Log Horizon: Game Mechanics and Human Rights

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Log Horizon anime.

Human rights, at least as they were initially conceived, trace their origins back to the Age of the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophers were attempting demonstrate an objective value in humanity that, if not altogether rejecting the existence of a higher power, can stand independently from reasons of religion (i.e. Humans were God’s chosen people). Many rulers of old based their legitimacy to lead on divine law (They were God’s chosen rulers), which to some Enlightenment thinkers could be tantamount to tyranny. Europe was also recovering from the bloody religious wars that took place just before the Enlightenment, their traumatic memories spurring advocacy during the period itself for the separation of church and state.  What the Enlightenment philosophers came up with in response to the supposed irrationality of religiously-motivated oppression and violence was the concept of the law of nature, divorced from divine mandate. Core to every fiercely debated Enlightenment interpretation of the natural law was entitlement drawn from rationality. Humans are rational beings. Because humans are rational beings, they are inherently and universally entitled to certain rights. These rights were natural and inalienable.

It is by this understanding that it is unreasonable for natural rights to be violated arbitrarily by other rational beings, and provides a justification for rational beings like human ones to take up arms so as to have these rights establish respect.  John Locke believed that men were entitled to the rights to life, liberty, and property in his Second Treatise of Government. Thomas Jefferson reinterpreted these rights for men as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the American “Declaration of Independence,” the official reason for the American colonies’ separation from the British empire. This document would become one of the inspirations for the later French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” the official manifesto of the French Revolution. Decades later, like the American one before it, the French document became one of the blueprints for the “United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights.” The reasoning behind human rights is grounded in theories concerning  natural rights that were originally formulated in the Enlightenment era. The designation of rationality and the entitlement that comes backseat with it expanded overtime, being applied first to white men, and then to all men, and then to all men and women… to all humans.

Quite apart from the more typical low-brow affairs that trapped in a fantasy world isekai shows busy themselves with, Log Horizon also concerns itself with the topic of natural rights in a video game. In typical isekai set-up, Log Horizon’s real-life human players are trapped in the MMO world of their fantasy playground, attempting to figure out how to get by in their familiar yet unknown surroundings. In not-so-typical isekai fashion, Log Horizon’s trapped player characters (the “Adventurers”) find themselves arguing around a round table of whether NPCs (the “People of the Land”) also possess natural rights. At its core, natural law dictates that the Adventurers, by their nature as humans, hail from entitle them to certain rights. These natural rights exist under the understanding, whether designated by a God or not, that human beings exist for their own sakes — as ends in themselves, to paraphrase Immanuel Kant, the late Enlightenment figure. However, the Adventurers know that the People of the Land, by their nature as human pixel fantasy facsimiles, were created by real human game developers. We, the audience, knows that NPCs in MMOs  are not exactly human. They are a digital resource for players for engage with for their entertainment. The People of the Land were not originally created for their own sakes, but for the Adventurers’.

It’s not totally unexpected then that some Adventurers have continued treat the People of the Land as mechanics to objectively exploit. As they rob their goods and even take their lives, these particular Adventurers prejudicially continue to regard the People of the Land with the chattel-like mentality that they always understood their existence by. By their original nature as NPCs in a fantasy MMORPG, the People of the Land were created to serve as the property and playthings of the Adventurer player base. In light of these cases of exploitation and the larger round table discourse on natural rights in the anime during the Akihabara round table discussions (from protecting Adventurers from being exploited by other Adventurers to protecting the People of the Land being exploited by Adventurers), what’s the rationale then to claim that the People of the Land should be accorded the same freedoms, dignities, and protections as the Adventurers? Why should the Adventurers People of the Land natural rights even when they were not exactly created as human beings in the first place?

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Fate/Zero: The Paradox of Unbridled Idealism

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay was made addressing ideas from Episode 11 of Fate/Zero, “The Grail Dialogues.”  This essay is meant to take the place of a previous essay on the show.

Fate Zero 2

A temporary reprieve from this bloody business called battle is held as the three historically sovereign heroic spirits present in this age’s Holy Grail War, Saber, the King of Knights, Rider, the King of Conquerors, and Archer, the King of Heroes, sit down for drink and conversation, the conversation evolving from kingly courtesies to discussions about how each would use the grail to arguments about kingship in general. The centerfold tension of the entire discussion is Rider’s opposition to Saber’s view on proper kingliness. I’m not going to talk about proper kingliness per se.

The following words aren’t meant to answer the question of who is a true king. Saber, Rider, and Archer have different answers based on fundamentally different understandings of the position. They can argue all day without proving the other wrong, because “king” is an artificial, and thus subjective, construct. Rather, from their debate, I’ll talk about what the show thinks constitutes a good political leader.

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Of Political Dimensions: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha and the Factors of Liberalism

Management: While my overall opinion of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, is fairly positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. It touches on the actions and ideas of some key modern and postmodern political revolutionaries, but their beliefs, by no means, are meant to be completely representative of mine.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha 5

Here are several ideas that Maoyuu Maou Yuusha brought up that interested me enough to jot them down in a somewhat organized essay form.

Freedom

“I… as one who has a soul like your own, I have something I must tell you. I was… I was born as a serf. I was the third of seven siblings.”

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha began its airing by utilizing a not too uncommon fantasy trope: a human hero and a demon king facing each other in a pitched battle that would decide the fate of the world. The Human Hero would win, and the Demon King’s forces would crawl back into their hole, disappear into thin air, surrender unconditionally, or all drop dead. The Demon King’s war would be over, peace and prosperity would return, and happily ever after.

Shortly after its introduction, the trope was then subverted though inquires challenging its premise. Why demons weren’t simply evil, why war wouldn’t simply end, and soon enough, the show became an overarching study on the whys of conflict. Truth be told, beneath its fantastical exterior, the show is a narrative chronicle of history. History? Why, the history of revolution. A revolution of liberation from what was effectively feudal, a feudalism of landed noble lords and landless serf peasants, to what’s effectively more egalitarian. More… liberal.

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Of Political Dimensions: Log Horizon and The Rise of Civilization

Management: While my overall opinion of Log Horizon is quite positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review of the series, but rather, an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. Much of this essay draws implicit reference to Modernist Political Philosophy, from Thomas Hobbes in particular, what with his conceptions of the state of nature and his views on the origin of power, though this is, by no means, a total affirmation of on my part of everything Hobbesian.

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Here are several ideas that Log Horizon brought up that interested me enough to jot them down in a somewhat organized essay form.

…and my axe.

Speaking as a former avid MMORPG player myself, when it comes to MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, there are two general aspects of MMORPGs that I suspect people keep coming to them for.

First, then, is the aspect of RPG. I mean, for your average MMORPG player, who wouldn’t want to be part of some heroic triumph over beasts of Legend or Lovecraft, or serve at the honorable behest of some high lord or princess as one of his or her confidants, respectively. Hell, why stop there? Why not be the sole hero, or the sole confidant?

The ends of RPGs are thus. Immersion is the RPG’s aim. Empowerment is the RPG’s name. Those who play the roleplaying game are allowed to lose themselves in fantastical and brave settings, brave new worlds to conquer or become a part of, new narratives of which to consciously carve out as one’s own, like a knife to a landmark. This all still begs the question of why MMORPGs. Why are just plain old RPGs not enough for MMORPG players?

Last, then, is the aspect of MMO. Now, I’m not going to say that all people who enjoy MMORPGs are of a certain, peculiar nature, but people that play them tend to have… certain interests or display… peculiar idiosyncrasies. I’m, of course, no exception. Yet it needs to be said that neither certain interest nor peculiar idiosyncrasy denote, by absolute default, anti-sociability.

Players are people, and people, boiled down, are social creatures. As social creatures, we want social reference, desire social interaction, crave social reference somewhere with someone, whether that be in the form of a companion or even a competitor. More often than not, as “certain” and “peculiar” probably denote, this demographic of interest and idiosyncrasy comprise the minority in the general population. Moreover, this demographic is relatively sparse and widely distributed amongst towns, cities, and countrysides. And yet remarkably, the digital worlds of MMORPGs bring these relatively sparse and widely distributed people together into one forum, which even there can be divided into even more numerous subforums, guilds, in other words. The result is a community, some being tighter than others, a culture where dividing associations melt away in perceived gravity of mine and thine due to the time spent playing together, the bonds of fellowship forged through virtual combat and craft. A band of brothers… of sorts.

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