September 21, 2004

To Kill an Avatar

"To Kill an Avatar", an article by Dan Hunter and F. Gregory Lastowka, explores how online gaming has coped with unexpected behaviour by members - fraud, murder, rape, verbal abuse, hit & run driving all get a mention.

The gaming world bears some relationship to the world of ecommerce, in that the participants are protected from the consequences of their acts. In ecommerce, anonymous fraudsters seek to steal your identity data by tricking you into entering their counterfeit site. In the game world, a character who raped two others in public said he was just experimenting in a game.

One solution for the gaming world is the end-user licence, but direct policing has the same effect in the gaming world as it does in digital cash issuance: it's too expensive. The cost of support calls is why we do things as we do, not because we're nice guys or bad guys. If the revenue generated by each average user is $10 over a year, that doesn't leave much for any support, however noble the Issuer, and however aggrieved the user.

I've predicted that dispute resolution will become an outsourced role in the currency world, and in the game world they've taken it further: people have banded together and deputised posses to hunt down the miscreants, execute them and confiscate their property.

Could a digital payments world outsource dispute resolution to the point where dodgy merchants lose their assets under sanction from their peers? Possibly. I'd personally reserve execution for spammers, but there is tantalising merit in confiscation of property. In this sense, it would mirror physical world commerce, where bonds and reserves are posted.

There have been some efforts at associations that seek to bind their members to good behaviour. Predictably, these efforts, like the GDCA, stalled when the perpetrators got too caught up in selling their own economic model, rather than meeting the needs of their members. Like the online gaming world, it seems that every new effort is caught in the net of its own rules, so experimentation moves forward a currency at a time, a world at a time.

Posted by iang at September 21, 2004 04:32 AM | TrackBack