On this day six years ago, April 20th, 2015, the LBP Union ratified a new constitution called the Novus Carta. Although this was a very different time for the Union and very different circumstances, lessons we've learned from that day and beyond have helped us grow into the community we are today.
It seems a bit ridiculous in retrospect. How can politics and LittleBigPlanet be so related? Why was a voting system like this ever considered? What was the point of it? How does this have anything to do with what the LBP Union is doing now?
We don't celebrate Novus Carta day because we want to glorify a better time. It's clear that the political focus of the Union in 2015 was not what was best for LittleBigPlanet. However, it was a big step in our growth. We learned a lot from this event, and it's a big steppingstone toward where we are today. Instead let's celebrate Novus Carta Day by celebrating the progress we have made as groups and individuals.
A Different Time
The LBP Union was much different in 2015, even more different than when the alliance was first founded in 2009. However, it had very similar goals to what we have today. My good friend Calvin, CCSocalGamer in game, described the Union as being "a hub of both political and creative intrigue. Just like the forum and discord today we endeavored to provide a safe space for creative minds across the spectrum while still maintaining a level of integrity that fell in line with our values and the Terms of Service."
Calvin was the LBP Union's Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2015, and I was its President. As you can imagine, the LBP Union was much more politically focused for LittleBigPlanet clans back then, and this political focus I believe often made us blind to more useful ways to reach out and connect with members of the community.
Lachlan, Lgmpm in game, was our Vice President at the time. I reached out to him as well to hear his thoughts. "The Union was a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of and a highlight of my life thus far. Everyone was incredibly kind and like-minded. Cooperating on many things ranging from basic level design to complicated level features and also just a place to hang out and talk to some incredible people."
Before The Novus Carta
The LBP Union prior to 2015 had just come out of a period of dormancy. In 2011, the alliance had been shattered by a dispute between the younger leaders, a schism. The Union split apart and did not rejoin until December 14th, 2013. When it did reform, it was guided by a document called the Constitution.
The LBP Union's goal at this time was to unite different clans together and give them a platform to talk and collaborate with one another. However, it suffered from a few problems that the Union needed to overcome. Few people knew how to participate in its political system or felt comfortable doing so. More felt skeptical that it was even necessary.
A Flawed Constitution
A guiding document or charter like a constitution is helpful in more than just political contexts. Clubs, creative studios, businesses, and more use documents like these to help guide the actions of their team and keep things fair. So, what is a constitution?
A constitution is a document with instructions about how to operate an organization. It tells us how we should work together to make decisions. Rules and actions that a group takes should never go against what was agreed upon in the organization's constitution.
But what if there is something wrong in the constitution? The LBP Union faced this issue throughout 2014 and early 2015, as we realized a critical flaw with the system: the Union was guided by direct democracy. At first glance, this seems great. Everyone who is a member of any of the LBP Union's member clans could vote on new rules. However, this proved to be extremely challenging due to voter apathy and vote collection. What the Union really needed was a representative democracy, where a smaller group of people chosen by the Union's member clans were the ones who voted for new legislation.
Instead of amending the Constitution, we chose to replace it with something more robust, an entire overhaul of the document. To do that, however, we needed to cooperate with everyone involved with the Union at the time. It was a huge conversation between clan leaders and members. We eventually agreed on the Novus Carta ("new charter") as the solution, replacing direct democracy with representative democracy.
"The Novus Carta addressed the growing political apathy within the Union" Lachlan recalls. "This was a concerning issue raised at many meetings. It was difficult at the time to see many promising clans removed for a lack of attendance and participation at summit meetings. Often there wasn't any notice from those who couldn't attend."
More importantly, the Novus Carta acted as a huge motivator for action. Calvin remarks, "The Novus Carta was the engine that got the Union vehicle out of the mud of stagnation. It allowed us to move forward with action while still listening to the members that make the Union what it is."
"Since the Novus Carta's ratification, the participation in the Union's political aspect was revived," Lachlan explains. Indeed, a system less reliant on direct democracy certainly was helpful for the Union.
It's a strange story for many. Why bother bringing politics into LittleBigPlanet?
At its core: we wanted to give people a voice, but didn't quite understand how. Overall, the reason politics was so focused on in the Union was that we believed that we could utilize political tools in a way that would allow us to listen to the ideas of everyone involved. The intention behind direct democracy in the beginning was to empower LittleBigPlanet players to have a say in their community. However, this wasn't the most efficient or comfortable way for them to do so, and so the Novus Carta was a way of improving the system. However, the political elements still alienated many who weren't comfortable with it.
In short, there were good intentions, but the means to fulfill our goal weren't fully realized just yet.
Critiquing the Novus Carta
The Novus Carta certainly wasn't a perfect solution, but it was a better one. It enabled groups in the Union to work together to decide on new legislation and helped provide a place for better dialogue to take place. This allowed us to collaboratively solve problems much more effectively.
Political elements and ways of structuring organizations aren't bad. They are helpful in many cases, but we have to draw a line between what is useful structure and what isn't. The image that it takes is also important. People don't play LittleBigPlanet to engage in politics. They play the game because they like playing, creating and sharing. However, everyone's voice needs to be heard. The Novus Carta and the Union's political system in 2015 attempted to reconcile that, but leaned too far into the direction of emulating a real world country. Because of that, it alienated people from bringing up issues that mattered to them and from participating in the Union.
Learning From the Novus Carta
But the story doesn't stop there. In fact, it still hasn't ended. We continued to grow and learn about how we can best help the community. Calvin reflects on our growth, "the biggest thing we've learned is methods of dealing with those who would see us fall. Not only to block out the problem, but to use it as a catalyst."
The Union has faced a number of trolls, malicious persons, and well, outright enemies. It's not exactly a pretty story and we're willing to admit that. However, over time we have learned much more constructive ways of dealing with these kinds of problems and showing others how to do the same. Calvin continues, "We do our best to channel people's restless energy into proving trolls wrong through creative means and unity itself. Standing together, the community can realize no troll can cause even a scratch." Instead of fighting and arguing with trolls, we can focus on creating and doing what we love instead.
"What I've learned from the Union", Lachlan explains, "is that given enough time, a diverse group of individuals can develop into a group advocating for greater cooperation among members and non-members alike. The Union truly did develop into something where people could really Play, Create, Share, and Unite on LittleBigPlanet."
Keep Moving Forward
Even with allegations that the LittleBigPlanet servers may have been brought down by a malicious denial of service attack, the LittleBigPlanet community is still here. Ideas and imagination can't be destroyed. We shouldn't validate people who do bad things by giving them attention. It draws our attention away from all the great creative things that we could be doing instead.
We are still learning about how to best let your voice be heard in the community. Most recently, we have been empowering LittleBigPlanet fans on our Discord server, forum, the Pathfinder program and providing the community with reliable news and resources about LittleBigPlanet. We still have way more coming your way, so stay tuned.
Thank you for your support and for the passion that you have for LittleBigPlanet!