The Ethical development of Detail
When creating a new virtual world, there is an unspoken premise which I will make explicit in this article. The premise that a realistic world has been created.
As a builder, do you want to be responsible for filling out every last detail, lest a player decide that your LACK of details means it does not exist? As a player, do you want to be told that - since the builders did not include something - you MAY NOT incorporate it into your roleplaying? The purpose of this article is to refute the practice of: separating the spectrum of Context by imposing an artificial degree onto it.
I will do this, by applying a system of ethics to it.
Players take gravity for granted. They assume it, even though neither the term nor it?s definition is described or alluded to in any of the documentation.
In observing the actions of people, you can only observe their actions - not their thoughts! It is a common logical fallacy to presume that a person?s thoughts may be derived from their actions; only language, as a direct form of communication, accomplishes this.
You can also observe one person over a length of time, attempting to determine, and therefore predict, what they will do by establishing a pattern. But you are only observing the situation, not their inner motivations - an awareness of all the factors shall continuously elude you, because true consistency can only exist, in an ethical being, by following that code of ethics - and these consist of principles, not actions.
I have a theory as to how the preceding paragraph, can be used to justify the fallacy above it. I postulate that many people think they are living in a mono-reality. In a mono-reality, one reason would exist per one action, hence there could be only one code of ethics - and this begs the question.
Whose code of ethics?
The question, plainly, never even occurs to those who are convinced they live in a mono-reality; they are unaware there is a box, much less that they might be living inside of it. So, in our poly-reality, the effect is: each person who commits this error, judges everyone else by their standards. It causes stress to their minds just to expand to a duo-reality in this sole aspect: to allow someone to either Admit what they are or Lie about it. Even when they encounter a case of another person whose reality conflicted with their analysis/prediction, they do not see this as a cause to decide their their model was wrong; instead, they reject reality, driving themselves deeper into their own delusion.
Since gravity - and so many other unspoken premises - are taken for granted, as a quality being possessed by that virtual world, I submit that it is a virtue to alter our awareness of these premises, to address them directly, to consciously define the virtual world by deliberate incorporation of all these premises.
If, in a room description where the floor was not described, but in the general area "wilderness" was implied, a roleplayer could very well decide to emote some level of interaction with the dirt; those who argued with the idea of doing this, based on the lack of the word "dirt" or a synonym mentioned anywhere within the room description, would plainly be uncooperative with the filling-in of detail which, in the absence of a builder thorough enough to put in everything from our laws of physics to the individual position/movement/purpose of each molecule within the virtual world, is required of roleplayers. The quality which enables us to fulfill this requirement is: imagination.
If, in describing the past of the game world, I mentioned details which led up to the present, anyone arguing with me based on the lack of documentation [whether present as room descriptions or external web-pages, in or about the virtual world itself] alone, is plainly disagreeing with the right of the virtual world?s designer to declare: "This is a realistic world." and enlist the aid/support of players to fill in the rest.
A realistic world will be fully integrated (on the most objective
levels), from the past through the present to the future. Our duty as
roleplayers is not only to realistically fulfill the future, by our actions
in the present, but to allow the past.
Provided that "consistency" is maintained, anything goes. If the new history would have resulted in the (other) past/present/future (note that in most virtual worlds, this is only available through the creator?s Vision) information currently accepted; if it fits without contradiction (on the most objective levels) in the context of what is already known about the world, any detail which is proposed may be added (whether it should be, is quite another matter). But none of this, is consistency.
If you are to allow the possibility of a code of ethics within your virtual world, you must realize that consistency has no meaning in and of itself, much like extremism; whereas with extremism one must ask "Extreme of what?", with consistency one must ask "Consistent by situation, or with principles?".
The result of the former is situations which only need to be consistent with their prior selves, leaving every other situation (the bulk of them) open for evaluation entirely on its own merits - which is to say, the wants/needs of the now.
To remain absolutely consistent with principles, one must always be guided through situations by them. So, what happens when the principles fail? When there is no known context for so radical, so different, an action?
Do we revert to situational decisions? Yes - but this does not justify additional situational-based decisions; principles were created for those who anticipated that they would encounter unpredictable situations. Principles must be applied whereever possible; invoking them as a last resort is to say that situations which exist under the context of other (related) situations, are the exception, not the rule. Absolute consistency is not a necessity when dealing with principles; just the highest manageable level.
When the principles our ancestors left us with do not suffice, we create our own principles. The past could not adequately predict the future, but, by formulating a code of ethics, they were able to prepare for us to add to it - leaving the collection of principles not an unchanging slate of limited proportions, dwindling in relevance as time goes on, but a code that expands in size and complexity as needed, by the inclusion of new situations into old groups and creation of new groups.
The "unique" situations, named for the lack of context available for them, do not remain unique. Once a new principle is devised to relate them to others, it fits within the ethical system - and, even though it was not predicted, it could be incorporated.
Our development of the Virtual World must conform to our own world?s laws of physics; though we can insert details into its Past, Present, or Future, we cannot insert those details without regard to Time. We move through it in a linear fashion, and at each moment we attempt to develop the Virtual World, we can only take into account the modifications of the past - and the past cannot be changed. The system by which we include additions to the Virtual World, then, must apply to the future.
Yet, can a code of ethics be intended that way?
To deny that our ancestors might have come up with a system of ethics, planning for it to extend into the future - without the limiting degree: "of their own lives" - is to disagree with the premise of "this is a realistic world"; to see that this happens in our reality, begin with the Irish brehons, the Code of Hammurabi, and this fragment of history from Count Gunthar.
Our ancestors were able to communicate their code of ethics, thus enabling us to retain (over generations) what took them a lifetime to begin, and eventually formulate a more complete code of ethics than could be generated in a single lifetime.
I hypothesize that those who believe they are living in a mono-reality, but are forced by the facts of their actual metaphysical location to live in a poly-reality, are opposed to this because of their obsession with Power. Just as we are always too late to change how we acted in the past, so, too, are we always unable to affect the future - especially if we cannot wait for that moment, because we would not be there with the power to directly affect that situation. They want to be there to order others around (tell us what to be, for instance), tell them exactly what to do and correct them if they fail, punish them if they disobey. Since they simply cannot understand why we do not go along with their reality, they cannot afford to trust anyone?s mind to work properly - therefore, teaching others exactly how something works, or persuading them of the rightness of a cause, never occurs to them as a viable option. Because of this, the future - to them - represents the ultimate Uncontrollable Factor, they cannot control others after they are dead.
If a proposal merely creates a "loose end", not a direct contradiction, this is beneficial: you are opening the world to new possibilities, to be filled in by others - by giving those of another paradigm the opportunity to explore the world you suggested, yet did not explicitly (or fully) define.
Other than a balance which is practically impossible to attain, and will therefore be disregarded here, the way a world changes will either close off possibilities, or open up more; if every detail that is added closes off more possibilities than it opens up, eventually the world will be closed to innovation, to new ideas, because nothing can be added without causing contradiction. This can be very boring. If the details added leave room for expansion, they will practically invite more expansion. This will entice players to arrive and stay, with curiosity of what would be added next as a motivating factor.
The addition of detail for a Virtual World is an imperative. For all cases when context is lacked, the default is: our reality.
The documentation may seem skimpy, because it is not filling in all the detail on every level; but in truth, by alluding to major concepts (that is, concepts which have acquired a great deal of meaning over time), such documentation actually refers the reader to a much larger body of knowledge. Take, for example, a fighter; the word alone is but a symbol. Taken by it?s literal definition, it means: one who fights. There is a lot more accomplished by that, however, especially in a virtual world where fighting (as, for instance, a "class") can be a profession. It more than implies; taken in context with the premise that the designer has created a realistic world, it explicitly authorizes all roleplayers to fill in all the details which made such a profession possible. Furthermore, it supplies additional context; and demands of roleplayers that we become aware of this context while trying to fill in details to it. This context, which I shall now define, is: the cultural awareness of a fighter. Training fits with it being a profession; and, indeed, throughout our own world?s history, for thousands of years, humans have received training in how to fight. That makes for an extremely complex concept to absorb - let alone portray realistically. To improve your ability to roleplay a given "template/archetype", you must do two things: first, define it, that is, understand uniquely identifies it; and second, study history on that template/archetype, learn what it was and did. To prove that this context is necessary, I shall now indicate the source of cultural awareness by stating that - without the thousands of years of fighting throughout history to benefit from - noone would have any idea what "fighter" meant. The term arose directly out of the past, which in turn, arose directly out of and existed in the context of, more fighting.
The virtue which enables context to be taught (to newcomers of that Virtual World), is Truth. Without it, IC knowledge is tested by referring to that which does NOT exist, which creates an artificial context that is false, thus confusing the issue.