How to Be a God
Richard A Bartle
Extract from the prologue...
This is a book about philosophy, theology and computer games.
I myself am a computer game designer. In common with all other computer game designers, I am an expert in neither philosophy
nor theology. That said, the number of philosophers and theologians who can claim to be experts in computer game design can be
counted on the fingers of no hands, too. This lack of intersection isn’t perhaps surprising, because what could one group possibly
have to say that would be of any interest to the other?
Well, that’s what I aim to set out.
The kind of game I specialise in is the virtual world. Also known as Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games
(MMORPGs for short) (MMOs for shorter), virtual worlds are among the largest and most expensive games yet created. They’re basically
pocket universes — pocket realities — cut off from the world we live in precisely because their players want
to be cut off from the world we live in every once in a while.
The people who design and build virtual worlds are often referred to as the “gods” of those games, and for good reason:
MMO designers entirely control the functionality of the realities they construct. That’s exactly what makes a god a god: absolute
control over a reality. Philosophers and theologians debate in depth the nature of the reality in which we live, but they’ve never
had cause to design and implement a reality themselves. MMO designers have. They can claim actual experience of being gods,
and of making those decisions that only gods typically have to make. This puts them in a position to help answer some of the questions
that have been bothering students of Metaphysics since forever — and to bother them further with questions that they haven’t yet
considered. This is largely what I attempt to do in this book.
The title of this book is How to Be a God. It’s not How to Become a God, because in time anyone who wants to be a god
(of a virtual world) will be able to become one. Neither is it How to be a God, with an uncapitalised be, because that
would emphasise power over responsibility. It’s How to Be a God, because it concerns how people should behave once they become
gods (regardless of whether or not they want to become gods — this isn’t a power fantasy).
As for what “should” means there, well that’s for you to decide. I’m no demagogue: as I said, I know how to design
realities, and I know some of what does and doesn’t work with them, but I’d have to be even more arrogant than I am already to
suppose that how I think things “should” be is indeed how they should be. That’s a decision for the bulk of humanity to
make; all I can do is point out that humanity does need to make it.
So yes, that means it’s a decision for you.
How to Be a God is available here
in print format. A free electronic version in .pdf format is available here.
How to Be a God fits the NotByUs paradigm because it sits at the intersection of Philosophy, Theology and Computer Games.