13 February 2010

[Conf] Regulating Today for Tomorrow's New Technologies

Last Wednesday (ie on February 10th 2010), Han Somsen talked about "Regulating Today for Tomorrow's New Technologies: The Challenge of Connecting Regulation to Technological Realities" at the UCI School of Law. Somsen is a Dutch researcher at the TILT of Tilburg University and an expert in the areas of biotechnology and environment regulation. In his talk, he managed not to focus too much on bioechnologies but more on the regulation issues of new technologies in a broad sense. From a MMOG perspective, this (great) talk brought a lot of interesting points.
Do MMOG worlds need to be regulated? Unlike traditional single-player games, MMOG gather thousands of players in the same virtual places. Hence, in order to prevent their virtual worlds to collapse in chaos, I think MMOG need regulations. My comments are [in square brackets].

Regulators have three ways to regulate A (A = anything that can be regulated) [for MMOG: bots, trade, leading a guild, ...] [regulators can be Game Masters: hunting bots, game devs: implementing an anti-bot system, game designers: designing the game actions so that a bot can not do them, etc.]

What the regulators can sayWhat enforces the regulation[Examples in MMOG]
A is morally badsociety[bot, cheat, exploit, hack, corpse camping]
A is not in your interest
or A is useless/stupid
market and law[weird character builds, tradeskills, AH]
A is impossiblecode, encryption [or conceptual design][teleportation at will anywhere in the world, changing the public transportation destinations, destroying buildings, infinite inventory]

How can regulatees accept regulation? New governance can be a solution if adaptive mechanisms can be found to keep the machine running by itself and not crash. [As seen in the diagram, MMOG lack clearly-defined third-party actors. Are they game journalists? Add-on/Mod communities? Hackers??] [However: MMOG are games, and games can be artful. Art does not need third-party actors and new governance models at all, it is delivered to the end-user as it is. But MMOG gather so many people that they need a regulation of some sort.]

Conditions sine quibus none:

  • all parties have to agree on the goals [we do not want cheaters/bots]
  • Name and shame policies are unlikely to word, and sometimes regulatees do not have a reputation to loose [you never see "Dude987 was a bot!" in the news of MMOG websites for this reason, and also because there are too many bots banned at a time]
  • communities must be mature

Sources of regulatory ineffectiveness
Regulators can be unclear about their goals [why do you enable a certain add-on/macro API function if you know it might be used to automatize actions that should not be automatically done?]. Regulators have to monitor efficiently [is everything logged?]. If the system fails, regulators must have backup/repair procedures [can you use a load-balancer strategy to host the map servers?].
Regulatees can try to resist the regulation a priori or a posteriori, or they can or comply only in the spirit of avoidance (this quote is taken from the paper from Brownsword and Somsen entitled Law, Innovation and Technology: Before We Fast Forward — A Forum for Debate).
And obviously, external factors (ie neither regulators nor regulatees) can threaten the regulatory system.

Questions raised: Does the introduced framework connect all parties? How do we keep parties connected? If there is a disconnection, should we reconnect?
Hints: The more vague your words are in the law, the more breathing space justice has in court judgements. But this solution relies on courts and legal precedents, not on law. More formal laws need to be updated more often and consume much more time. We have to think about what happens if we change our laws or policies, and what happens if we do not change them. Cooperation, education and persuasion are more effective than coercion. The more you educate people, the more cirtical they become [WoW Threat Meter used to be an empirical add-on and became provided within the game by Blizzard with the 3.0 update]. Better say "I do not know" than nothing [hmm... I do not know if this one always prevails in MMOG].

Sometimes it is hard to subscribe both to global values (human rights, WTO) and local values (EU, cultural differences) [global = MMOG should be fun, local = Hardcore versus Casual, Asian may prefer XP grinding and hardcore PvP versus Western players prefer PvE? Asian and Western do not see virtual property the same way].

Edited on February 22nd 2010 to add regulatees sources of effectiveness

1 comment:

  1. Having received from Han Somsen (thanks again!) complementary information about the sources of effectiveness from the regulatees and the external perspective, I have edited this post.


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