Win Condition | 2224

The ultimate victory condition in the most popular online worlds right now is to be left alone.

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Win Condition

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This week I received my contributors copy of Lost Zone. Hiking the Dawn of Metaverse. It’s about the early 90’s virtual world Active Worlds. Link in the show notes. Today’s episode is inspired in part by an observation in the book from artist Alice dos Reis.

World building is now roughly a 50 year old discipline. But our understanding of worlds of all kinds is still in its infancy. My interest of course, is how we go about running worlds once we’ve built them. 

The videogames industry is the current cultural custodian of virtual worlds. But we should make the distinction between the game and the world. The former takes place inside the later.

People (rightly) are sceptical about the metaverse stuff Facebook is trying to sell us. But Facebook I’d argue is already a β€˜world’. One with 2.9 billion active users. 

The biggest game world right now in contrast is PUBG. With an active play base of around 100 million. In second place is Minecraft with 95 million players (though more influential). Fortnite for all its cultural relevance is down in 4th place with 45 Million players. 

Combined PUBG and Fortnite have an active user count of 145million people. But there’s 8 billion people on the planet and 2.9b on Facebook. So in the grand scheme of things, PUBG and Fortnite are … quite niche. 

So what kind of a world are these niche pioneers hanging out in? 

Here’s Alice dos Reis’ brilliant observation in Lost Zone

”you’re parachuted (literally) onto an island together with 100 other online players. The objective is to eliminate everybody else until you are left alone as the only remaining survivor. Chilling (…)The irony in Fortnite is that if you win the game, you’re left all alone in an empty scenario.”

Alice dos Reis – Lost Zone

The average lifespan of a player in a game of PUBG is somewhere in the region of 12 mins. The maximum amount of time you could spend in the world is just 33 mins.

The ultimate victory condition in the most popular online worlds right now is to be left alone.

A perfect metaphor for where we are as a society. 

Twitter is also an online world. A world where people with different play styles are all forced on to the same PVP server. At least games have a victory condition. You lose at Twitter by being the main character. Which may mean losing your friends, job and livelihood. Possibly being a social pariah forever. High stakes indeed.

In contrast we have Minecraft. The biggest selling game of all time with roughly a quarter of a billion units. 

With an active player base of around 95million, two fifths of people who play it stick around. The important element  of minecraft is not the different types of game modes. But the hosting of worlds on private servers.

Do you know about 2b2t? AKA 2builders2tools. It’s a private Minecraft server founded in December 2010. It’s also possibly the most famous. In the 12 years that the world server has been live, it’s never been reset. Griefing and hacking are common, with no risk of getting banned. It is also an anarchy server with virtually no rules or authority. Wild.

The server is also permanently set to hard difficulty and player versus player combat is enabled throughout. Over 724,000 players have explored the map, resulting in a world size on disk of around 13.3 terabytes.

In the show notes I’ll link to some extended histories of 2b2t.

As you would expect 2b2t is a nexus for the worst of gaming culture. But also in my opinion the very best of it. The world’s landscape has been permanently scarred by warring factions. And with 12 years of history, it has generated a truly immense amount of lore.

I never see Web3/Metaverse people talk about 2b2t and yet it’s such an important place.

Another important Minecraft phenomenon is Dream SMP. An invite only server founded by Youtubers Dream and GeorgeNotFound in 2020. A place where Youtubers and Streamers alongside other Minecraft content creators roleplay as fictionalised versions of themselves. The whole world has a loose overarching storyline. Viewers often follow storylines from the point of view of their favourite creators.

Truly astonishing is the fact an improvised narrative or real time soap opera in a gaming medium can generate such a huge audience. 

One streamer performing in Dream SMP might have say 50k people watching at any one time. But I’ve seen shock on media peoples faces when I tell them that ALL the roleplaying streamers might have more than 20k people watching. Meaning in total there could be 250k people watching the drama unfold from different points of view. Bigger audiences than live TV.

Compare social Minecraft worlds, with hostile worlds like Fortnite or PUBG.

I believe that as a society we have a choice.

Either we embrace online collaboration, and interaction through the lens of worlds. Or we can continue to think of them as platforms born from web2.

If they remain platforms. Well, things may not improve for a generation. If they can become worlds in our minds, then the dream of cyberspace can be reinvigorated. 

Because in the words of Ursula LeGuin. 

How you play is what you win.


The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.

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4 responses to “Win Condition | 2224”

  1. […] Last week I talked about the mechanics of certain kinds of worlds. A worlds mechanical properties can give rise to win conditions. Worlds without win conditions tend to produce lore and narrative as a result of play.  […]

  2. […] what’s the point of play? What’s the win condition? For the duration of a players’ mind meld with the machine, they are rewarded with points […]

  3. […] Fortnite in comparison (the media darling of the metaverse) only has 45million players. […]

  4. […] They know a thing or two about this. From social design to the technical. They have built spaces with completely different contexts to the huge platforms we all migrated into away from the web the 2010’s. […]

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