For years, we've discussed the eventual problems that various online worlds would face when problems flare up. At issue is that most of the companies who put together these games didn't take into account that they suddenly became the dictatorial government within the game. That raises some serious jurisdictional questions -- especially as some people start taking their complaints out of the virtual world and into the real world courts. People may complain if an in-game good that has real value outside of the game gets stolen, but how do you deal with it if stealing is supposed to be a part of the game? Since many of these games are supposed to be open to whatever you can do, it's hard to base a lawsuit on something that then is done in the game. Of course, rather than deal with this, it appears some games are simply punting the issue back to users, who have taken it upon themselves to form online communities to self-police in-game troublemakers. It must be a fascinating lab for any sociologist willing to study how these groups are forming and acting. Still, as in real life, there's always the risk that the self-forming self-policing community then gets a bit drunk with power, and becomes an online mafia.
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