Monday, June 25, 2007

Against Rights, Part 2: Freedom to Assemble

I'll make this one a bit shorter, since it has much in common with the previous entry.

The freedom to assemble, when its real-world analogues are applied to virtual worlds, can be more troubling than freedom of speech. Many of the same concerns still exist, and there are others that make it even more problematic.

Some of these will be self-solving as virtual worlds evolve, but the call at Ludium was for the establishment of one now - I don't feel it's time.

As with freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, when applied within virtual worlds, essentially removes freedom FROM assembly, as there are no "inescapable spaces." Furthermore, mass assembly, with today's technology, materially affects game mechanics and people's enjoyment of the game at large - think lag, crashing, etc.

Ensuring freedom of assembly removes developers' ability to control conditions that may or may not have an impact on overall server stability. Many virtual worlds use server clusters for operation, and too many folks crammed into one spot causes that segment of the cluster to fail, possibly taking the server as a whole with it and at the least, denying the entire userbase the ability to utilize the assembly area for a period of time. This is more problematic considering that assemblies, especially those that are spontaneously generated, tend to occur within the most popular (and thus most-utilized) areas.

In a sense, the United States has never had "freedom of assembly." You sort of have it in public spaces, never in private. Even in 1796, you couldn't assemble inside Tom Dandridge's store, because that conflicts with his ability to do free commerce. Giving this right to users essentially begins to equate private corporations' virtual worlds with public spaces, which is nowhere we need to be going (at least right now.)

Realize that the goal of this series of posts is not to say to virtual world developers, "Be as draconian as you like." The message is more along the lines of, "Retain your rights, but the marketplace is ultimately going to decide what rights you have."

Next one on tap: Due process.

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