The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat

The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat

I've never been into the multiplayer world games, but this paper (circa 1990) has some great insights from some of the folks who made the first inroads into using computers to handle real-world socialization.

Perhaps I've not been paying attention, but I'm starting to see a lot of value in understanding the linkages between these games and traditional online communities.

From my impression, the creators of Habitat found that people will be people no matter what- and if you want an online system to be successful, you can't force a version of reality that doesn't reflect (or morph into) the way people really behave in the real world. It's hard to believe this paper was done 13 years ago and many of these lessons are still being ignored.

Instead of trying to push the community in the direction we thought it should go, an exercise rather like herding mice, we tried to observe what people were doing and aid them in it. We became facilitators as much as we were designers and implementors.

We quickly figured out how to create a voting mechanism and rounded up some volunteers to hold an election. A public debate in the town meeting hall was heavily attended, with the three Avatars who had chosen to run making statements and fielding questions. The election was held, and the town of Populopolis acquired a Sheriff.

In the online community I managed recently, we created a "Voting Booth" where members would vote on the next forums. This was our attempt to create some democracy in our community.

In a real system that is going to be used by real people, it is a mistake to assume that the users will all undertake the sorts of noble and sublime activities which you created the system to enable. Most of them will not. Cyberspace may indeed change humanity, but only if it begins with humanity as it really is.

Via: Corante Many-to-many