I’m overdue for a second visit to CCP’s EVE Online, a massively multiplayer space simulation that’s undergone epic changes since its troubled inception back in 2003. What started as a riff on David Braben’s sandbox space-trading game Elite has morphed into a universe of grandly clashing fleets and postmortem piracy, of elliptical economics and fascinatingly factionalized corporations. Agents hawk missions and proffer manufacturing or research services for a price, while players scan security indices before leaping into lawless space where freedom is fluid and region-specific rules are enforced by player-run alliances.
And occasionally — twice, so far — players actually gather to cast votes to elect nine representatives to the game’s Council of Stellar Management.
Iceland is one of the world’s original democracies – its parliament, the Althing, is the oldest one still in use. So it is perhaps no surprise that the game world of EVE Online, developed in Iceland, has become the world’s first virtual democracy.
The Council’s no gimmick. CCP literally brings the council members to Iceland, its home base and development stable, for two weeks, to meet and debate. The result of those debates? Alterations to the game’s mechanics, derived from their input.
How cool is that?
EVE Online’s fledgling “democracy” emerged from a scandal last year involving one of the game’s developers, who used his status to inappropriately aid some of his in-game pals. Players understandably revolted. How to know other scandals weren’t looming? Or that something like it wouldn’t happen again?
Easy: Lock down the system, then make the players themselves (or representatives for the player base) responsible for analyzing and vetting the game’s rules.
Too bad there’s no way to export EVE Online’s results to that other persistent-universe game everyone’s talking about. You know, the one called “Wall Street.”