This news item on next-gen.biz ties into my previous post. As gamers and game designers, we see MMOG as simple enjoyable games. If you are a totalitarian government such as China, you correctly identify MMOG as the following:
- A cohesive group of well informed, technologically literate citizens that have strong ties and social beliefs that are potentially separate than your own.
- A method of meeting, collaborating and distributing news outside of traditional government intervention
- A powerful reward system that can be used to promote and reward specific activies amongst a large population
When the number of players start reaching into the millions and there is no government oversight, you have a potential forum for dissent. In some ways, MMOGs can serve the same purpose as a free press. In other ways, they are more powerful since they have strong organizational and collaboration mechanisms built in.
MMOGs are in their infancy as a political medium. We are witnessing a small moment of history in which a major government, China, is making the first steps to politicize these game systems as a mechanism for social control. Others will follow. The threat and the opportunity is too great.
The reality is that online communal systems mimic many of the social forces and systems found in offline governments. Expect to see the good, the bad and the ugly lessons of human governance, the same ones that have played out for thousands of years of human history, played out in a virtual form as MMOG’s evolve. At the moment, I’m content to be an observer. Over time activists will emerge and starting bringing virtual struggles into the real world.