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Regulating Virtual Worlds: Considering Participant-Driven Approaches


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Presentation at DiGRA '13 -- Atlanta, GA

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Regulating Virtual Worlds: Considering Participant-Driven Approaches

  1. 1. Regulating Virtual Worlds: Considering Participant-Driven Approaches DiGRA 2013 - Atlanta, GA @dpwoodford Thursday, 29 August 13
  2. 2. RESEARCH FOUNDATIONS • Original goal of research was to consider how we might regulate virtual environments, grounded firmly in game studies. • Because, eventually, they will be regulated somehow... • Two Case Studies: EVE Online & Offshore Gambling Industry. • Not “the solution”, or even “a solution” but lessons worth considering. Thursday, 29 August 13
  3. 3. Dictatorial Democracy Wikimedia Commons: Thursday, 29 August 13
  4. 4. Bartle Model Left Image my own. Right -- IJMC: Real world governments Virtual world admins Players Thursday, 29 August 13
  5. 5. GAMBLING VS. VIRTUAL WORLDS • Many similarities; from mechanics (drop tables, complete Gacha) to regulatory challenges. • But other industries are similar too: day-trading, trading cards. • The fact that they look similar doesn’t imply what works in one will work for the other, but does warrant further consideration. Thursday, 29 August 13
  6. 6. GAMBLING VS. VIRTUAL WORLDS “when people lose their life savings in the stock market, it's called bad investment. when people lose their life savings in sports betting, it's called gambling problem.” 'Genghis Khan', SBR Forum Thursday, 29 August 13
  7. 7. Casibot Blackjack Images from, representative of tools Thursday, 29 August 13
  8. 8. Line Services My Images - SportsOptions & Thursday, 29 August 13
  9. 9. Botting in Eve Online Unattributed composite Thursday, 29 August 13
  10. 10. EXAMPLE 1: OFFSHORE GAMBLING • “Cory Roth” vs “EasyStreet Sportsbook” – Roth played allegedly perfect video poker for 499 minutes (8.3 hours) at the rate of 1,053 hands per hour, hitting two royal flushes. • Had previously shown a similar pattern at Northbet (and was to subsequently do so at Heritage). • Casino claimed it was obvious he was botting, and confiscated all his funds. Also alleged he had broken the RNG. • Player alleged the software had a ‘fast deal’ mode, encouraged fast play, what he had done was possible, and, even if he were botting, the game design should have ensured a profit for casino. Thursday, 29 August 13
  11. 11. EXAMPLE 2: EVE ONLINE • Participant / EVE News 24 commentator Riverini trained a “cloaky Loki with a probe launcher to go hunt some bots”, and developed a repeatable system to identify bots within systems. • He “noticed a pattern in the systems which had the same # of players 13 hours later [and] consulted dotlan for the suspicious systems. A system with bots would display a consistent NPC kill count [...] It is relatively unlikely that a human would have the patience to chain belts for 13 consecutive hours and produce a smooth, even NPC kill count with low volatility... [These] were surely bots” Thursday, 29 August 13
  12. 12. EXAMPLE 2: EVE ONLINE • Norms theory would suggest that codification follows norms, and so it was with botting in Eve Online. • Players (Riverini just one example) identified techniques using the interface to identify bots. CCP, with access to the backend data, could clearly have optimized this process. • The answer was either they didn’t want to (botters paid for their accounts), or that they didn’t have the staff to do so. • Concerted actions by players forced CCP to take action. Thursday, 29 August 13
  13. 13. COMMON FEATURES • Geographical Disparity & Lack of Formal Regulation • Terms of Service enforcement difficulties, conflicts between TOS, Community Norms and/or Code. • Potential for disputes. • Strength of community: knowledge of mishandled issues travels fast in both environments. Thursday, 29 August 13
  14. 14. OFFSHORE REGULATORY HISTORY • Offshore industry founded out of European operators seeking to offer services to customers their licenses didn’t cover. • In contemporary context, largely island-based operations targeting US customers, in breach of Wire Act, UIGEA (and various racketeering statutes) • Forum-based regulation worked for a while, whilst internet & industry boomed. Problems started when they started relying on advertising. • Mediation panels lost traction after US F1 GP Dispute w / Olympic. Thursday, 29 August 13
  15. 15. SBR MODEL • Other models were also participant based, but it is the SBR model that gained traction. • Players submit dispute. SBR attempt to resolve with book behind scenes. Report back to community via news wire. • Has evolved over the years. Some disputes are raised in public first (lower % resolved). Communication now includes forums, video. • A negative report from SBR is enough to impact upon your business. • Similar to “Greed is Good” & Gaming Media • Reputation-based regulation. Thursday, 29 August 13
  16. 16. SOME (BRIEF) HIGHLIGHTS • Many of the disputes we see in VW's would not be new to observers from the gambling industry. • Automation happens in virtual environments just as it has in poker / video poker /Code has bugs that allow players to gain an advantage just as sportsbooks have long had code that accepted correlated parlays. • Enforcement is not always simple, and over-enforcement is possible. Players need a way to resolve this. “God” argument increasingly losing value. Thursday, 29 August 13
  17. 17. SOME (BRIEF) HIGHLIGHTS • The models that worked (and did not) in the offshore gambling industry are worth considering. There is no reason to repeat the same mistakes. • Courts an ultimate remedy, but perhaps not the first. • Complete Gacha, and move towards gambling in social networks highlights that regulation is impending. Industry better served by being ahead of the curve. • Alternative regulatory methods, with different degrees of formality, often suffer from a timeline. In contemporary environments, participants less happy to wait a year vs a week (IBAS vs SBR). Thursday, 29 August 13
  18. 18. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS • ARC Centre for Excellence in Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) - • Social Media Research Group -- http:// • Queensland University of Technology Thursday, 29 August 13