Current legal research on massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) intentionally marginalizes the fact that the majority of these new social arenas are structured around game-like rules. Yet even virtual worlds like Second Life owe a great deal, in their architecture and guiding logic, to social practices of games and play. Legal scholars studying virtual worlds should not ignore the way in which the unique characteristics of games and play shape the rules of virtual worlds.
Virtual worlds are governed, to a significant degree, by rules of play. When we consider the work of Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, Bernard Suits, and other theorists of adult play, we find a strong consensus that ludic rules are specially crafted toward procedural and hedonic ends rather than instrumental and efficient ends. As a result, the guiding rules and software codes of virtual worlds inevitably diverge in important ways from the guiding logic of law.
This divergence has important practical implications for the application of law to virtual worlds. For example, standard presumptions about property rights, negligence, criminal law, and contract can be wholly inappropriate when applied to the rules of virtual worlds. This is problematic, given that law will not intervene effectively in virtual worlds if it insists on ignoring their true ludic nature. To the extent the law recognizes the ludic nature of virtual worlds, it must take a more modest and more nuanced approach to their regulation.
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Greg Lastowka, Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden
- Tuesday, 15 December 2009
- 12.15 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
Conference Room, Level 1
Oei Tiong Ham Building
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road