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Virtual Power Politics

James Grimmelmann

Cornell Law School; Cornell Tech

April 19, 2005

Every decision made by the designers of a virtual world game is a political decision. Every debate over the rules and every change to the software is political. When players talk about the rules, they are practicing politics. Once you know to look for virtual politics, they're everywhere.

Designers are the governments of these virtual worlds. Like real governments, they make the laws under which citizens must live. And like real governments, they are accountable, after a fashion, to their constituents. Players use designers as agents, employing them to make and enforce the collective decisions that need to be made to make a virtual world function well. Designers focus the diffuse (and conflicted) will of the players into something actionable: software. More importantly, almost every design decision - even a seemingly uncontested one - has winners and losers.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 9

Keywords: Virtual worlds, cyberlaw

JEL Classification: K10

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Date posted: April 26, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James, Virtual Power Politics (April 19, 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=707301 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.707301

Contact Information

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)
Cornell Law School ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Cornell Tech ( email )
111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States
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