Tuesday, December 20, 2011

.Importance of etiquette, convention and regulation in online communities.

While reading 'User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds', by Greg Lastowka, I found I agreed with his point, mentioning Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler, 'peer production' from his book, 'The Wealth of Networks'. 

Noting how if content is free, it is worthless and stating how this is quite obviously wrong, he moved on to point out that both professionally made product and amateur based product can be of value to us and to be of no value to us.

With this is mind, I would like to discuss World of Warcraft (WOW), a popular MMORPG that I have previously mentioned in one of my blog posts. Readers will remember that I stated how I used to be addicted to this game so bare with me.

In WOW itself, all content is made by the game developers, the professionals. However, user content is made on other internet networks such as fan pages on Facebook, artwork on Deviantart and machinimas (videos using the in game engine and extra, fan made material) on youtube. 

All of this user content is free, adding to the experience found in the professional content and a boon to the sales and lifetime of the product. 

The influence of the user content is sometimes felt in the game, when the developers take notice. There is evidence such as, the developers now include their own machinimas in game and even fan made material, such as a fan made comic previously featured on the website gamespy.com's character is now to be found in the game. 

In Second Life (SL), the developers create their own content, most recently found in their new 'Liden Realms'. This content gives the user the opportunity to acquire Liden Dollars which can be converted into real life currency. The Liden Realm content is different from the early content from the producers as it resembles a traditional video game as opposed to a social virtual environment. 

The majority of content found in SL however, is user based content. The interesting thing about this content is that it has the capacity to create real revenue. 

In WOW, social etiquette, convention and regulation can differ from server to server. There are three types of realms, PVP (where players are encouraged to fight freely with each other), PVE (where players engage with the environment enemies) and RP (where users usually role play their avatars.) 

The common regulation for all however is based in the users ability to report abuse to in game moderators known as 'GameMasters (GM)'. Players are encouraged to be polite and to treat others the way they would wish to be treated. 
Similar to how people wish to be treated in reality.
And similar again to how SL operates. Depending on the environment the user is in, whoever owns the content will be the moderator.

It is thus important to note that both WOW and SL have their own etiquette and regulations that strive to be both more civil than reality and more ideal but both struggle as they become more popular and generate more users.

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