FAQ

OVERVIEW

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. It's also a great way to experience the decision making behind our present political institutions.

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. Whereas More authored his fiction as reality alone, we seek collaboration 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 attempts 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.

Why do you want to make a game?
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, sounds intriguing.
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. Site summary texts are available in other languages.

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 initiated agoraXchange initiators and what is their background?
This project began when Jackie Stevens was writing a book manuscript and thought maybe an interactive online game, like those her friend Natalie Bookchin had designed, might be a good way to engage people with those ideas. Jackie is a political theorist. 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 presently managing agoraXchange?
Jackie has been coordinating the project since 2005 with design advice and networking support in Europe from Zelkjo Blace, an artist and curator who co-founded the Multimedia Institut, mama in Zagreb in the 1990s. Since 2007 Ayhan Aytes, an artist and designer from Istanbul with a PhD in Communication and Cognitive Science at UC San Diego, also has been coordinating the project design.

How do I contact you?
You may contact us here.

Who designed agoraXchange phaseII?
Ana Carvalho, a fabulous designer and teacher from Porto, Portugual.

Who designed agoraXchange phaseI (now at )? Jackie, Natalie, and Cynthia Madansky produced the site layout and navigation; FDTdesign in New York City produced the artwork, interface, and programming, including a backend administration interface for updating the content.

Who is funding this project?
The first phase of agoraXchange was commissioned by the Tate Online in 2003, with funding of $8,000. Natalie was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts award to support her work on agoraXchange, $25,000 of which paid for production costs. In 2007 Jackie received a grant from the University of California Santa Barbara Instructional Development office for $15,300, which is funding phaseII, which includes functions for tracking student work in classrooms. The project is not-for-profit. We continue to seek funds to pay for maintaining, developing and expanding the project.

In addition, thanks to Robert Nideffer, Director of the Game, Culture and Technology Lab at the University of California at Irvine for his support of agoraXchange.

Can I use the site for my own classroom, and if so, how?
Yes! If you are interested in using this site in your teaching, please contact us for the permissions to use this.

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 are the initiators and coordinators rather than the absolute authors. User participation and contributions provide the fundamental core of the work that needs to be done 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 by Voting, including your comments on other responses, 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, links, and comments.

THE GAME

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 pretense 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.