The first Pioneers of Avesta come in peace and a spirit of cooperation. Most of them, anyway, but they are sure to run up against a sizable fringe who may have other plans. While the Pioneers will arrive from everywhere on Earth, nearly all of them are disappointed with the governments of their home nations. Nevertheless, most of them believe that their colonization of Avesta will be influenced by the politics they left behind.
These are the core takeaways from a real-world/game world political survey we recently sent to SEED’s large and passionate community on Discord, which counts over 4100 subscribers. When SEED does launch, these early adopters will likely be in the vanguard of Avesta’s first settlers. And if past MMOs are any guide, they will shape SEED as an online player community for years to come.
There were over 240 respondents to our survey, representing countries from every continent (besides Antarctica, though we have hopes some lonely scientists there will eventually join us on Avesta). By nation/union and percentage, the survey respondents break down along these lines:
European Union: 36%
United States: 29%
United Kingdom: 7%
South Africa: 2%
1% or under by country: Iceland, India, Israel, Malaysia, Nairobi, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan. Turkey, Ukraine.
Regardless of national origin, however, most respondents are decidedly unhappy with the current state of their real-world government:
Despite (or because of?) this dissatisfaction, a majority of respondents say that their real world politics will guide how they play SEED, with 44% saying it will have “some” influence on their behavior, while 1 in 4 answering that their politics will shape their gameplay on Avesta “quite a bit”:
But what are the real world politics of SEED’s first wave of settlers? We asked respondents to indicate their ideology along the traditional left-right axis:
A plurality (36%) put themselves on the center-left, with 1 in 5 indicating that they are either left wing or center-right. Just as notable: Nearly 1 in 10 place themselves on the far left, while just a sliver of respondents (3.4%) place themselves on the far right.
Study by Gallup.
It’s interesting to compare this response to real world political breakdowns. In the United States, for example, according to a Gallup study, 35% of American adults in 2017 identified as conservative (i.e. right), 26% as liberal (i.e. left), and 35% as moderate (i.e. center). So the overall political skew of SEED’s respondents are somewhat more to the left than the US population.
Now we come to the two survey answers that fascinate me most:
Asked if their real-world politics might influence their playing style in SEED, a huge majority (72%!) said that they will, either somewhat or quite a lot. Personally, this answer surprises me most; many gamers adamantly resist the suggestion that real-life politics can or should overlap with their games. But among SEED respondents, at least, only 29% chose “Not at all”.
But what exactly will their play style be? The survey asked Seedlings to choose among five broad categories:
A strong majority chose “Cooperative”, while 1 in 4 chose “Exploratory”. Only a small majority chose play styles which would potentially put them at odds with other players: 9% selected “Competitive”, 7% opted for “Acquisitive”, and just under 3% picked “Predatory”. Most Seedlings seem to see themselves not as conquerors, but part of a broad, planet-settling coalition.
Since most Seedlings surveyed say their real world politics will shape their play style, it begs the question: Do people tend to play differently based on their ideologies?
That could easily be the topic of a whole other post, but for now, suffice to say the results may not be what you expect. For instance, if I asked you to guess the politics of the American Seedlings who chose Competitive, Acquisitive, or Predatory as their play style, what would you say?
Because as it happens, they were all over the spectrum:
Politics of Americans who chose Competitive as their Seed play style: 55% are center-right/right/far right -- 45% are center-left/left/far left Politics of Americans who chose Acquisitive as Seed play style: 46% are center-right/right/far right -- 54% are center-left/left/far left Politics of Americans who chose Predatory as Seed play style: 67% are center-right/right/far right -- 33% are center-left/left/far left
However, only 24 US Seedlings chose any of those three playstyle options, so it might require some heavy number crunching of the entire respondent pool to see any notable trends.
To be sure, many of these answers may reflect how little is yet known about how SEED will be played. For instance, while SEED already has many, highly-engaged, often competitive roleplay groups/factions, a majority of respondents have not joined one - for the time being at least.
When respondents who are not yet in a group/faction do so in the future, they may then choose the politics of their expected gameplay.
The final question was open-ended, asking Seedlings to share their thoughts on the topics raised by the survey itself. Comments on ranged from the incisive -- “Right and left are much too vague, if you are evaluating on a social axis and economic axis, you get more precise results” -- to, the, well, interesting: “Could we get more black and white photos with Mundi, Ivar, and Oddur with their shirts off?”
For the record, I know the left-right political spectrum is imprecise, especially relative to different countries, but decided it’s the best (least worst?) way for respondents to quickly self-assess their ideology. (Also for the record: Whether Mundi, Ivar, and Oddur should shoot shirtless photos for fans is up to them... but it sure gives me some special insight into Seedling personality!)
Another commenter sees SEED as a playground for politics, and is hopeful it will help humanity evolve:
“I, for one, plan to experiment with different conflicting beliefs and systems to see the benefits they carry in this world, if any. If the social fabric of this world turns out to be as sophisticated as I expect, maybe a totally new form of governance will emerge.”
Then again, another Seedling raised doubts based on bitter gaming experience:
“If politics from other games are any sign of what will happen in SEED, I suspect fanaticism to take root very quickly... When isolated from real life consequence, humans behave very differently than they would in a game. A game often reflects the core of a person.”
Lastly, this thought from a Seedling whose opinion matches the majority of respondents -- that the game will give us new insights on politics out there in the real world.
“On some level, I hope SEED can act as an incubator/modelling grounds for seeing how politics might play out in real life. I'm thinking of not only American (my native) politics, but also looking at the rise of the far-right around the world. Although, I imagine the circumstances would be very different in-game (e.g. there's no 2008 financial crisis in the game) but the human players behind the controls are nonetheless affected and playing out, even if unconsciously, such political choices.”
- Wagner James Au All opinions are the writer’s own.