It is widely believed that self-regulating online communities have ended. This has led to users being unable to try new forms of social organization. Many commercial platforms today impose strict rules on their communities, leaving little space for users to organize. Yet, there are still environments available that allow communities to experiment with new ways of living together. Minecraft is one example of such an environment.
Minecraft allows players to manage their servers using traditional legal tools and software plugins. This gives us the rare opportunity to look at self-made rulesets, without having to separate them from non-negotiable commercial rules. An exploratory qualitative analysis was done on a number of rulesets. We mainly focused on two aspects of server governance: the interaction between traditional legal rules and algorithmic governance mechanism and the forms and government that players create. Written and encoded rules complement each other, but they don't replace one another, we found.
Most Minecraft servers are “benevolent dictatorships,” but some server rulesets indicate a willingness to adhere to power-limiting rules in the same way as constitutional documents that limit the power of the monarch.