The Proto-Governance of Minecraft Servers

Louis Rolfes, Kathrin Passig


There is a widespread assumption that the times when self-regulating internet communities allowed users to experiment with new forms of societal organization are over. Today, many commercial platforms impose rules on ‘their’ communities and leave little room for users to organize themselves. And yet, there are still environments that allow freedom for communities to explore new forms of living together. One of these environments is the multiplayer online game Minecraft. In Minecraft, players, not the game company, manage their servers through traditional legal instruments and software plugins. This provides us with the rare opportunity to examine self-made rulesets without first having to disentangle them from the non-negotiable rules of the commercial platform. We carried out an exploratory qualitative analysis of a selection of rulesets and focus on two major aspects related to server governance: the interplay between traditional legal rules and algorithmic governance mechanisms and the forms of government that players establish. We found that written and encoded rules seem to complement but not replace each other. Minecraft servers are mostly “benevolent dictatorships,” with some server rulesets indicating a willingness of staff to abide by power-limiting rules in similar ways as constitutional documents limiting the power of the monarch.


Virtual communities; governance; Minecraft; code is law; server rules; regulatory competition; societal constitutionalism

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