Check out “Online migrations in a virtual gaming setting” by Christian Cardozo-Chandler of New Zealand. Pretty neat stuff… it’s rare that our little milieu is taken so seriously (well, outside of my Posting-Real-Soon-Now series of essays). Here’s an excerpt:
Ultima Online’s dynamic conflict (or virtual violence) system is more than just group interaction and demarcation of territories. While there can be conflict between guilds, conflict more often occurs at the individual level. In a society where there are little societal laws and enforcement measurements, violence occurs across the UO landscape. Having to deal with murderers, thieves, and monster spawns is something of daily occurrence. This situation is an integrated component to Ultima Online – the programming for Ultima Online provides the possibility for those to follow the path or fear and conflict, even in some cases master it. It does in ways provide a realistic comparison to that of realspace – for those to follow a relatively free decision-orientated path within certain parameters set by society.
An outcome of conflict is that it creates diversity. Social identity can arise from this conflict. The idea of being a ‘red’ and the impacts of being a red or anti-pker creates a social identity. Groups form around this conflict to form guilds of player killers. As Jabri notes, when formed as a group, they demarcate the territory that they reside in. This is quite evident on the Siege Perilous shard with the ORCS – a guild that role-plays as a race of Orcs. They have marked a territory of their own, an AI Orc fort, and the surrounding landscape around them (located North West of the X-roads, north west of Britannia). All know that if they pass through this territory, they face a likely chance of meeting a red Orc. And one can expect it won’t be a healthy encounter for the traveler. Many will go around these red territories to ensure that they do not encounter any reds. So one can see that there is this social identity, group formation, and conflict as a source of migration/population mobility from player conflict.