Who rules a virtual world? We’ve talked about this quite a few times lately (like here).
The kingdom is in crisis. After pledging to treat its citizens equally, the government stands accused of unfairly favoring one powerful, well-connected political faction. Many citizens have taken to open dissent, even revolt, and some are threatening to emigrate permanently.
This specter of corruption has emerged most recently not in some post-colonial trouble spot but in the virtual nation of an Internet game called Eve Online (population 200,000) where aspiring star pilots fight over thousands of solar systems in a vast science-fiction universe every day.
So now, in a sociological twist, the company that makes Eve, CCP, based in Iceland (population 300,000), says it will tackle the problem the way a democracy would. In what appears to be a first, the company plans to hold elections so that players can select members of an oversight committee.
This is pretty amazing. LindenLabs, the company behind Second Life, for example simply says that they can’t police what’s going on within Second Life, and that users just need to stick to a basic set of rules. It’s all gonna be fine. Some users say that isn’t enough: The Second Life Liberation Army (SLLA) demand basic political rights for avatars.
Compared to this, the step CCP is taking for its virtual world Eve Online is radical. Particularly since they cross the boundaries between online and offline: Users (should we say voters? Citizens?) are physically flown to Iceland to really have a look around. Says CCP’s CEO:
â€œI envision this council being made up of nine members selected by the players themselves, where you announce your candidacy, and if you win the election, they come here to Iceland, and they can look at every nook and cranny and get to see that we are here to run this company on a professional basis,â€ said Mr. Petursson, CCPâ€™s chief executive. â€œThey can see that we did not make this game to win it.â€