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6:08pm on Thursday, 22nd January, 2015:

Important Laws


Every year, I get my Virtual World module students to look at The Laws of Online World Design. I split them (the students) into groups and have each group choose the "most important" five rules. Afterwards, I discuss their choices with them, referring back to when I've done this previous years (2012/13 and 2013/14). I usually have groups of 4 of 5 people, but this time I had groups of 3 because we were in a new room that no-one (including me) (in fact probably including everyone else at the university) had ever been to before. People were turning up late not because they were lazy, but because they needed a SatNav to find the place.

Anyway, I wound up with 4 groups this way. There were no rules that all agreed on, but the ones that more than one group had in their top 5 are:

The first and the last of these got support from 3 groups, the others just from 2.

Never trust the client is a perennial favourite, but others that have proven popular in previous years either got only one vote (Rickey's Law) or no votes at all (Koster's Law, Is it a game?, Community Size, Dundee's Law).

There are no right or wrong answers (hmm, actually there are some I'd say are wrong ones); the main point of the exercise is to get the students to absorb the Laws through reading and discussing them, and to help move them towards getting their own thinking straight about what is or isn't important TO THEM in the design of a virtual world. That said, there are definite trends over the years, particularly with the demise of the importance of role-playing as a concept in today's virtual worlds.

The students were quite surprised afterwards to discover that they had actually spoken in front of their peers. Their default setting is to say nothing. Subterranean rooms hewn from ancient 1960s concrete must promote the breakdown of social norms...

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