In the beginning, there was the word of Jason Rohrer

Welcome to ChainWorld.org, a quick site we tossed together to organize charitable activities and the community associated with Jason Rohrer‘s winning game for GDC 2011′s Game Design Challenge, Chain World, built upon Minecraft.

We suggest you watch the above video to better understand what Chain World is about. Also, like many religions, we have been passed a series of commandments by Jason Rohrer, the Canon Law of Chain World:

1. Run Chain World via one of the included “run_ChainWorld” launchers.
2. Start a single-player game and pick “Chain World”.
3. Play until you die exactly once.
3a. Erecting wooden signs with text is forbidden
3b. Suicide is permissible.
4. Immediately after dying and respawning, quit to the menu.
5. Allow the world to save.
6. Exit the game and wait for your launcher to automatically copy     Chain World back to the USB stick.
7. Pass the USB stick to someone else who expresses interest.
8. Never discuss what you saw or did in Chain World with anyone.
9. Never play again.

As you’ll notice, we’re actually missing a 10th commandment, so perhaps you can suggest one. As a jumping off point, we were considering “Improve the world” as a possible additional since it’s vague enough that it still gives people free reign to do whatever they want (“creative destruction” could be considered improvement) and does also reflect our charitable goals in the “real world.” Thoughts?

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50 Responses to In the beginning, there was the word of Jason Rohrer

  1. TheHipGamer says:

    Talk about missing the point, guys. Chain World was interesting and innovative because it was fundamentally about a random iterative play experience, and not one restricted by income or mandated values. Superimposing your own rules, even “for charity”, is the equivalent of crapping on that idea.

    Of course, Darius says it better here: http://tinysubversions.com/2011/03/my-response-to-the-chain-world-mutation/

  2. Jia Ji says:

    I’m currently in post-tsunami rural Hawaii, with intermittent internet access, so I’ll try to keep this short. I appreciate the points you and Darius brought up, but there seems to be a few mis-communication/interpretations, which is why I just spoke with Darius directly on the phone to clear them up. Here’s a few to immediately clarify:
    1. The first question asked during the Q&A following Jason presenting was somebody asking about auctioning off Chain World for personal benefit. I thought I’d just try to set a precedent for charitable auctions if people’s first thought is to auction it off anyway.
    2. The auction system doesn’t run indefinitely. It’s just for the first few playthroughs and I thought people would appreciate the fact that Will Wright and other creative designers interacted with the cooperative world we’re building.
    3. After talking with Darius, there’s a increasing likelihood of us creating a religious schism by forking Chain World into at least two sects. An orthodox sect similar to Darius’s set of beliefs and a “charitable works” sect similar to my set of beliefs. We’re trying to keep the holy war at a low boil :)
    4. Speaking of which, I enjoy vigorous debate, but let’s try to keep things civil. Personal attacks, especially those directed to Jane, Jason, Will, etc are way out of line because I asked them to do me a favor, so any ill-will against this idea should be directed at me solely. However, I also don’t appreciate the hatemail (I don’t think anyone does) for trying to raise funds for children’s hospitals and other charities. So let’s try to keep the discourse civil, realize it’s just a game, and not have another dickwolves scenario. It’d also be nice to centralize all the discussion in one place, like the first post at http://chainworld.swio.ws/?p=1 where we ask for comments/suggestions.

    Mahalo,
    Jia

    P.S. I think one of the main points of Jason’s experimental game is to superimpose your own rules, thus creating a religious-style legacy/legend for future generations of players to make it interesting. I appreciate the religious fervor of your convictions though :)

  3. Dan Silvers says:

    On the one hand, I can appreciate the commentary on religion going on here, how many will pay out the ass for salvation, and by that same standard many will pay out the ass to get their hands on this Minecraft map. However, I personally believe you may only form the rules for passing it on while it is in YOUR possession. Realistically, how are you going to control who passes it onto the next person after it’s out of your hands? And how will you know if someone “improves” the world since they cannot talk about Chain World?

    I believe it is best to let Chain World move along as intended, and nobody should be allowed to call dibs just because of their stature in the industry. However, I also believe it is up to the current possessor of Chain World whom and how to choose to pass Chain World onto. That means it could just as easily go to someone on the street as it could to the highest bidder.

    The reality is this: within the first ten people, Chain World WILL be lost. It is currently on Hawaii, and at some point will end up in a box in someone’s garage because someone’s mom cleaned it up not knowing what it was. In essence, Chain World will become a Holy Grail, never to be seen again. It is, after all, just a Flash Drive. At that point, you will see many an eBay auction go up claiming that they have the one true Chain World. Bidding wars will be fought to determine the victor! Someone else will create the same exact mod and claim that THEIRS is the one, true Chain World! And lo shall they be DOWNVOTED and cast into the depths of hell, never to be seen by the eyes of the development community again! And there shall be pestilence, and floods, and Creepers who hiss and explode in thine face!

    Meanwhile, Notch and Rohrer will giggle, have a beer, and just observe the same old cycle humanity has gone through with anything labeled as “religious” time and time again. This is not The Wheel of Fate. It’s just Minecraft.

    • Jia Ji says:

      @Dan Silvers, exactly, no one has control of either the Chain World game nor the physical flash drive once it’s out of their possession. That’s part of the appeal of the whole game/religion. People could do something great with it or just destroy/abandon it. Which is why I don’t get why people are getting upset about these suggestions, most of them are unenforceable past one generation and just make the game more interesting. I particularly don’t understand the vitriol against charitable fundraising. Do these people also boycott Penny Arcade during the annual Child’s Play fundraiser?

      • KAdam White says:

        > I particularly don’t understand the vitriol against charitable fundraising. Do these people also boycott Penny Arcade during the annual Child’s Play fundraiser?

        That’s not it, though, is it? Child’s Play was designed from the ground up to be a charitable effort (one I wholeheartedly support). You wouldn’t knock the Red Cross for doing what they said from the start either, because it’s not a departure from the founder’s vision. From Rohrer’s talk, Chain World (as with most early religions) wasn’t conceived of as a charity, but as a manner of play (way of life) that adds meaning to a communally shared experience. It’s a different game, so to speak. Moreover, Child’s Play is very much an opt-in: You can experience the surrounding culture (Penny Arcade and so on) without having to donate to the charity. If you are a charitable person, your experiences within that community might lead you to donate to Child’s Play vs another charity. However, it is not required for participation. With Chain World, the donation is a buy-in. I generally disapprove of “religions” that require a cash donation in order to participate!

        • zbeeblebrox says:

          But this “religion” wasn’t opt-in from the start. It’s very much an exclusive system, where only the “selected peoples” may participate. If anything, Jia’s exercise is merely a noble extension of that, combining the exclusivity with circumstantial benefit to people who actually need it. I don’t see the problem here.

          Anyway, statistically speaking, wouldn’t confining his selection process to just people he knew be *more* unfairly exclusive and even *more* like a buy-in than this? I mean, that’s practically the definition of cronyism!

  4. Okay, let’s make this more interesting then. You need certain particular elements for this to really be a religion, so please allow me to introduce myself.

    I pledge that if I receive and hold the created world (USB) in my hands I will destroy it completely, erasing its existence. I stand in opposition to the creator of the world. I do not believe in the sacredness of rules governing the world and furthermore doubt the intentions and good will of the creator.

    If I get my hands on the world there will be no more legacy, no further generations, and no further aid to children’s hospitals… there will be nothing. Where once there was light, there will be only darkness furthermore.

    My Twitter handle is my first and last name together. Anyone that obtains the created world can contact me and send it my way if they choose. Destroy it yourself if you like, but if you do not have the courage to do so, I will.

    Let’s see what happens.

    This intention and participation of mine is serious, but not serious, because it’s a game — much the same way that this game is serious, but not serious, because it’s a game.

    Full Disclosure: I’m friends with Darius Kazemi. I’m also a fan of Kurt Vonnegut and in particular Cat’s Cradle.

    • Jia Ji says:

      @Jonathon Myers, go for it and best of luck with your creative destruction. You should bid on the auction at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270718660844 too. You only have to beat Darius’s bid of $300 and you can pool together money with other people who support your philosophy like I believe Darius is doing.

      Chain World is pretty hardy though. It’s survived an active volcano, earthquake, and tsunami already with me in Hawaii. And that’s just within the last week. If you want to destroy this thing, be prepared to throw it into the Crack of Doom :)

  5. NordicNinja says:

    @NordicNinja After working in the nonprofit sector for a bit, I’ve realized a good amount of charity is celebrity fueled and there’s nothing wrong with that. It brings more attention to a cause (cue tsunami relief specials) and arguably the most popular gamer charity Child’s Play is due to the fame of Gabe and Tycho. On a less related side note, after watching “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, I think Banksy would love the idea of people giving guided tours of his works. He’s like a modern-day Warhol and I believe his construction of Mr. Brainwash is a commentary about the inherent absurdity of commercializing art.

    I never insinuated that there was anything wrong with celebrity fueled charity, and completely concur with your statements regarding such. On Banksy, however, I was more so toying with the notion of an actual government-sponsored way of getting money. It wasn’t a perfect metaphor, anyway.

    It’s not that people have an issue with fundraising for charity. People have an issue when an idea they care about is used in a contradictory fashion towards a completely different end.

    There really wouldn’t have been an issue, I don’t think, had you simply created your own Charity Chain World in the first place instead of trying to direct this one.

    • Jia Ji says:

      Agreed, but it’d be much more boring and then we wouldn’t get to have any zealous religious debates online about Chain World :)

      Can’t wait to see what happens when someone actually tries to do evil using the game.

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  8. Jia, in my opinion what is causing the commotion here is not your charitable effort, but the interpretation that you seem to have given to the game’s design.

    Here’s how I feel about it:

    The original design as presented by Jason resonates very deeply with a lot of game designers, who see it as a unique and completely unprecedented chance of exploring a whole new set of game mechanics that have never been put into practice before. The context in which Jason presented it (framed in a challenge about religion during GDC), the fact that no one saw it coming and the seemingly innocent way in which he just gave it away make it special. That, coupled with the fact that Jason is known in the games industry and that when he speaks, a lot of people listen, means that this particular artifact – and this one only – has an incredible potential to unlock new paths of game design.

    Your efforts are completely valid and, to be frank, within the rules of the world. What I find jarring is that it feels as if you are redesigning the game and taking ownership of it by attempting to add more rules and trying to take control of its destiny. If the chain becomes predetermined or if the artifact gets forked into many, it will dilute its value to gamers exponentially since it will be a different game now. And then most likely no one will care to bid for it anymore or, in the case of it being forked into many, it might just lose its value altogether.

    All in all, I don’t think the auctioning to charity part is what bothers anyone. Again, you are welcome to do with it what you want. I think what is unnerving to people is your claim that you have already selected some of the future players for the world. You want to be Fate in this world, and everyone loves fighting Fate.What would be MOST enraging, in my opinion, is if you sprouted multiple copies. People would always look for one of them as the real original – and the added value of all the copies would never come close to the value of the original.

    To close, I think it would do us all well to remember that THIS is the game, just as much as the pen drive itself. The discussion and the culture that forms around it make this artifact legendary and give it meaning. But anyone to ever lay hands on it could potentially kill it – and, in my opinion, some of your proposals could do just that.

    Cheers.

    • If I get hold of the USB I pledge that I shall destroy it and all original design, sending a shockwave back upon the unmoved mover (see Aristotle). I shall thus ruin any opportunity for unlocking new paths of game design. There will be no value gained from this experiment if I am entrusted with the precious.

      Who is this creator that has provided this world and gives us only vague rules by which to understand it? What debt do we have to him, the silent one who seldom makes his presence known when those in the world suffer and die and cry out for his guidance concerning the world he has created. How can the designer be both omniscient and good, when there is such evil?

      My answer is to spite his creation. We should do with it exactly as we choose. Why should we not question the commandments as they are set out? What real purpose do they serve, other than to glorify the creator? Why should we be so humble when faced with such conceit? Are we not powerful in our own right? Why should we not erect wooden signs with text? What does he fear with Babel?

      Jia: Noooooooooo. Don’t create multiple copies! My work will be too difficult. I will never be able to destroy the universe if it becomes a mulitverse!

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  10. Sean Duncan says:

    Actually, I am reticent to say this, but the auctioning of it for charity *is* something that’s problematic. It’s not that charitable fundraising is problematic, of course, it’s that Jia’s actions to support charitable fundraising are.

    There’s nothing in Jason’s rules that say that Jia can’t make up his own rules for Chain World, and there’s also absolutely nothing that says anyone needs to follow his rules. What’s unfair about this, I see, is that the ostensibly wonderful goal of raising money for sick children is being used to enforce a new set of rules — that is, if I was to bid $2000 on the stick, win it, and then decide to give it to just another person who understands the rules (Jason’s original intent), the story would turn into “How dare you keep others from raising money for the sick kids?” Jane’s comments to a few on Twitter smack of this attitude, and that troubles me. And it’s quite telling that she’s now distancing herself from all of this (“I’m not in charge of anything related to @chainworld & never was. All I did was lend support to @Jiaji and @jasonrohrer ‘s great work.”)

    Jia, it’s as if someone was first in line at a free art gallery show and instead of walking in the door, stood in the doorway, held out a cup asking for donations (to a legitimately good cause), only letting those who donate a lot and/or are famous in the door. You’ve gone from being a link in the chain to trying to actively build the chain, and that completely defeats the purpose that Jason seems to have intended with this experience. It no longer becomes about what drew people to the experience in the first place, and now becomes about all of this gatekeeping stuff.

    Jia — I suggest you just let the original Chain World get passed along to whomever you’d like to pass it to, and give up on trying to dictate its future movements. It’s an admirable goal you had, but one that fails in implementation. Why not just create your own Chain World, not based on Jason’s at all, and then pass it along? Do you really want people angry at you when you’re trying to raise funds for sick kids?

    Jason’s tweet — “im in ur temple flippin ur tables. Whoever wins Chain World auction should NOT mail USB stick on to @avantgame” doesn’t necessarily need to be followed, but given that this was hijacked a grand total of one step away from him means that we should probably heed his advice. At least, that’s what I’d do rather than raise any more ire.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      “given that this was hijacked a grand total of one step away from him”

      What I think people should take from this is THAT quote, right there. With a game of Telephone, how long does it take for a message to get misinterpreted? Six, eight, twelve people? But Telephone uses words, and we have common ground for interpreting those, so the game is actually misleading us on how unstable meaning actually is. THIS game of telephone uses NO words. And now we have a better idea of how quickly that can fall apart. id est: one generation.

      I say let it happen as it’s happening. This is far more interesting that what he “expect” to see, and ultimately you know it will normalize *into* what you expect to see (or perhaps it won’t! That’s half the fun isn’t it?), so there no long-term danger to the experiment, only short-term gains for a charity organisation.

      If anything, I’d say all these negative reactions are indicative of how much *everyone else* wants to control the fate of this thing, rather than Jia’s desire to do so. Everyone wants to see a particular outcome unfold, and he is undermining those efforts by trying to see his own outcome unfold. In the end, THAT observation is more interesting than whether or not one party or the other is “right” or “successful”

    • Craig says:

      “Jason’s tweet — “im in ur temple flippin ur tables. Whoever wins Chain World auction should NOT mail USB stick on to @avantgame” doesn’t necessarily need to be followed, but given that this was hijacked a grand total of one step away from him means that we should probably heed his advice. ”

      See, and to me, that’s just as bad as Jia wanting to “play Fate” and dictate who it should go to beyond the person he hands it off to. I think the whole point is for people to play God once they have the stick and what that interpretation is from person to person is the real commentary here. If future owners want to follow the plan Jia laid out or create their own or smash the thing to bits with a hammer, that’s in their hands because, ultimately, once the stick is passed, whether people choose to follow the base rules, the rules of previous “Gods,” or just say to hell with all of it and do their own thing is up to the owner at that point.

  11. Robin says:

    Sean Duncan’s comment above has described the problem very succinctly.

    Rewriting the reasons why people would be compelled or eligible to play the game, or how they would choose to pass it on, relegate the development of the world itself to a secondary concern.

    We’re never going to get another first shot at this idea. Preventing it from being allowed to run its course in the spirit of the game rules – Jason’s rules – will rob us of that data. Any subsequent attempt will be influenced consciously or not by how this world develops.

    I think that Jia’s idea was not thought through sufficiently and that they should bear in mind that an original collaborative work is being jeopardised before proceeding with their auction. There hasn’t been any coherent justification that I’ve seen for reserving every other slot for ‘celebrities’. It comes across as divisive, patronising and entitled.

    The use of “it’s just a game” raises alarm bells also. EVE is “just a game”. Minecraft is “just a game”. Try holding any established game that people are willing to invest creative energy and deep thought into to ransom and see how far you get.

    • Inverse 9 says:

      This “one shot” idea is wrong. Sure, this first Minecraft Chain will certainly cause some donations to charity and that will be a good thing. But there’s no reason why others can’t make their own Minecraft Chains, or the original creator can’t start other chains himself. If the whatever-ware that makes this USB stick work was released for free online (say, after these initial charity auctions peter out), then there would be many Minecraft Chains.

      My idea for a Minecraft Chain: The rules are the same with these changes: Each player gets to keep the Chain for up to one week before passing it on. (A week is a random arbitrary time limit, but I’m just going with it.) They can die as many times as they want, but they can’t play for more than their week. Each player has to make some written account of their experience that will be locked away for a year. Perhaps they can even include screenshots or videos, but each player’s iteration of the Minecraft Chain world will only be played by him/her. My idea would mean that, a year after the chain started, there would be weekly for up to a whole year containing interesting and entertaining accounts of this once-off world. All it needs is a comedic, cheesy name. Weekly ChainCraft? (I’m horrible with names) :(

      So, what do you other humans on the internets think of my idea? What kind of Minecraft Chainworld would you create?

      • Ryan Seney says:

        Call it Boatmined and be done with it ;)

        I think it’d be interesting to take your idea, but seed additional copies of the world at point in time. I’d like to see how the various worlds diverge from their common ancestry in a digital form of the Galapagos.

        On a side note, as much as I dislike rule #8 it is what sets this project apart from the traditional communal play sessions such as what you see on forums like Something Awful. By documenting what happens with the world you end up with a sort of less efficient version due to the usage of a physical medium.

      • Robin says:

        I think you misunderstand my point.

        The way that people will play Chain World will be of particular interest because of it’s profile/backstory, because it’s the first, because of it’s scarcity, and because of the rules set down in its starting state. (I’ve no doubt the technology will quickly become commonly available, but all the clones will be specialised and influenced to suit the ideas of their creators- such as the example you describe-, with any aura of ‘mystique’ and ‘heritage’ being rapidly diluted.)

        Getting posted Chain World out of the blue and having to work on it in secret would be a ‘holy shit’ event, as opposed to just another play by mail game among hundreds.

        As for Jia’s plans, I think I have more of a problem with them trying to railroad control of the project over multiple generations, than the auction itself.

        Although there is also the risk that a collective bid will take the game out of general circulation for many generations. I’m not sure how this could be effectively discouraged (or if it should be, as I suppose it’s analogous to many-generation dynasties).

        • zbeeblebrox says:

          There is no way to stop the inevitability of the game being taking out of general circulation at some point. Even ignoring environmental chance like destruction of the device, losing it in the attic, etc; it’s still doomed to find its way to an owner who only feels motivated to circulate it among a small circle of like-minded friends, if anyone at all.

          The point of the game is that where it actually is, who actually has it, how they truly got it, or how public a spectacle they made the act of giving it to the next person ;) The point is the MYTH of its existence, the MYTH of who has it, the MYTH of how they got it, and so on. Jason is engaging us in an unfolded narrative fiction, based around the imagined value of this game and the privileged contents locked within it.

  12. James Rossi says:

    Something else to consider in this debate are the initial rules themselves. If we are going to stick to the religious analogy there is already a lot of precedent for this. There are different ways to interpret commandments. There is actually a potentially glaring one right off the bat here. The use of the word “Discuss” in #8. Wiktionary can give you more: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/discuss. Ignoring obsolete usage, the average person would not use or understand the word is those ways, we are left with a loophole. Discussion requires participation of at least a second party. The rules do not however explicitly forbid simply stating your experiences. It forbids the back and forth of an active additional view. When someone on their twitter says “I just found a giant temple dedicated to a Lava god.” That is not discussion. If someone were to ask, “How big is it?” and then the initial player says, “It was gigantic.” THEN they have engaged in discourse.

    The way I see it, that gives anyone the right to simply state their experiences as long as they never involve an outside parties comments, or answer their questions later.

    • Ryan Seney says:

      I think I agree with your statements, but I haven’t watched the original video so I don’t know if this project is more about religious experiences (ie. an epiphany) or religion in general. I personally feel that evangelism is a core part of religion and rule #8 strips that aspect from the game. I feel we wouldn’t have religion as we currently know it if people kept their experiences to themselves.

  13. Freifur says:

    What I find interesting about this whole controversy over who gets the drive is that you said, and im quoting here: “Personal attacks, especially those directed to Jane, Jason, Will, etc are way out of line because I asked them to do me a favour, so any ill-will against this idea should be directed at me solely. However, I also don’t appreciate the hatemail…”
    Taking from that specifically “I asked them to do me a favour” so surely you yourself are breaking rule 7 as they haven’t shown personal interest. I think the most appropriate system for inheritance of the drive would be an open raffle so to speak, have a 48 hour slot where anyone worldwide can sign up on a website to receive – (thus showing interest) and add a simple $2-4 dollar charge for signing up, which would then go to a designated charity. Then after the 48 hour period, the site stops sign ups and a random number generator chucks out a number and that numbered person in the sign up list gets the drive. Personally that seems more fair to the masses of minecraft enthusiasts, it means that celebrities can also take part as well as us common as muck players who most of which (going out on a stretch here) aren’t carrying a ton of spare cash for bidding wars.
    Just my two cents

  14. Regarding My Chosen Method of the Destruction of the Precious: if I get hold of the USB stick I will put it in the toilet, poop on it, and flush it away. Then I will truly be crapping on a good idea. There will be no room for debate at that point. Please, send it my way.

    For I stand in opposition to the creator and his rules. I oppose the words of the creator spoken upon the moment of creation: “Here’s a meta-game that sort of comes close to doing that, where instead of everyone playing the game out in the world, one person in the world plays the game at a time and they’re the only person playing it.”

    I will strive (like most others here and all those participating in the debate) to influence the game from afar via digital communication in the hopes that it reaches my own hands. I will attempt to rally others around my idea of what the game is and how it should be played. I will disregard the intentions of the creator. Yet I will not do so in the creator’s name. I refuse to worship by his commandments. I do this in the hopes of destruction rather than creation. I will make it my own, and then I will destroy it.

    After I poop on it.

    • Jia Ji says:

      Jonathon, pooping on something and flushing it doesn’t really seem like “epic destruction” to me. I’m currently on the big island of Hawaii, about 10 miles away from Puʻu_ʻŌʻō, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. If you’re able to rally people to your destructive cause and raise enough funds to be the winning charitable bidder at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270718660844, I will help you toss the holy flash drive into the volcano. You can even fly into Hawaii, stay with me, and we’ll make the trek up the lava rocks together, like Gollum and Frodo :)

      • TheHipGamer says:

        As a counter-point: why not separate your charitable idea from the Chainworld thing entirely? No rules, no future control over who owns it, no on-going cult of celebrity and wealth. It’s the big-raft approach to Chainworld: everyone is welcome on board, regardless of means.

        As far as the charitable donation goes, I’d bet that you could get a reasonable (perhaps even greater than eBay) amount from a PayPal donation page. I’d much rather throw my money at that than tie it up with something that I think is cool, but unrelated.

        • Jia Ji says:

          Some people have suggested we set up a kickstarter page for donations and distributing mass copies of Chain World. We might do that if we have to fork/schism the flash drive as one of the sects. Ultimately, it depends on who wins the auction and what they want.

  15. Chaz says:

    While I love the idea of it being auctioned off for charity, I think the entire premise is sullied by that. You have a chance to have a true underground society, something whispered about but most people never really knowing what’s the full story is. A chance to really add to the mystique of having “your turn” in a world that was never really yours to begin with. But, with even the best intentions, it’s going to now be seen as a status symbol. “I had enough money, so I was able to buy into a secret club” as opposed to “I was able to be a part of something that only shows up once in a lifetime.”

    Best of luck and happy bidding to all involved, and I hope that who ever is next in line is willing to bring the game back to a more appreciative audience.

  16. Dan Silvers says:

    The idea started as creating a world which only one man could inhabit at a time. The stick itself became religion, an item of worship. Then, just as quickly as it was created, it was planned to be destroyed. If only humanity had done this with religion in the first place we could have avoided a lot of wars, racism, bigotry, etc.

    Granted something would have sprung up in religion’s place. Humanity likes latching onto ideas they don’t completely understand. I think by that logic we will never fully understand Minecraft, and thus latch onto the opportunity to see its world be shaped from multiple angles.

    I would have loved to have seen this take off and see how far the Chain World could have gone. Granted, I think I will equally love Jonathon smashing or pooping on the world, as laughter refreshes the soul.

  17. PoniesPonies says:

    Jia Ji,

    I hope you made a mark in Chainworld worthy of your drama. It would be a shame for you to spend more time designing the meta game than affecting the actual Chainworld.

  18. This whole thing is extremely fascinating to me, so I’d like to chime in with my perspective. My recap: Jason created a meta-game wrapped around Minecraft, along with a set of rules for people to follow, which would determine how the in-game world evolved and how it was to be passed among people. But part of his intent (as I understand) was to examine the emergent spirituality and religious parallels that would come from having a high-value, exclusive artifact representing a creation/origin story (or rather, a succession of them). Personally, I think Jia Ji’s actions are completely congruent with the meta-meta-game: being in possession of the artifact, he leveraged it to further some of his personal goals (which in this case happen to be virtuous) – just like what historically has happened when a limited group of people have control over an exclusive set of religious knowledge or artifacts. So rather than ruining the original purpose of the game, I think his actions have epitomized it perfectly.

    Even more interesting is how very quickly people took sides and became very passionate about their subjective interpretations of the world’s rules – which is another very close parallel to divisions that have historically been exacerbated by religious differences.

    Jonathon has brilliantly added yet another layer to this game – one which could escalate things further and in a very interesting way. I guess we’re at the meta-meta-meta-game now…

    It’s amazing this has all happened so quickly and spontaneously, and as far as I’m concerned it’s already a complete success. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out, and kudos to all involved.

    • Jia Ji says:

      Erik, thanks for your insightful comment and kind words. Who is Jonathon though?

      • Jia Ji says:

        Oh, wait, are you talking about poop and flush Jonathon? Yeah, I agree that it’s hard to believe in God without the Devil :)

        I still think he should trek with me up the volcano to through it into the crack of doom though. Toilets are so boring…

        • Yep, that’s the Jonathon I mentioned. I really like the volcano idea, not because that’s what I necessarily want to happen but because it ups the ante. It’ll be interesting to see what lengths people go to in order to put it in his hands or keep it away. And it affects all the game levels beneath – will people build different things in the Minecraft world knowing that everything could quite possibly be permanently obliterated? That all their efforts and struggles in-game could become instantly meaningless? Now we’re getting into existential territory. Maybe an epic and elaborate shrine dedicated to the destroyer would be the only way to appease him and stay him from his destructive intent…

          What’s really great is that this controversy has increased the allure of the artifact far beyond what it would have been otherwise – so once again, I think this is helping bolster the original intent. Now, Chain World has great renown and a glimpse of the in-game world (or even the artifact itself) would truly be spiritual.

          I’d humbly suggest to Jason (purely as a game mechanic) that he withhold additional community guidance on Chain World. I think the ambiguity created by the original rule set is what is going to make this experiment become increasingly profound.

          • Let it be henceforth known to all present and future inhabitants of Chain World that, should I find erected therein a shrine that pleases me, I shall consider sparing that world from my wrath and destruction.

            My shrine shall be that of porcelain. Yes, a large porcelain shrine in my honor, for poop and flush Jonathon.

            But I follow no commandments. I do as I please.

  19. G45T0N says:

    I have a suggestion for the tenth commandement and here it is : Thy shalt not use mods to play Chain world.

    By that i that they should play with vanilla minecraft and without editing the map before play.

    Hope you guys like my suggestion.

    -G45T0N

  20. Logos says:

    There are many compelling and fascinating aspects to this whole activity-story. Many people seem to be focusing on the “this is like religion” aspect, inspired by the original premise. But as Chain World is a meta-game played with Minecraft by creating a set of rules, there is the “meta” framework into which it was launched — and what has happened reveals some of the rules of how that system (i.e. the real
    world) works:

    A. Players never have to obey the rules.

    Unlike a typical (video) game, people can ignore what they’re told. Religions are one example of long-lasting sets of “rules” that have existed for thousands of years (some with alterations, others without). Why? What’s the “mechanic” behind that? Do these systems last so long because of the nature of the specific rules? Because of
    the cultures that include them? Because of the “weight” of the tradition having lasted so long already?

    This was at the core of Chain World rule #7 — the point of that rule was to pass the drive to someone who would maintain the tradition — someone who would have a reason to obey the written and unwritten rules of the game. If it has failed, it was because rule #7 was broken (or was not formulated sufficiently strongly).

    B. Society is stable.

    Also unlike a typical game — particularly computer games — the real world has no “save” function and something as small and fragile as a USB drive can be lost or broken trivially. That it would be possible play Chain World says something significant about our expectations for the preservation of small, valuable objects — that such a thing can be reliably handed from person to person and not stored in a secure building with high walls and strong doors.

    C. Economics happen.

    Without crafting anything in the traditional sense (other than a script to launch Minecraft), something was created which people find valuable. The specific set of rules was novel, but the underlying concepts and materials were not. So why is this specific object interesting to people? Why would people find the idea of playing this
    Chain World so compelling, yet the idea of forking it or starting their own so unappealing? Why do people — more or less all of them — participate in the concept that this game is valuable? Even the people who want to destroy it want to destroy this specific instance, and would not find it interesting to simply destroy their own USB
    drive loaded with Minecraft, or to make a duplicate of the original and then destroy either.

    Rather than try to answer that set of questions in its specifics, recognize that it reveals that there are fundamental, non-elective factors that determine value — the economics of a situation cannot simply be invented by making up rules about what should and should not have value. Similarly, the value of the rules themselves — the degree to which people will want to preserve them without alteration — cannot simply be invented by making up rules about those rules.

    It’s obviously possible to make a religion — or something that functions similarly to a religion — but it’s not possible to make a religion out of anything you’d like to. It’s not possible to take any set of rules and have them be found broadly compelling and form a tradition around them.

    So… What kind of rules do people want to obey? What kind of traditions do people want to maintain? Can this instance be preserved? What does Chain World reveal about these questions.

  21. Pingback: Minecraft Mod Of The Day - TDW Geeks

  22. Lord Apricot says:

    If we’re going to have a Destroyer there are some other elements that a religion needs. I am the Unbeliever. I do not believe that there is a flash drive, or if there is, that there is anything on it. Nor do I believe that the Destroyer will destroy it, as there is nothing there to really destroy. You may try to convert me with proof of your so called “Chain World” or not as you see fit.

    Besides I think it would be more interesting as a meta game if he announced all this but there was nothing on it, by rule 8 you can’t tell anyone there’s nothing on it so everyone is getting worked up over nothing and is disappointed when they eventually receive it and find out the truth. Of course that would make the game itself really dull.

    Also on another note I’m not sure I agree that you setting out a list of people for it to go to is keeping in the spirit of things (although maybe that was exactly what was intended) and you seem to be hijacking it somewhat but as pointed out repeatedly the next person has no need to follow it at all. People perceive it as selfishness on your part even though its for a good cause because you are decreeing that it is under your control and you are deciding the cause.

    That’s just my thoughts on the matter. I have been following the discussion around this “artefact” with great interest and wished to add a few points of my own.

  23. Hawley Griffin says:

    Chain World flash drive? Will It Blend? I think it will.

  24. Pingback: Geniale Minecraft-Mod: Chain World | News von Computerspiele.com

  25. Piper says:

    Okay….
    Soo…
    I’m hearing a lot of hate here, but I find it kinda funny. Fuck his project, let people pay for charity games if they feel like it. Why don’t we just code up some replicas and start passing them around the community.
    How much will it cost to ship a usb stick, or god forbid, hand one to your friend?
    Seriously. This is just a more fun version of the current multiplayer if you ask me.

    I think me and the boyfriend will do this, and pass it back and forth. :)
    Those who play together, stay together.
    There needs to be at least 100 of these floating around the world, if you ask me.

  26. Pingback: The Chain World Controversy: Jia Ji Speaks | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

  27. SomeAnon says:

    Someone create an innovative concept, and the first human to get its hand on… sell it for its own morality wealth (“for charity”), humanity is incredible :)

    I love how “american” culture gives a green-light to everything as long as it’s marked as “charity” ; whatever you do, if it’s for charity, it’s good and no one can argue against that.

    Selling terribad cookies ? Cheap ugly postcards ? Awful paintings ? “It’s ok, it’s for charity !”

    Btw, “Charity” is often providing financial/logistic/humanitarian/etc support to some populations in the need, right ?

    It has consequences FYI : the local state no longer needs to get its stuff together and put up a better system to avoid mass poverty/misery/a revolution, the local regime won’t be annoyed by the “international community” (= US/Europe military intervention) since the population is doing “okay” thanks to the charity work, so dictators can sit on their pile of gold and watch charity do their job.

    Oh, and these dictators can steal 30% (or more) of the donations/food for their own military troops (it’s the price to avoid getting shot at, ask the NGOs), and steal the rest (or most of it) to sell it on the local markets (yea, dictators are that cool), destroying the local food economy and turning all the economy into supporting their military budget. Nice job charities !

    Same in rich country : why the state should be providing better social services, enforce better minimal wages, if the poor people will always have the “charity parachute” in case of deep poverty ? And while we’re at it, why not -reducing- the budget for the poor people, when you perfectly know the charities will take the heat and let you be elected again ?

    Your charity goes to the children hospital in Pittsburgh. “Do it for the children” btw, nice pick :)
    But why you’re not pushing for better funding support from the Pennsylvania state ? “it’s too political” ? Charity is highly political, no matter where the money ends up.
    And throwing a few bucks in the buckets won’t change the fact that this specific hospital needs a stable and decent budget (and not just for that specific year).

    You might say “it’s no a problem, the poor will still have what they need, it’s just a different system”.
    => What about now, when the economical crisis hit the news ? donations to charities dropped like never before.
    That system depends too much on every person’s desire to donate : if they don’t feel like donating this year/month, the charities will get nothing. Children will die, you want children to die ? ( It’s almost impossible to avoid the inadequacy : you don’t get much donations for an additional nurse, and you don’t have the financial stability and power to make important budget decisions. And you often don’t have all the “keys” to understand what these people really need.

    So you just give them a toy, a pat on the shoulder to cheer them up and go back home ranting about these taxes being too high for you, the hard-working middle-class.

    -

    Anyway…

    By turning that “religion” (imo, it’s more a meta-game with specific rules rather than a religion [= something that's built upon believes] but hell let’s call it a religion) into a charity project, you’re turning a gaming concept into your own personal project (“I turned it into a charity-based game, so I deserve some of these morality bonus point, look at me everyone !”) to ride the “charity” trend bandwagon (à la Child’s Play style).

    Nb : please notice how we called all the media bullshitting about video-game “a bunch of ignorant stupid idiots” ; how Penny Arcade made the Child’s Play project to counter all these articles claiming video-games were turning us into asocial murderers ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/2003/11/24/#1069746601 ) ; and how the same “ignorant stupid idiots” medias stopped crapping over video-games every Monday when Child’s Play reached complete success (which was an extremely good news).

    Nb 2 : I donated to Child’s Play (despite being a stupid european who won’t see a single Child’s Play toy in my local hospitals : no irl-bragging about my generosity allowed) three times, once for the project, two as part of the Humble Indie Bundles.
    (you can still throw your rotten vegetables at me though, I just indirectly called you names for venerating the charity system :p)

    -

    The thing is, just adding “charity” on the top won’t make it instantly more awesome, it’s like adding ice-cream with everything, it sounds fun and delicious but no, it doesn’t work like that.

    By bringing the “charity” card, I personally feel like you’re trying to find an excuse for not respecting the rules, by bringing the “it’s for charity so you can’t blame me”, it sounds like a lame’n'low argument.

    It also implies the question of respecting the initial rules or not was about money, profit, personal gain. It’s kinda unrespectful for the project creator, it’s giving him pecuniary intentions he didn’t have.

    And I find it kinda insulting that you used the “charity” card to justify your move : why didn’t you stand still and said “I decided to auction off the project, profits will go to my project/that gaming project/paying tons of USB-keys to spread the religion”, that would have been bold and courageous, a real will to participate in the religion-shaping process, or an art performance to denounce how all the religions can be turned into cash-machinesso easily.
    => If you want to deeply change the direction of the project, at least have the guts to say it loud and clear, don’t hide behind excuses like “it’s for the charity”. Like a wise man once said : “Sound off like you got a pair !”

    The important question here is WHY you made that decision, to reach what kind of objective.

    Hiding behind the “charity” curtain is lame, anyone can pick something exclusive and sell it on ebay for “charity” (I still have some original copies gathering the dust I could sell for a few hundred bucks), but it won’t change the world at all, the system will remain the same.

    The game design competition was about making, shaping something new, NEW. Innovation, creation, free thinking. And you brought something as old as mankind : “charity”. Every civilizations went through this before.

    While the project tried to build a new way of multiplayer interactions, you just brought it back to the same old “Pay the $4 600 (legal limit) for 30 minutes indoor-bike group chat with Bill Clinton”. Come on, selling celebrity and hype like that…

    And don’t pull the “charity” card once more, the problem is not where the money goes, the problem is : why you needed to transform that project into a money-making project ? Why bringing that project into the selling market ? Why this project could not stay “outside” the $$$ world ?

    I find it very impolite to hijack a project like this one to inject your own personal agenda, you could have made your own project with “charity” inside but no, you picked that one and used it for own personal gains (moral gains), and killed it in the process (that idea is stained forever now, it’s dead before starting). That’s lame.

    Nb : I will never pay for a social status. No clothes, no clubs, no cars, no drinks, no town, no games nor projects like this one will make me pay to access celebrity and hype.

    Two words : Fuck Money.

    It screws everything, all the time. You can’t buy friends, love or fun. Money can end friendship, love and fun.

    You brought money to the project, it ended the fun.

    You’ll be remembered as the guy who ended the Chain World project at the very first passing, nice one. At least you taught us a valuable lesson : we can’t have nice things ever anymore.

  28. SomeAnon says:

    damn, html code cut my message in the middle :


    Children will die, you want children to die ? (= Do It For The Children ftw)
    You can’t call it generosity if you only donate your “spare change” when you comfortable with your own incomes, there’s a valid reason why tax were invented and still exist, charity is pure entertainment for the riches, “when they feel like it”.

    And ask a beggar if he likes living like this… Begging is a humiliation, this is the last thing a poor will do, only when they can no longer work. Charity is forcing these people into becoming beggars. This is not what I call a social contribution : they’re forced to accept, they’re forced to be beholden to the donators, who are the only “happy few” with the donating power : they decide what is good for them, what they should have.

    Example : the hospital in Pittsburgh would be a much better hospital with more doctors/nurses, or a modern scanner. Too bad, the charity is offering only trips to the beach or some toys most of the kids can’t use/have access (since it requires an additional room for toys and additional nurses to supervise the kids). Too bad, the charity raises only $50 000 dollars a year, a modern scanner cost $200 000 dollars.

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