Part II - Future of Metaverse Governance (cont.)
Some Lessons from the Past: The 1970s-90s
A new communications protocol was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This standard defines how computers send packets of data to each other, which is important for interoperability across the world. It is built on top of Internet Protocol (IP). TCP is reliable but not accurate or fast; hence other protocols were developed, like Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) for voice-over IP (in 1996). The metaverse will need both accuracy and real-time speed. When you look at the process of two devices connecting and transferring data, you also have a sense of possible vulnerabilities in the system.
Figure 9: Layers of protocols: TCP/IP
Source: Khan Academy
Meanwhile, in CERN, again driven by the need for knowledge networking in Europe, the CERN World Wide Web (WWW) project began and was launched in 1989. On 30 April 1993, CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. TCP underlies internet applications like the World Wide Web, email, file transfers, P2P file sharing, and streaming media.
Between the late 1960s and the 90s, personal laptops and telecommunications became more affordable. Atari introduced the second generation of video games by introducing the joystick (in 1977) and game cartridges. Two types of virtual worlds emerged - social-oriented worlds and game-oriented worlds. As the personal processing power increased, new forms of communication and presence emerged: Instant messaging, non-player bots and avatars & greater co-creation of virtual objects.
Figure 10: Affordability of Communication and Computers (1920-2015)
Communities were getting larger. In 1976, a text game called Colossal Cave Adventure (later ADVENT) was released. In gaming, MUD or Multi-user dungeons became popular online after 1979, but they remained primarily text-based. The first emoticon, a smiley, was introduced in 1979. But technology limited chat – in the sense it was not persistent – it would disappear, not linger – was not saved.
Figure 11: Colossal Cave Adventure (text-based)
Activision came into existence in 1979; it was the first third-party developer for gaming software.The first Flight Simulator game (MSFS) was released in 1977, making it the longest-running PC game. ).
By early 1980, the first trans-Atlantic, Internet, Role-Playing gaming session occurred, as documented in The Lunduke Journal of Technology. It was between Essex University to ArpaNet in the USA. Bill Gates and Neil Konzen developed Donkey on BASIC code in 1981 for IBM, and it got shipped on IBM PCs (perhaps the first easter egg?).The video game industry crashed between 1983-1985.
Figure 12: MSFS
Source: S. Makhe
Figure 13: Donkey.Bas
Source: Gates, B
In 1985, Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicom in Japan) entered the USA and imposed “standards” on third-party developers to ensure quality. Games included Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, and introduced the hand-held gaming device – Game Boy in 1989. You could connect to other players via a cable, making it multiplayer. Other games of repute were: Some games that surfaced were Air Warrior (1986)
Figure 14: GameBoy (1989) – B&W graphics
Source: Marcel Bartsch
In 1985, Quantumlink, a chat service for those people with a Commodore kit, introduced a point-and-click menu. An offshoot of this with Lukas Films was the game Habitat, which introduced players to avatars, tokens, teleporting, ghost mode, and the oracle. Unfortunately, not planned were stealing, murder, inflation, extortion, and divorce—[Habitat History: here].
Habitat (1987), one of the more popular games of that time (you needed a gaming console to play), had 15,000 players and 20,000 regions. It is the first MMORPG. In the virtual world, space is not limited (unlike the real world, where physical space is a scarce resource – in the virtual world, it depends on server storage space, which, thanks to miniaturization, has increased). Initially, only six avatars could simultaneously occupy a region, but to overcome the technical limitation, the ghost mode was created where you could observe without your avatar. This game was managed with a staff of 50. It was beta tested in 1988 with 500 people.]
Figure 15: Habitat
Source: Olivetti, J.
In fact, one of the earliest communities, Whole Earth Lectronic Link or WELL (1985), banned only three users in its six years of existence, and that too, temporarily.
At the height of this period, the technology did not allow more than 32 simultaneous players. Suggesting governance meant monitoring 32 players at one time. Even then, the task was complex: one of the developers, Chip Morningstar, said that the co-creation, the interaction between human avatars and bots, created unimagined situations, “We could provide opportunities for things to happen, but we could not predict nor dictate the outcome.“
Data was shared through modem-transfer technology (dial-up via telephone). In Habitat, beta testers paid for the QuantumLink “premium” rate, which was US$3.60 per hour, and players soon had bills of US$200 or more (over 50 hours of play).
Habitat had regions with poor and high-income areas. Some enterprising individuals would buy low and sell high, creating inflation of a factor of five, creating a power based on inequality. Another “crime” was when a player used a gun to shoot all other players in the game, breaking unwritten community norms. Stealing, extortion, and other crimes also are recorded. But other games also had issues: the first virtual rape took place in a game, LambaMoo.
The methods used for governance were administrative fiat (petitions), authority avatars (to police the space), polls (voting), citizen governance, and creator rules. For example, the church robbed in Habitat needed to ask the game developers for a virtual lock. Nothing worked perfectly. In polls, the issue was not all registered users voted (like in real life). There was a tension between imagination (the gun was used in an imaginary space) and real life (should we use real-world expectations in a virtual world?). Three virtual weddings took place in Habitat and one divorced after two weeks. Habitat closed down as it could not scale on the technology system it was developed for, and Lucas Film (USA) sold it to Fujitsu (Japan).
MSFS has evolved. Compared with Google Maps, it makes identifying places easier as orientation is the same. But since it uses volunteers and AI to update the maps and locations, problems happen. For example, it depends on OpenStreetMap, and in 2020, due to an incorrect entry by a volunteer, a 12-storey building became a 212-storey building! AI turned Buckingham Palace into a block of flats and converted palm trees in California into Oblesiks!
Figure 16: MSFS 2020 (software bug due to typo data entry)
IP was an issue even then, and code development is a good example. Some interesting discussions on who created the source code for MUD and the acknowledgment for the same (Roy Trubshaw – originator andRichard Bartle, developer – see below extracts).
“Although Roy had written the basis of the system, it wasn't really a game, nor was it completely usable. Sometimes, the implication is given that I merely modified his program, or tidied up a few loose ends, whereas actually I wrote most of it (and unwrote some of it!). At other times, there's the suggestion that Roy just knocked together a basic shell devoid of anything really original or interesting; again, that's incorrect - Roy pioneered MUD programming, and had to design everything from scratch. So the writing of that first MUD was basically a team effort, and the way Roy and I expect to see it described is "MUD was created and written by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at Essex University in the UK", or words to that effect.”
Games began spreading across the world, like Russia (the 1970s), Sweden (1980s), Germany (1990s), and China. In the 1990s, Germany's Youth Protection Laws would set the gold standard for compliance in video gaming. The "Bundesprüfstelle für Jugendgefährdende Schriften" (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People) would restrict distribution, leading to the circulation of pirated copies (the 1980s). To bypass the regulation, developers would replace red blood with green and fought aliens instead of real people. In 1994, a new self-regulating age-rating body Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), was established, which allowed those games with ratings to be distributed. If it could not be rated dues to extreme violence against humans, it would be banned from distribution by the Bundesprüfstelle. The loophole in this regulation was that it only applied to games sold in physical media, not online. The government restricted broadcasting time for 16+ and 18+ content to the evening, but this again was limited to state-owned television. Bans were liftedwhen “bullets” were not counted as violent (hence games like Mortal Kombat were allowed), and zombies were not considered humans. New laws under consideration are: include online games, age rating and privacy, labeling games with descriptive symbols (in addition to age for a game with more than 1 million users), and Youth protection by design and by default.
NEXT: Part III- Future of Metaverse Governance: Some Lessons from the Past: