Models of Liberty: Online Gaming


In economics, political science, and sociology, models are used to measure human behavior post hoc. The actual levels/techniques of analysis available are easy to grasp but some issues are just about impossible to quantify. The state of nature has always been hard to pin down, for example. Rousseau thought us simple apes corrupted by society. Hobbes thought we are brutal silverbacks in nature ready to eat each other alive. Locke thought us largely peaceful. Assuming a generally peaceful man, liberty may logically exist more easily because we won’t need a Big Daddy Government to hold us down (but, like, they’re people too?).

Rousseau and Hobbes would have us all in chains, either to free us from the vices of society en masse or from ourselves, respectively. Locke said that because we are usually peaceful, and that as a rule we are social creatures, that liberty would be not only allowable but moral because we do not deserve to be oppressed. There’s no need to control those with no ill intent.

The state of nature has always been hotly contested because the implications are huge, and it’s been largely impossible to test out what we would be in the state of nature — until online gaming. For strictly shooters, yes, thirteen-year-olds demeaning your mother don’t really connote that we’re naturally peaceful, but those games are strictly player versus player (PvP).

In online games like Red Dead Redemption Online you may choose PvP, solo, or co-op. And even though through many of the mini-challenges “being bad” is directly incentivized, I found the world and the other players in it to be generally peaceful and not quite as scary as I expected.

As it turns out, even in a world where it doesn’t actually effect you in real life to kill others and steal (if that’s how you want to play), most people in-game are generally just doing their own thing and many are even helpful

I played for hours before being bothered — and that only happened after I got into a gang! Imagine: A consequence-free world where bad behavior is incentivized at no actual loss to the other participants whatsoever and almost everybody left each other alone. Imagine my shock.

Unless, of course, you’re in a rival gang. But we know where tribalism gets us, don’t we?

So here’s what we know: In a world where there aren’t any repercussions to acting on impulse and self-service, and you could virtually slaughter someone without breaking a sweat, it still makes people feel bad to do mean things. Pretty juvenile, I know. But apparently when given the choice to either rob a train and make tens of dollars (it’s the Wild West, the Fed wasn’t established yet to debase and inflate our money) or stop and help an inconsequential NPC find their horse, e-humans like to choose the latter and help that poor stupid NPC *beep*.

This is honestly great news that I personally think it requires more analysis. Because if we could finally prove that generally we’re all just, like, vibing with each other or whatever, then we could erode the nanny state. If we prove that, if allowed to, people behave well when left to their own devices, maybe… just maybe… we could get rid of taxes and these pesky roads once and for all, amiright people?!

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Jesse Campbell

Jesse Campbell is a proud husband and father residing in the heart of Colorado’s Front Range. He got his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado and spent four years in the Marine Corps prior to selling real estate. In his spare time, Jesse likes to tell people how much he’s read of Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action and spreading his opinions as facts on social media.