I went to the Ludium 2 conference in Bloomington, Indiana last weekend. It was based on a game of a 19th century-style political convention with the object of coming up with a platform of proposals for the virtual world industry and electing a Speaker representative who would put forward the platform to political candidates in the real world. The final platform is here. As you can see, some of it seems to be based on the preservation of the status quo, e.g. freedom of expression for designers, internet neutrality, shielding of game developers from liability for actions of players, fair use, and there is also the predictable grab for research money, but there is some cutting edge stuff too, such as the player's bill of rights, (free speech, right to assemble, to organize), that I fully supported of course. The convention game machinations themselves were absorbing although at times distracting and a bit frustrating. There was an attempt to merge two voting regions (Palvi and Sysland) and then announce it as a fait accompli without first making a motion on the floor to approve the merger. This stuck in my craw, especially when Ted Castronova, the gamemaster, said from the podium that it would not affect the final platform. Well, in mergers like this, there is a good chance that it will end up in an oppression of the minority by the majority and also limit the debate due to enforced homogeneity of opinion within the merged group. I raised this point and it was put to a vote on the floor and the merger was narrowly defeated, vindicating my opinion. For this I was rewarded with a Twitter. It turns out that the merger was part of plot to ensure the election of an academic (Thomas Malaby of U. of Wisconsin) as the Speaker rep rather than an industry type (Corey Bridges of Multiverse). Apparently, there was a perception that industry persons are being given a hard time now in the U.S. as spokespersons for interest groups. Personally, I liked Corey better and voted for him since the class clown who just obtained $4 million in venture financing for Multiverse appealed to me (it had nothing to do with the several hours spent with him and Jerry Paffendorf et al drinking at Nick's Bar which was after the event!). However, Malaby was ultimately elected. Best of luck to him during his term of office. The District I was in (Palvi 2 which was composed of three lawyers) won a prize for getting some of its recommendations into the final platform.
On the whole, Ted Castronova put on a productive and fun conference, but I have two suggestions for the next Ludium (2009?): 1) abandon the convention format and instead determine issues through a prediction market, which should be less subject to rule bending and 2) drop the U.S. centric approach and focus on the issues from an international perspective. I'm not advocating cyber-separatism or pie in the sky like a seat on the U.N. for virtual worlds, but ultimately there should be an international treaty on virtual world issues, just as there is for intellectual property.