"Do cheaters in the game also tend to be lawbreakers (I'm thinking of smallish things like speeding and other traffic offenses - not like murder) in real life? (Or the other way around.) "
No, but they do tend to be remarkably selfish people. The stereotype of the 15-year-old teen male using hacks to frag people in counterstrike is fairly accurate in my experience (though they may not always be 15...); it's fun for THEM, and they don't care about whether it's fun for anybody else. if you bitch about them cheating, or do something so they can't cheat, then youre raining on THEIR parade. In their eyes, it's all about THEM.
"Are there "types" of people in the game with more or less predictable reactions toward interacting with the game with respect to its rules? (Cheaters, rule followers, those who cheat a bit but not much, those who cheat but insist everyone else follow the rules.) "
Yes. You have the whole D&D spectrum of Chaotic Evil to Lawful Good. I can recall many entire series' of MUD political strife caused by differences of opinion based on people who had very different outlooks in extremely simple issues.
The amusing thing is that the people who play the games for the enjoyment of the games are retreating back into SP (single player) for their guaranteed environments. In the middle are the people who still play MP (Multi Player) but in secluded environments like small group servers or only with friends. And then there are the full-MP'ers, who are currently driving the gaming market to the extent that MP-only games are coming out more and more often. Sadly, no game is safe from the Million Monkeys Effect (MME). They all get h4x0r3d.
"How are the rules created and is there a relationship between the creation process and the ease with which they are circumvented? "
It depends on the administrators of the game, mostly. Some rules are hard-coded into the game by the game creators, but many more rules are created by game administrators to promote an enjoyable environment for as many people as possible. Unfortunately, many administrators 1) start making rules rather arbitrarily as the issues present themselves, 2) become enamoured of their own power and influence (made worse by people who suck up to them to be on their good side), and as a side effect 3) rarely go back and revise their rulesets to accomodate a changing environment (out of arrogance, or fear of appearing to be a weak ruler, or both).
Socially created rules rely upon the society to enforce them. Ultimately this falls to the Administrators, since they have the power to kick/ban players. Of course, for persons determined to cheat or ruin the experience for the other players, there are various ways to circumvent the Administrators' power, and this can end up destroying the environment and poisoning it.
technical rules help out since they are much more difficult to overcome, but again, the truly dedicated will find a way. (the million monkeys effect again.)
"To what extent are the rules in such a game a voluntary "social contract" and to what extent are they imposed by a force perceived to be external and out of the players control? Would the players behave differently if they had more control over the rules? "
Amongst the people I play with, they are almost completely a social contract. In Counterstrike, I play with people who have known each other for some time and so a close-knit network forms of people who are (relatively speaking) quite certain as to the cheat status of each other. In NWN, we play mostly with Friends or on LAN parties (where you can physically thump cheaters, not that there's much point to cheating in NWN anyway). So the answer to your question is that in the higher-level (quality-wise) gaming groups, most players would not behave differently with respect to cheating because they are mature enough to realize that cheating would invalidate the point of playing the game in the first place.
"Suppose two games were created with otherwise identical rules - one for the rule followers and one for the "cheaters". Would the cheaters self-segregate? (Also, what would the rules for the cheater's game actually be?) "
The rule followers would mostly segregate themselves, however, the cheaters would not. There are quite a few cheaters who are completely bored with a game, and get their enjoyment by ruining the experience of others by using cheats. (kind of like using god mode in SP games, except more fun because you're pissing off other people instead of just killing mindless pixels.) these people would therefore infiltrate the non-cheater servers and ruin them as well. (because well, what's the point of using cheats against other cheaters? then the playing field is level again.)
"Suppose that the game itself had rules about what the cheaters might do with associated actions (which might be effectively penalties - ferinstance "travel faster than light can result in the traveller being teleported to a random position in the universe."). How would this change the behavior of those who might otherwise cheat? (Of course there's a hidden question here - how long would it take them, or others, to find ways to exploit the penalties?) "
It's not a bug, it's a feature! :)
Seriously, though, a game requires very tight design to contain rulesets that are not exploitable. the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) must be obeyed quite strongly to avoid rule conflict (and the accompanying meta-rules to handle rule conflict resolution).
The answer to how long would it take them to find ways to exploit the penalties: hardly any time at all. Humans are adaptable, after all. Someone somewhere would find a use for it.
"Given a game with published rules (the ones given in the official description of the game) and hidden rules (imposed by technology, restrictions of the client and the like) how long does it take for players to understand the hidden rules and how good is that understanding?"
It depends on the players, how much they play, how intelligent they are at interpreting patterns and indirect data, ... etc. But in general the best players figure it out more quickly. Over time, the best and midlevel players tend to figure these things out (kind of like The Matrix -- they figure out the game engine/reality, and then use that knowledge to work within and without the framework) but the lower level players don't always graduate to the next level of knowledge. Most people that stick with it figure it out though.
Amongst the primier players of a game, their understanding of the engine, rulesets, and hidden consequences can rival and even exceed that of the game designers. (Players often interact with things inside the game that are unintended consequences of decisions that designers made that they didn't think of at the time.)
"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world"
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