In this introductory essay for the Symposium issue of the New York Law School Law Review, Noveck explores the role of law in virtual game worlds. In order to develop a foundation on which to base law, it must be acknowledged that cyber worlds are a social community and there is a delicate relationship between the game players and the game creators and owners. This relationship, when extended to ownership, remains blurry and incompletely outlined. Hence, there is growing debate over the application of the real world law to virtual worlds.
Online role-playing games steadily grew in popularity since their mainstream start in the early 1990s. The steep increase in fan base correlates with the acceptance of Internet connectivity as an essential component of the average household. In turn, game companies realized the earning potential of online multiplayer games. By investing in sophisticated game physics and functionality, popular games could lure in users for long-term play.
Virtual worlds, at their core, are social networks and communities. They have traits which mimic human interaction within real-life communities. Property is created, goods are accumulated, and currency is traded. Instead of simply studying the laws of virtual worlds, Noveck suggests study of laws in virtual worlds as a way of learning about how law functions. Virtual worlds do not have written laws which govern player interaction. In fact, they are similar to real-life law in which it is continually revised and developed by new situations and new circumstances. However, there exists a basic constitution which is rarely, if ever, touched. Recognizing this, it may be possible to simulate a fictional law system to test in virtual worlds. This represents an application of virtual worlds towards possible benefit in the real world. These trials show a modern method of applying technology in order to better serve current real-life law models.