Should avatars have rights? As Raph Koster admits in his article, “Declaring the Rights of Player,” the subject is nearly paradoxical. “No matter what, any answer I give is bound to be wrong” (Koster, 2012). For argumentative purposes and despite the reality that there is no perfect answer, my answer today, is “Yes, yes they should.”
To support this answer, I will call on my experience as both a manager and player of (several) virtual world games. As a player, particularly in a virtual world game, the purposes for playing may differ, however one thing is constant, a player’s desires to have fun and to ‘reap what you sow.’ Players want to get out of the game, what they put in, and sometimes, ‘way more.’ The protection of a player’s possessions and ‘earned content’ is a good start.
As a game manager, the roles are flipped and priorities are too. Game managers do not seek out players to prosecute, instead they deal with abuse reports, often times the result of one person thinking that another person ‘stole his creation.’ A game manager’s job is to enforce the Terms of Service (TOS) and Code of Conduct. Managers aren’t concerned with policing every person, only with tackling issues where there are infractions against the TOS. If something is not mentioned in the TOS, it is considered ‘fair game’ — pun intended.
Today, Second Life has over 26,000 simulated regions, 4,000 of which are marked as ‘Adult’ regions and nearly 18,000 of which are at least marked ‘Mature 18+’ (Shepard, 2014). In a Mature 18+ region, obscenities are allowed and in Adult regions, you may find virtual prostitution and strip clubs on every corner, so to speak. People choose which regions to visit, based on age and personal preference.
One of the problems of placing real-world consequences on virtual world actions, is the fact that virtual world players are international — one person might be from the United States, while his ‘partner’ might live in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, etc. Different countries have different laws of course, so this complicates things. For example, people can gamble in the virtual game, Avination, based out of Germany, but not in Second Life, based out of the United States. So what, would we do then, in those cases? That, I just don’t know.
What rights should avatars have? Well, at the very least:
- The right to back-up purchases and own creations
- The right to remove currency from the game in a timely manner
- The right for prompt investigations of submitted abuse reports (for cases like repeated harassment, content theft, etc.)
- The right to an appeal process in the case of account cancellation or banishment
There is a certain beauty to the freedom that can still be found in virtual worlds today. As long as avatars can build, keep their creations as their own, make money and free themselves from unwanted visitors and power-hungry ‘Game Gods,’ rest assured they will keep logging in.
Avination Virtual Ltd. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.avination.com
Koster, Raph. October 23, 2012. Declaring the Rights of Player. State of Play: Law and Virtual Worlds. Retrieved from http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/telecom/raphkosterdeclaringtherightsofplayers.pdf
Shepherd, Tyche. 2014. Second Life Grid Survey. Retrieved from http://gridsurvey.com/index.php