Who Do You Blame When Your Virtual Bank Fails?

from the should-have-thought-about-that-earlier dept

It’s not like there haven’t been warnings about the blurring boundary between online games and the real world when it comes to the legal system. In all of these online worlds, especially when real money gets involved, people just aren’t clear as to whether or not in game actions have real world legal implications. On the one hand, you have people who will say that if something of real value is “stolen” in the game, that’s a crime. Something of value has been lost. However, this gets tricky when you realize that some online games have theft or other crimes as a part of the gameplay on purpose. If stealing goods from other players is a part of the game, how can it be illegal outside of the game? So, even if it’s not a major part of the game — or if it’s a programming flaw that allows it — how can it be fair to say it’s “illegal”? So, now, take that same issue to a larger scale. What if someone sets up an in-game bank? Then, it turns out the bank is actually a scam, and the owner simply takes all the money people gave him and runs? That’s apparently exactly what happened recently. It may be tempting to say the guy committed real fraud — but, again, the game let him do this. There was no guarantee within the game that the bank was legit. There was no FDIC “backing” the bank. There was a very real risk in putting money into that bank, but people did so by choice, as part of the game. The real issue is that too many online worlds are really just punting on the issue of an in-game legal system or conflict resolution system. They’re forgetting that they’ve basically built a world — and that world needs some sort of legal system as well. If there’s a problem, then let the in-game mechanisms sort out the results or punishment. Because, if there isn’t an official law enforcement/judicial process, you’ll get the next best thing: an online mafia who will run the online world for you. Either way, that’s still better than cluttering up the real world courts over these types of disputes.

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Comments on “Who Do You Blame When Your Virtual Bank Fails?”

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Gamer says:

Legal System?

I assume you are talking about Online Worlds, in which case people are part of guilds. If they scam others, then they get punished by their guilds, or their guilds go off seeking retribution from the people involved. It’s an ingame legal system created by the guilds themselves, or at least the constituants of the guilds.

Why program it if you can socially engineer it?

Thedude says:

Re: Legal System?

True and many of these banks are created and supported by the guild leaders themselves. In a large enough guild, as you say, other leaders can distribute punishment, but what recourse is available when all the leaders are in on the scam? Your best option is to leave the guild and start up anew, feeling deceived, and a little more wary. It kind of adds a sour taste to the term cooperative game play.

phr0ze says:

Not a solution

Most of the scammers have multiple accounts. It’s not like RL where you only have one. punishing in game doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have real world concequences for actions that have a real world effect. A possible solution would be to have every account put down a $20 security deposit. Then you can have a in game law system that can cost that player the $20. I know there are scams that cost people more than that, but this will discourage the petty stuff which leads to the bigger scams.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Leagal Precidence

There is a legal precedence for this. A few years back, in Everquest I believe, there was a server crash and a lot of people lost including a person who had built a castle. The owners of the server couldn’t do anything to bring it back so the guy sued them and won. They had to pay him a lot of money for it because he could have sold it on eBay. That shows there are real world consequences to online actions.

Jaymes says:

Is murder ok then?

Let me get this straight… Player 1 attacks monsters and other players, killing them and taking their belongs as his own.

Player 2 comes along and steals those items (or items bought from the proceeds) from Player 1.

Now people want to say that Player 2 is guilty of REAL theft?

Ok, I’ll buy that… Just as soon as Player 1 gets arrested for REAL murder, cruelty to animals and/or assult.

Is the difference here really that Player 2 was ‘nice’ enough to NOT take Player 1’s character’s life at the time the goods were harvested?

…or am I off base and killing isn’t a part of these games? Last I knew it was…

XCetron says:

Why in the world do the courts even allowed these cases to go to them in the first place? This is clearly something that has nothing to do with the legal system. If they want the ability to sue people left and right in videogames as well then maybe they’d also prefer to have tight security and everything. Everything you earned get taxed on, to be able to ride a horse or some sort of vehicle you need to have insurance, then you cannot just say what ever you want since it could be discriminating some one else. Also you can no longer carry weapons around when youre in cities and other largely populated areas.

Thatd make the games so much more fun…….

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, I fail to comprehend how our President is responsible for this. Good grief people, everybody is responsible for their own actions. Out President’s job is to run our country, not save idiots from themselves. Quit playing the blame game and suck it up for once.

That being said, I’ve about had it up to here (*raises hand above head*) with online game worlds. If people are being allowed to open banks and take people’s money, something is seriously wrong, and I don’t think it’s a lack of a legal system. The problem is that way too many people are living in a fantasy world, and they need to start living in reality again. Anybody who is stupid enough to put money into a bank in a video game that has no insurance backing of any sort deserves to be ripped off. Honestly, everytime I think the phrase “common sense” is making a revival, I see something that just further reinforces how much it’s actually going the other way.

Lay Person says:

It is a legal matter

This IS a legal matter.

It seems that this person possessed something of value. Even if it was a virtual “thing”; it exitsts and has an intrinsic value.

If the game’s server crashes and that thing of value is lost forever, someone (the server admins) are responsible for that loss. Unless there is some sort of release form that is signed by the server user, whoever runs that server is responsible.

Kilroy says:

Our government has more problems to worry about than the level 42 paladin who runs around ninjaing sweet loot and pwning unsuspecting noobs.

But seriously, the programmers/company created this universe, they are responsible for governing it.

If you aren’t supposed to in-game kill, steal, scam, etc. the programmers/company need to make it impossible or suspend/terminate guilty accounts.

There is no law against cheating in a video game and lets pray to god there never is.

Shadow says:

Reality vs. Fantasy.....we learned the difference

“If the game’s server crashes and that thing of value is lost forever, someone (the server admins) are responsible for that loss”

How is that fair? Unless the admins blatanly ignored the condition of their servers they should not be responsible when one decides to spontaneuosly crash. Computers and servers are still not very reliable and if they’re doing everything in their power to save it and it still crashes that isn’t their fault. Some computers and servers can’t be saved.

As for the bank issue: Still a little confused, did they put real money into the bank or the game money? If it was game money then what is the big deal? I game an awful lot but when I lose game money due to an error i make, an ingame element, or someone else ripping me off I don’t call the police and raging on about how I was just ripped off by a video game, hehe.

If virtual “theft” is treated as a real-life crime then video games should stop being made all together. The reason is that the lawyers of the monsters killed would start popping up, you’d bearrested for murder, assault, (technically) grave robbing, and being a public nuisance.

Where would the line be drawn?

The Man says:

You have to be joking

I know that there are socially retarded nerds and dorks out there, but I had no idea the extent of it. Online Worlds with banking and crap? Worrying about theft inside a video game? I had no idea. Thank you TechDirt for reporting this. I now know that even with my faults there are people way worse off than me out there. It is a video game people, like Ms. Pac man and Donkey Kong. Go find a girl friend. There are plenty of overweight, stinky, socially retarded women who would be happy to have a overweight, stinky, parents housing living, socially retarded man.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You have to be joking

That’s a little cruel, wouldn’t you agree? I game quite a bit and I have a very active social life. The gamer stereotype (like so many other stereotypes) isn’t necessarily true. I can talk video game talk for sometime with someone and workout while doing so. I have a non-gamer boyfriend and don’t try to force video games on him.

Just saying is all….

Annonymous Hero says:

Just so everyone knows

Annonymous Hero is not my real name. It is my in forum name, if I have infringed anyones rights to use this name I would like to issue a formal appology. So here is my forum lawyer “Ambalanse Chazer” to speak on my behalf.

” ha ha gimme you money and all your virtual dancing girls cuz I gonna be ritch!”

HistPerp says:

Perhaps if you had done your homework...

Perhaps if y’all had bothered to actually read Locke’s Second Treatise on Gov’t or Hobbes’ Leviathan all this wouldn’t actually be that surprising.

What we have on line are multiple microcosms of human interaction with little fear of repercussion. The State of Nature writ in glorious realtime.

IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property. (2nd Tr., §123)

Wonder when we’ll start to see reports of spontaneous gov’ts based upon social contract… whoops the Guilds are already in place aren’t they?


Dan says:

Re: Re: Perhaps if you had done your homework...

#32 Yep, everyone should read that one. Excellent quote, and very good point.

This is why online worlds fascinate me so much. Some of these dynamics are absolutely mind blowing. I honestly haven’t spent too much time in these imaginary worlds, but Second Life is the most interesting I’ve seen. There’s no point, other than interaction (at least as far as I can see).

I wonder if some academics are studying online worlds out there… because I think they should.

A lot of info on sociology and group dynamics could be garnered from that kind of research.


Reid says:

get over real life

Any in game item or structure takes time and effort to build. Just like having to work for your paycheck or hammer together a chair. It is the effort that someone puts into the item that gives it the value, which is why an antique hand crafted ebony chair has more value than a normal black plastic chair at ikea that you put together yourself. That is how value is assigned.

So, following that logic if someone puts months of time into building some virtual castle and then wants to sell it to another human who does not want to expend the effort to build it themself, they can come to some agreement on the price and make the transaction. This is no different than a craftman selling his goods at an auction.

The arguement here is not whether or not people who play video games are cool or not, it is how should these transactions be allowed and protected. Just because some people choose to value going out in the real world as being a better human, does not mean everyone agrees with that. Some people do not do well in the real world, while others can do both very effectively, but insulting people for having a particular hobby will not help this argument at all. People collect stamps, they run marathons, they play sports, they watch TV, they watch movies, they play video games. It is no one’s right to imposed some ranking of real life value of those activities on each other and in doing so you just sound like a biggot.

In my opinion these games SHOULD have some in game mechanic to deal with such transaction and thus protect against scams and frauds. As someone already said these in game items do have intrinsic value, both to the seller and to the buyer. This makes them valuable just like anything else.

This article was trying to point out that because of the lack of these in game mechanics, the players are foced to use black market methods to trade and barter these items which opens them up to scams. Who is responsible? The game makers are. Just like when the government imposed laws agains drinking. Did this mean everyone gave up alcohol and moved on, calling all that continued to drink alcohol idiots? No, in fact a HUGE underground organized crime regime was formed to continue the sales of alcohol, costing that same government huge amounts of money to track down and punish. We all know how that ended.

This is a valuable discussion because lots of money that flows through our economy is based in these virtual worlds. Companies like Blizzard (creater of world of warcraft) make over 50 million a month in revenue from said games and even more money is spent in black market trades that happen outside of the game to sell items, characters, and even full accounts. Just like the prohibition, its time for the authorities of these worlds to choose which is a better solution, policing and punishing the offenders, or allowing these transactions and taxing them in order to fund protective services to help the community.

mroonie (user link) says:

A mere reflection.....

Although nothing exactly like this has happened in the online virutla gaming world, there have been similar incidents that makes one realize that whatever the real world does, it will be reflected in the virtual worlds as well. This particular blog post links to some relevant articles on this topic and provides some insight on the issue.


Anonymous Hero says:

#29 #30

I am remembered of a topic once discussed where in content was based on the use of sarcasm in text. Clearly I know how to use the spell check on my computer as is you will see a lack of any misspellings, and the ones I use are purely intentional.

So by this logic using “oxi-moron” I too was using text sarcasm to call you an Oxi (using term to make note of your oxi pad face) and a moron; for using, in any since justified or not, the words Virtual and Exists in the same sentence to describe the same object. So in conclusion of this retort, I respond to your school yard antics once again calling upon the power of text sarcasm with… You “Lay Person” are a poop head stinky face pants head.

With a follow up 8p

the Game says:

Screwed over

If the game f%@ked you, then go play another MMORPG. Beside gil-sellers, there have been no complaints about FFXI, and they do an awsome job of fixing exploits. Tried and true. I play games for fun, which is why games were origianally invented. They were not invented for business. I could in part blame the software creators for this. They should have a disclaimer…

“By playing [the game], you understand that all items, monies, landmasses and structures are property of [the software company]. You further understand that any off-world profit making should comply with [insert country] laws, and you will not hold [software company] responsible for any bugs, glitches, crashes that may occur in [the game]. In otherwords, YOU RUN THE RISK B!TCH. Press OK to continue.”

Bobloblaw says:

WoW rules yet again

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t see any of this kind of thing happen in World of Warcraft. Blizzard did an awesome job of removing the crap that makes these games suck, for instance you cannot loot other players even if you kill them in PvP (player vs. player). Also you cannot even attack another player unless they choose to go into PvP mode. I have been playing for a year now and have never lost a single item, nothing has been stolen, I may have paid too much for some items on the auction house but that’s my fault and I’m fine with it. It’s in-game money anyway and I’ve never bought gold with real money.

All these other MMORPGs need to follow Blizzard’s lead and remove the player looting mechanics and whatever else they allow that makes these discussions even relevant. The fact is this whole discussion is irrelevant in the context of WoW. The only bad thing about WoW is that some people spend a little too much time playing it.

Bobloblaw says:


Because other companies can make games with different genres such as superheroes (City of Heroes), SciFi (Star Wars Galaxies) and more, there are plenty of options for game companies to compete in the MMORPG segment. I’m just saying they should follow Blizzard’s example of removing the lame things about the games that makes it possible for people to abuse the system.

Buying gold is not that big of a deal since people have to farm for the resources anyway, which we all do to make in-game money for ourselves. They don’t hack the system to steal gold, they obtain it legitimately, it’s just the concept of selling that gold for real money that’s questionable. But it still doesn’t harm players directly since you will not login one day to find out someone stole all your gold, that just doesn’t happen AFAIK.

I used to love Diablo up until I decided to try it online, only to get ganked before the load screen even completed and all my crap was gone. I never played it online again, just played against the computer or with friends. The fact that this is not possible in WoW is one of the main reasons why I continue to play it 3-4 hours a day even after a year. BTW I have a life, I play late at night after the wife & kids are asleep, from 10pm-1am or so. I also shower regularly. I just don’t sleep much…

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