Veteran MMO game designer Raph Koster has another landmark GDC talk which just went live (above) and everyone should set aside time to watch. (Slide deck is available on his blog.) While the official talk title is "What Social VR and AR Can Learn From MMOs", it gradually becomes quite clear that anyone working in tech nowadays -- or for that matter, anyone interested in the future of real world governance -- should watch it too. As Raph notes toward the end, Steve Bannon, Trump's top adviser (some would say puppetmaster), is a veteran of running MMO communities, and seems to be applying what he learned there to running the United States. (Some would say griefing it.)
As with his GDC 2016 talk, the overarching theme is how today's VR and AR developers keep forgetting the hard lessons about griefing and other social disruptions learned a decade or two ago in MMOs -- especially when the MMOs have user-generated content. (And yes, the flying penises of Second Life are mentioned.)
Why are new VR/AR developers so slow to learn from past MMO experience?
"I think a lot of them don't even think to look," Raph tells me, "or think with the goggles first, like I mentioned in the talk. After all, social media web people didn't look either."
In fact, even some GDC attendees who came to his talk needed to learn what he was saying in order to change what they are already developing right now:
"[O]ne attendee," Raph says, "told me that someone on their social VR team was working on making exactly the user-generated puppet that was used in 'Rape in Cyberspace'." That's Julian Dibbell's article from nearly 25 years ago:
The "cyberrape" itself was performed by a player named Mr. Bungle... The user behind this avatar ran a "voodoo doll" subprogram that allowed him to make actions that were falsely attributed to other characters in the virtual community. These actions, which included describing sexual acts that characters performed on each other, went far beyond the community norms to that point and continued for several hours.
"'Nick of time!' I said," says Raph.