Star Wars: The Market Strikes Back
Not too long ago, on a server far, far away, I marveled at the cooperation between sworn enemies. Pitted against each other on the frozen planet of Ilum, Jedi and Sith extended each other a civil courtesy, working together toward mutual benefit.
This unlikely truce occurred in the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic. Set thousands of years before the films, the game welcomes players to create characters loyal to either the Jedi-guided Galactic Republic or the evil Sith Empire. Players spend hours progressing their characters to a level cap beyond which the focus of gameplay shifts to large scale cooperative operations and player-versus-player combat between the two factions.
The developers designed Ilum as a stage for the latter, an open world player-versus-player environment where Republic and Empire funnel into close proximity. The design presumes that members of the opposing factions will attack each other on sight, simply because they can. However, that commonly does not happen. Jedi and Sith often leave each other alone, going about their respective business.
The planet hosted a recent in-game event including a kind of capture-the-flag scenario where players from both factions were tasked with collecting orbs and depositing them in a central goal zone. The act of depositing took three and a half seconds and could be interrupted by enemy players. A successful deposit triggered a minute long lockout of the goal zone. The developers’ intention was to encourage a contest over the goal zone, where players vied for the chance to deposit their orbs.
Instead, an understanding soon developed between enemy players. All soon realized that it was easier to cooperate and take turns depositing the orbs than to fight over the goal zone. So it came to pass that Jedi, Sith, troopers, smugglers, bounty hunters, and Imperial agents could be seen waiting patiently in single-file for the chance to complete their individual missions.
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