Can MMOs have political ideologies?

James Egan
J. Egan|09.26.08

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Can MMOs have political ideologies?
The Terra Nova blog is known for its in-depth views on virtual worlds and MMOs, with an academic bent. Contributor Nate Combs has provided insightful commentary on EVE Online for Terra Nova in the past, and recently continued on that track by stating, "I wonder whether an MMORPG can have a political ideology, either by design or by accident." There are few massively multiplayer games that such a question could truly apply to -- EVE Online is the most prominent example, largely due to the game's depth.

Combs also wonders if such PvP-centric games and settings encourage militaristic world views, and whether PvE-centric titles (where players don't fight one another, rather are simply rationed loot) are comparable to a Scandinavian welfare model.

In 'Fifty days and worlds apart', Combs writes: "At first blush one might argue that EVE Online with its deep laissez-faire market system and sand-box design that stresses player initiative and 'creating your own story' offers a compelling classical liberal narrative. Dig deeper, does that mean pro-business? Libertarian? Ronald Reagan? Yet, players have fashioned 'socialist' alliances in EVE Online; dirigisme also abounds as an alliance management style. 'Ideology' involving large systems of people - even with well developed mercantile instincts - is never so simple."

See Combs' "Fifty days and worlds apart" for his full train of thought, and for some interesting responses by his readers, particularly from none other than Richard Bartle who discusses some of the ideologies inherent in virtual worlds and MMOs. Bartle expresses his view that "freedom to do leads to freedom to be" and that "if people have ideologies, then the virtual worlds they create will have them too."
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