Virtual Power Politics

9 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2005

Date Written: 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.

Keywords: Virtual worlds, cyberlaw

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James and Grimmelmann, James, Virtual Power Politics (April 19, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Tech ( email )

2 West Loop Road
New York, NY 10044
United States

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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