Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jun. 28th
In 2007 CCP launched The Council of Stellar Management for its MMO EVE Online, a group of people elected by other players to represent their interests and wants to the developer. “To achieve continued success, EVE’s society must be granted a larger role in exerting influence on the legislative powers of CCP,” senior researcher Petur Johannes Oskarsson wrote, in a CCP white paper about the CSM.
The idea was inherently political: a first attempt to move beyond the autocratic design model of the past and create an organization that gave players ownership in the game’s future development. In the subsequent years, CCP’s attempt to democratize its player base has been volatile, exciting, and sometimes controversial.
While most other forms of art are released never to be changed, video games are often constantly tweaked and tuned after release. For MMOs like EVE Online and World of Warcraft, these changes are part of the business plan. Yet the real need of balancing the companies needs with that of the user base creates new kinds of problems.
In other media, fans — those deeply passionate activists for an intellectual property — vote with their wallets, and can pick and choose their own continuities. Don’t like the Green Lantern film despite the fact that you love the comics? Doesn’t matter. Just read the comics. Don’t like the Star Wars prequels? Watch the originals.
The same just can’t be true with a persistent world like an MMO. If you don’t like the direction the game is going you can’t really go and experience that which you fell in love with. You’re stuck with what the developers are trying to do. Video editors knew this feeling last week when Apple unleashed Final Cut Pro X. Pure pain and terror.
Leave it to crazy Icelanders — that’s where game developer CCP is based — to set up a democracy amongst their customers that has an actual impact on their business.
Imagine what the world would be like if “serious” companies did the same.