Death in space and the piracy debate: negotiating ethics and ontology in Entropia Universe

Morgan, Rhian (2013) Death in space and the piracy debate: negotiating ethics and ontology in Entropia Universe. Global Media Journal: Australian Edition, 7 (1). pp. 1-16.

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Entropia Universe (EU) is a science-fiction themed, multiplayer, online game with a real-cash economy. This means that players can deposit and withdraw real money from the game, at a fixed exchange rate of $1USD to 10 Project Entropia Dollars (PED). The social world of Entropia is influenced by both the cash economy and the game platform. Game specific ontological and ethical systems emerge, in game, in response to these combined influences. As such, significant updates to the game platform can result in social disruption. This paper provides an ethnographic account of community responses to a 2011 update which introduced interplanetary space travel into the game. This update was significant because space was programmed to be a 'lootable' player versus player (PvP) zone – meaning that, in space, players could kill and plunder other players. Consequently, the profession of space-piracy emerged, prompting an ongoing community debate about the ethics of role-playing 'theft' within a virtual world where items cost real money. An examination of this debate reveals the processes of conflict and negotiation that virtual world communities go through when augmentations to a game's technological platform conflict with established social ontologies.

Item ID: 32321
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1835-2340
Keywords: virtual world, ethnography, cyber-space, MMORPG, Entropia Universe, ontology, ethics, game-play
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Date Deposited: 21 May 2014 23:59
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 50%
08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080602 Computer-Human Interaction @ 25%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200102 Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies @ 25%
SEO Codes: 89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8902 Computer Software and Services > 890203 Computer Gaming Software @ 30%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 40%
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