Virtual crime in virtual worlds

The following are excerpts from a recent Washington Post article by Alan Sipress, Does Virtual Reality Need a Sheriff?

  1. “Earlier this year, one animated character in Second Life, a popular online fantasy world, allegedly raped another character.”
  2. “Then last month, authorities in Germany announced that they were looking into a separate incident involving virtual abuse in Second Life after receiving pictures of an animated child character engaging in simulated sex with an animated adult figure.”
  3. “In World of Warcraft… Gangs of animated characters have repeatedly preyed upon lone travelers, killing them and making off with their virtual belongings.”
  4. “Two years ago, Japanese authorities arrested a man for carrying out a series of virtual muggings in another popular game, Lineage II, by using software to beat up and rob characters in the game and then sell the virtual loot for real money.”
  5. “A participant in LambdaMOO, a community of users who congregated in a virtual California house, had used a computer program called a ‘voodoo doll’ to force another player’s character to act out being raped.”

Which of the above incidents warrant attention from authorities in the real world? Which would you criminalize?

I’m gonna go with none of the above.

The way I see it, the legitimacy of #3 and #4 depends entirely on what the rules of the game are as established by the private company that runs it, and is therefore under that company’s ‘jurisdiction’. There is nothing that prevents a player unsatisfied with the rules of a particular game from going off and playing a different game instead. (I recommend Solitaire!) And if a game loses players because the company has either defined poor rules or cannot enforce the rules that it has, it is entirely the company’s own problem and not society’s, is it not? (Unless the company has made false guarantees or falsely advertised, etc)

The article speaks of emotional distress the real person behind a character that is victim of a #1 or #5 may suffer. For such a person, the solution is absurdly simple–quit the damn program. Every PC is shipped with this nifty shutdown feature we should all learn how to use.

#2 of course is a joke since no real children are harmed by any of that.

Please do not interpret my dismissal of claims that any of the above behavior should be worthy of criminalization to be denials that such behavior may be, in fact, unethical. The frontier of online gaming is wild and lawless indeed.

H/T to CAD Developement

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