What is agoraXchange?
agoraXchange is an online collaboration for imagining and building a massive multiplayer online game that offers a tangible political alternative to our current world order. This occurs on the site in the agoraXchange Game Design Room, a collaborative workspace where participants discuss, debate, and develop the game design.
We see our project as the new media version of Thomas More’s Utopia. Written during the period of hereditary monarchies, his book is a fictional account of an egalitarian community without feudal privileges discovered by a seafaring adventurer. More uses the convention of documenting this community to make his ideas especially vivid, a goal to which we aspire in the medium of the online game.
We encourage anyone who also believes in this idea and vision to collaborate with us in realizing this project. We have been influenced by various aspects of successful Internet collaborations, including self-regulating community weblogs, open source programming models, and large scale collaborative projects, such as wikipedia, slash dot, and sourceforge.net. agoraXchange is our attempt to take advantage of online gaming’s enormous popularity and the unique potentials of the Internet: its enormous shared resources and information, its global reach, and its fast, cheap and easy means for sharing ideas.
What is the Game Design Room?
The agoraXchange Game Design Room is a collaborative workspace for discussing and developing the game design. During the current phase, "Phase 1", we are breaking down the game design process into a series of discrete questions that range from conceptualizing to building the game. Site users can answer questions, comment on, respond to, and vote on other contributors' responses.
Why do you want to make a game?
We think that the computer game, one of today’s most popular forms of entertainment, has the potential to be to the twenty-first century what cinema was to the twentieth. It is an extraordinary form for presenting large-scale interactive dynamic social systems, for revealing how decisions made in one context impact on others. Online multiplayer games have the potential for exceptional detail, intensive player participation, and are accessible to players from many different backgrounds. We want to take advantage of the current popularity of online multiplayer games, which entice millions to dedicate enormous amounts of time and creativity.
Why make a geo-political game and not a fantasy one?
We believe today’s world has more than enough challenging conflicts to solve and obstacles to overcome, and that we don't need to resort to cheap tricks, magic, or mythical creatures to make a highly engaging game that steers clear of the formulaic warmongering and fatalistic worldviews of games currently available.
How will this game differ from the plethora of other popular geo-political games?
Most current world simulations, such as Tropico, Civilization, Ultima Online, and Everquest, rely on worldviews that simply reproduce variations of historical or existing political institutions. They allow participants to alter elements and situations only in the world as it is given, without the ability to affect the overarching structures.
Why not use an existing game engine, and make a modification, rather than starting from scratch?
We are aware of and appreciate the rich tradition of artists and hobbyists making modifications known as “mods”, “patches” or “skins” to existing games, consisting of altering the existing code in a game engine, to change the look of the space, the gender of characters, or the world environment. While they can function as a critique or rereading of an existing game, mods are sometime encouraged by commercial game producers, as they see them extending the shelf life of the game. Examples of mods are Counter-terrorism, Velvet-Strike, and femDoom.
With agoraXchange, we want to develop an entirely new social environment rather than respond to one one already in existence. Therefore we believe that it is necessary to build our engine from scratch, to create an entirely new environment rather than modifying an existing one.
Who is agoraXchange for and who can participate?
agoraXchange is for anyone who suspects that a proposal like this, in times like these, is a good idea.
Anyone can participate. It is essential that we have non-experts as well as specialists participate. This is a conversation to be had by both gamers and people who may never have imagined participating in a game. Please don’t think because you are not (or are) a gamer that you shouldn’t participate. We are attempting to expand the possibility of what a game can do, and need participation from people who are both inside and outside that world.
Aren’t you embarrassed that the site is only in English?
Yes we are. However, we do plan to have the site translated into as many languages as possible and are seeking volunteers (and funding) for this purpose. If you are interested in translation or know someone who is, please let us know.
Why is agoraXchange on the website of the Tate museums, an art institution arguably established on some of the principles the proposed game sets out to subvert?
There have been, and continue to be many art projects whose goal is to critique and subvert the museum. This is not our project. Instead we wish to make our work available to many audiences including those enticed by established art institutions.
Who are the agoraXchange initiators and decision makers and what is their background?
This project has been initiated and is being coordinated by Jackie Stevens and Natalie Bookchin. Jackie is a political theorist who wrote a book called Reproducing the State. You can find out more about her and her work here. Natalie Bookchin is an artist who has made a number of online projects including a game or two. You can find information about her work here.
Who is funding this project?
The project was first commissioned by the Tate Online. The funding from the Tate Online was for ?4,500. Natalie was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts award to support her work on agoraXchange, $25,000 of which going towards production costs.
The project is not-for-profit. We continue to seek funds to pay for maintaining, developing and expanding the project, and our budget is available to anyone who wishes to view our fund allocation.
PARTICIPATION OPTIONS AND QUERIES
Aren’t you the artists and authors of this project, and if that is the case why would I want to participate in your project?
We (Jackie and Natalie) are the initiators and coordinators rather than the absolute authors. User participation and contributions make up the make up the fundamental core of the work that needs to be done, that is, to collectively imagine and build an alternative world, and are not project ornamentation. We hope that people want to participate because they, like us, feel that it is necessary to create contexts in which to imagine and build viable alternatives to the present world. Also they will get to see what others think and get feedback on their ideas from a community committed to thinking about future alternatives.
How can I contribute?
You can become a registered user and then participate in the Game Design Room and in the Forums. To do this, click in the upper right hand corner of the site. Once you are a registered user you may add submissions: texts, images, and links, and comments to the questions in the Game Design Room, and rate submissions of other users. Additionally you can suggest links, news items, propose and moderate related project forums.
Are the Game Design Room and the forums moderated?
The Game Design Rooms and Forums are moderated presently by Jackie and Natalie. We plan to have invitational moderation by a variety of artists, theorists, activists, and agoraXchange participants. If you have been active on agoraXchange, and are interested in moderating a particular area, please let us know. Moderation duties are minor, largely consisting of deleting comments that are unrelated to the topic.
Why should I rate other people’s submissions?
The average user ratings and number of votes are listed next to the subject line of each submission. Users can sort submissions by rating. Submissions with the highest score appear at the top. In this way, submissions that voters believe are the most relevant are most accessible.
How do I rate other people’s submissions?
First, make sure you have registered and logged in to the site. Then, click on the link beside the submission entitled “Comment/Vote”.
What features do you plan to add once you have more resources?
In the Game Design Room, we plan to have a workspace where participants can work on collaborative documents, submitting, adding to, and editing text documents and images. The documents will be constructed and administered by site participants by using wiki software, allowing users to create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. We will also provide software that allows users to make, edit, and modify images directly on the site.
We also want to add the option for users to add information about themselves, their interests, their related work, and to allow others to track their submissions and comments.
How much will it cost to play the game?
It will be free
I disagree with some of the decrees. Can they be altered?
No. All games have political foundations. The differences between our game and others is that we state our foundations up front, rather than keeping them hidden, avoiding any pretence that these or any other political premise is inevitable or natural.
One of the premises of the game is to see what kinds of behaviors will emerge when starting from a different system of incentives and rewards. One does not have to agree with all of the decrees to participate and to be compelled by this proposal.
The four decrees are proposed as one way of seeking to alleviate global violence and inequality. The theoretical basis for this is described in depth by Jackie Stevens in the various theoretical texts available on the site. They will be elaborated on more fully in a book Jackie is writing called States without Nations. By making a game using these proposals, we are turning them from abstract theoretical propositions into virtually tangible possibilities.
What is the deadline for final completion of the game?
We don't have a deadline for final completion yet. We do have a timeline that gives a general sense of what we think needs to be done by when.