Call 911, He Stole My Magic Sword

from the the-sheriff-of-WoW dept

At a gaming conference, Microsoft warned that multi-player online games have significant security vulnerabilities, and that the growing value of in game assets was a juicy target for criminals. As we've seen in the past, MMORPGs are facing more and more real world complications as people invest an increasing amount of money into them. This problem is only going to get worse; as one Microsoft researcher put it, "The police are really good at understanding someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money. It's a lot harder to get them to buy into 'someone stole my magic sword.'" But before discussing how law enforcement can address the situation, game developers and players should try to define the border between the game and the real world. For example, most people would accept that if your character is mugged inside a game, then that's part of the gameplay, not a legal issue. But what about counterfeiting gold pieces? What about running a script inside the game that transfers gold from one player to another? Before diverting law enforcement resources to rectify players' complaints, companies running online games need to strive to develop their own security measures that satisfy their players.

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  1. identicon
    Ryan, 15 Aug 2006 @ 4:23pm

    Imaginary, eh?

    Of course, one could argue that intellectual property (an idea in one's head) is also "imaginary", and stealing this property should be punished. There should be no question that a "crime" has been committed. The question should be, "Who punishes the assailant and compensates the victim?"

    In the case of MMORPG theft, I believe that the TOS offers sufficient punishment for the offender. For the victim, it should be as simple as keeping an inventory log. Of course, the burden of all of this should be merely on the parent company. I say this now - No law enforcement dollars should ever be spent to recover in-game MMORPG losses.

    As for the people who purchase in-game collateral (gold, items, characters, etc.) with legal tender, they have already committed a violation against the parent company of the game. While we shouldn't celebrate such losses, we should also not compensate someone who "stole" this property in the first place. Unfortunately, there is often no way to trace the transaction to determine whether the item in question was sold or given to them.

    Some in-game items do take tremendous amounts of time and effort to attain, for the people that go about it as the game intended. In the end, though, it is still just a game and should be treated as such.

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