Presented at the Doctoral Consortium of the Foundation of Digital Games Conference -- Raleigh, NC -- 30 May 2012

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<ul><li> 1. Regulating Virtual Environments Foundation of Digital Games Conference,Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.30 May 2012 Darryl Woodford,CCi ARC Centre of Excellence Queensland University of Technology dp.woodford@qut.edu.au / @dpwoodfordWednesday, 30 May 12</li></ul> <p> 2. Today Key objectives Methodology Why it matters Founding principles Preliminary results: Eve &amp; Gambling Preliminary ConclusionsWednesday, 30 May 12 3. Key Objectives Original goal of research was to consider how we might regulate virtual environments Because, eventually, they will be regulated somehow...Wednesday, 30 May 12 4. Dispute ResolutionImage: WikipediaWednesday, 30 May 12 5. Admin Perspective Real world governmentsVirtual world adminsPlayersImage: IJMCWednesday, 30 May 12 6. Key Objectives Designers know A LOT about what they intended to happen. Lawyers know A LOT about what the written documents say &amp; how to interpret them. But NEITHER knows whats actually happening in-world.Wednesday, 30 May 12 7. Method Original plan: Ethnographic research to understand Virtual Environments &amp; what stakeholders wanted. Began with three environments -- Second Life, Star Trek Online &amp; Eve Online -- eventually narrowed to Eve for detailed ethnography.Wednesday, 30 May 12 8. Eve is ComplexImage: EON MagazineWednesday, 30 May 12 9. Method As project evolved, it became clear that many of the issues that impacted on stakeholders (automation, dispute resolution, appeals etc) were not new. A comparative with offshore gambling was worthwhile -- a second ethnographic site.Wednesday, 30 May 12 10. Ethnography Tradition in Game Studies of Participant Observation Ethnography (Dibbell, Taylor, Humphreys etc..) Work throws up as many questions as answers, and often focuses on individual aspects of the experience (co- operative play/design, emotions etc)Wednesday, 30 May 12 11. Ethnographers... But how do we study what underlies it all? How communities form? What social standards they create? How they enforce them? We need a framework - NORMS...Wednesday, 30 May 12 12. Norms Norms are informal social regularities that individuals feel obligated to follow because of an internalized sense of duty, because of a fear of external non- legal sanctions, or both (McAdams, 1997) Ultimately akin to Ostrom -- what communities use to regulate themselves.Wednesday, 30 May 12 13. Why it matters: RMT Essentially the exchange of bona fide currency (US$, AUD, GBP) for virtual currency. Impacts upon: Fair Play (Cheating), Design, Economy Balance etc, but importantly has LEGAL IMPLICATIONS.Wednesday, 30 May 12 14. Real Money Trading To the extent that Its just a game is ever justified, that argument loses validity when real money is WON or LOST, EARNT or STOLEN. If I lose a sword in MONKEY ISLAND I might go back to my previous save; if I lose it in ENTROPIA replacing it may cost $200+.Wednesday, 30 May 12 15. Gambling Virtual Worlds look a lot like gambling 30% of the time the monster drops nothing. 40% of the time it drops Item A, worth $3 on the market. 25% of the time it drops Item B, worth $4 on the market. 5% of the time it drops Item C, worth $15 on the market. Why is this different than playing a slot machine in an online casino?Wednesday, 30 May 12 16. Second Life c. 2007Image: http://static.pcinpact.com/images/bd/news/45025-second-life-casino.jpgWednesday, 30 May 12 17. UIGEAWednesday, 30 May 12 18. Second Life 2010Wednesday, 30 May 12 19. Gambling in LineageWednesday, 30 May 12 20. More closely...Wednesday, 30 May 12 21. More closely... http://worldsinmotion.biz/2010/02/neverdie_sells_virtual_egg_for.phpWednesday, 30 May 12 22. More closely...Wednesday, 30 May 12 23. Gambling Some of it certainly *is* gambling. Others are just gambling-like, but so are other things: Day Trading, Trading Cards, MTG: Online But that theyre similar perhaps means we can learn something.Wednesday, 30 May 12 24. Similarities Geographical Disparity Terms of Service enforcement problems. Potential for disputes -- player vs player, player vs provider. Strength of community: knowledge of mishandled issues travels fast in both environments.Wednesday, 30 May 12 25. Findings: Eve Online Community agrees: RMT should be prevented. Mining (to the extent people like it at all) should be limited to manual methods - not automated. But somebody always disagrees - defining norms can be difficult.Wednesday, 30 May 12 26. Not everyone agreesWednesday, 30 May 12 27. Findings: Eve Online CCPs enforcement has improved in recent months, but still evidence of it.Wednesday, 30 May 12 28. Findings: Eve OnlineWednesday, 30 May 12 29. Regulation Options:Wednesday, 30 May 12 30. Regulation Options: Governmental:Wednesday, 30 May 12 31. Regulation Options: Governmental: Player power:Wednesday, 30 May 12 32. SBR The sportsbook mediator SBR was my chosen comparative; they also deal occasionally with poker &amp; casino disputes. Lots went before: TheRX, Majorwager, TOW, EOG; Forums, Mediation Panels, News &amp; Rankings.Wednesday, 30 May 12 33. The past More detail if interested but in summary: Forum-based regulation worked for a while, whilst internet &amp; industry boomed. Problems started when they started relying on advertising. Mediation panels lost traction after US F1 GP Dispute w / Olympic.Wednesday, 30 May 12 34. SBR Model Players submit dispute. SBR attempt to resolve with book behind scenes. Report back to community via news wire. Has evolved over the years. Some disputes are raised in public first (opinion: lower &amp; resolved). Communication now includes forums, video.Wednesday, 30 May 12 35. SBR Model What hasnt changed is that this amounts to REPUTATIONAL REGULATION. A negative report from SBR is enough to impact upon your business. Any different from how gaming media covered Greed is Good or Mittani?Wednesday, 30 May 12 36. Preliminary Conclusion Many of the disputes we see in VWs would not be new to observers from the gambling industry. Automation happens in virtual environments just as it has in poker / video poker / slots / blackjack.Wednesday, 30 May 12 37. Preliminary Conclusion Code has bugs that allow players to gain an advantage just as sportsbooks have long had code that accepted correlated parlays. Enforcement is not always simple, and over-enforcement is possible. Players need a way to resolve this. God argument increasingly losing value.Wednesday, 30 May 12 38. Preliminary Conclusion The models that worked (and did not) in the offshore gambling industry are worth considering No reason to repeat the same mistakes. Courts an ultimate remedy, but perhaps not the first. Why wait a year vs a week?Wednesday, 30 May 12 39. Future: #tweetfleetWednesday, 30 May 12 40. Future: #tweetfleetWednesday, 30 May 12 </p>