Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Let's have a Party

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. - Ambrose Bierce

It may come as a complete surprise to you that some people have been discussing government in Second Life. When I say “some” I basically mean “government discussions are falling from my kitchen cabinets like tribbles from a ventilation shaft.” So I say we talk about parties and don’t spare the assless pants!! HA! Fooled you! Not THAT kind of party! I was talking about political parties (with assless pants.)

While nobody has really tried to define political parties in Second Life, I believe parties are emerging all by themselves. You can see people polarize over any issue, and it’s not uncommon to see the same groups of people standing shoulder to shoulder on a variety of issues. So with half a cup of chutzpah, two teaspoons of intestinal fortitude, and just a pinch of hubris, I’m going to define Second Life’s Political Parties!

To start with, it seems politics in Second Life can be charted on the ever trusty “two axis graph.” One axis indicates whether Second Life is a country or a company. The other axis shows the degree to which a governing body in SL (whatever that may be) should intervene into the lives of players. Below I have charted where the different political interests fall on this graph and a brief description of these de facto political parties.

The Nation Party
Official Bird: The Cuckoo
Official Color: Furious Red
Official Motto: “Philip SAID he was making a COUNTRY!!”
Example Members: Ulrika Zugzwang, Prokofy Neva and the SL Herald

The Nation Party started as a protest against the thousands of coffee shops in the US who claim to serve “The Worlds Finest Coffee.” “They can’t ALL be the finest!!!” they excitedly jeered. But just as they were about to start a nationwide vandalism campaign, their attention was suddenly shifted to the voice of Philip Linden as he uttered his fateful words “I am building a country.” Insisting that the quote be taken literally, the Nation Party endeavors to hold Philip to these words by advocating policies that are more governmental than corporate.

While policies on hiring, employees, and marketing are largely considered internal matters for most companies, The Nation Party insists that SL’s customers have clear visibility to the policies and some degree of democratic influence. For example, SL’s marketing efforts should not be based purely on SL’s marketing needs (as determined by their marketing department) but should also act as a social program to manage/equalize customer visibility.

The Nation Party is comfortable with government intervention provided it is democratic. They often advocate freedom of speech but often look for official sanctions against griefers and harassers. Nationists believe that feature creation/changes should not interfere with the interests of current players. For example, they feel that point to point teleportation should not be implemented as it would hurt people invested in land near telehubs.

The Platform Party
Official Bird: The Peacock
Official Color: A Smug shade of Royal Blue
Official Motto: “*Roll Eyes* Here we go again.”
Example Members: Lordfly Digeridoo, Cubey Terra, Slog.

The Platform Party believes that Second Life is a software platform privately owned by Philip and Linden Lab’s investors. This party expects Linden Lab to behave like a company in matters of hiring and marketing policy. For example, Platformers feel SL players are not professional marketers (nor are they answerable to SL’s investors) and therefore marketing decisions by democratic rule are a bad idea. If Linden Lab begins to make bad business decisions, Platformers believe the people will vote with their wallets.

Platformers are comfortable with Government intervention by the Lindens when it comes to maintaining order. However they adamantly oppose efforts to create artificial economic conditions, such as wealth redistribution. Platformers also encourage any feature changes that provide a long term benefit, even if they cause short term losses for some players.

The Game Party
Official Bird: Like, a cool jet powered eagle with sword claws and missiles
Official Color: Matrix Green
Official Motto: “ZOMGWTF its A Gamz0rz..pwnage!”
Example Members: Magnum Serpentine

Gamers look at Linden Lab as a gaming company, and expect the Lindens to exert any influence needed to make SL fun for EVERYBODY, not just the high achievers. For example, “success” (however you wish to define it) should be managed by strict game rules rather than a free market economy. So becoming a top designer should have less to do with real life artistic or marketing capabilities, and more to do with a series of victories over linden created challenges that eventually allow players to “level up” to success. If the challenges are too difficult for success, players could play on an easier level.

The Game Party believes Linden Lab should worry less about preserving the value of the Linden Dollar, and instead give away money to players so they can buy more stuff and have more fun! Gamers don’t necessarily believe this would harm the economy or deter content creators. If economic conditions do suffer from these policies, then content creation would become the responsibility of the Lindens rather than other players.

The Freedom Party
Official Bird: You can’t force a bird on us.
Official Color: Don’t even try it buddy.
Official Motto: “Go fuck your official bird.”
Example Members: Seymour Butts (Unverified member, possibly a prank)

Pegging the upper left corner of the chart, Members of The Freedom Party believe the Lindens should behave more like a country … A country that doesn’t really do much. Censorship is the highest crime in the land to this party therefore the Lindens should not interfere with the creative output of players in any way. Instead, the Lindens should stick to writing software and leave the community to us.

Of course Second Life politics is far more complex than this. These parties aren’t strict, sharply defined organizations. Rather they are like patterns of flotsam and jetsam that have emerged as some debris collect with similar kinds of debris. Some people fall somewhere between the patterns. Some will follow the waves back and forth between the collections. And some people, some highly opinionated people, find themselves solidly on a team…


  1. Brilliantly executed, Aimee. I was just thinking about the subject of SL politics the other day, as I settle into my role as the Rush Limbaugh of the "Platform" party. I hadn't thought to examine the political thought in a two-dimension continuum as you have, and I think your way makes a whole lot of sense.

    Also a neat parallel to the RL version of the 2D political map.

    Also your av is hot.

  2. yes, i thought it was an interesting article, and a nice segway into the Thinkers meeting this evening talking about freedoms in SL.

    Enabran, if you're the Rush Limbaugh, we do get to make merciless fun of you, right?

  3. I'm pretty sure that happens already, Forseti. ;)

  4. Nope! We absolutely positively never make comments like "ah, the cockiness of youth" behind your back. Never dream of it. ;) :P

  5. I happen to think I look good in Smug Blue!

    Excellent overview of what is usually a caphonic mess of opinions on the forums. Extra points for putting Prok and Ulrika in the same category.

  6. The most important thing about this is having an easy guide to show new Resis, ya know?

    "I don't get what this is about?"

    "Have a look over here... Aimee's entry @ SLog..."