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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Monday, March 14, 2005
Notes: Virtual Crime
I was doing some housekeeping in my mailreader, and ran across the following in my Drafts folder. I commonly write my weblog posts in a disposable e-mail, and cut-and-paste them over later on. This one has been sitting there since early 2004. Clearly, I'm never going to finish, but here are my initial notes. Basically, I planned on outlining my first person accounts of crimes I have witnessed (or have been involved in) that took place in a virtual world, and contrasting them with their real world equivalents. Might have been cute, but after several false starts, I put it aside. Here are my notes, if anyone is interested.

Recently, I read a BBC News article titled Does virtual crime need real justice? It describes, in broad terms, how crimes are taking place in online games, and how the authorities (at least in some countries) are starting to take them seriously. There's nothing particularly enlightening in the article. Anyone who has played a MMORPG for any length of time knows that there are con artists in the virtual world, just like in the real world. And I can see most of you shaking your head now. Some game geek somewhere loses a few pixels, ones, and zeroes in his computer game, and he wants to call the cops?!? Please! He needs to step away from the computer and invest his monthly game fee in getting a life!

And, even though I'm a longtime online gamer, I agree... To a point. Most "crimes" in the online world are petty annoyances. Even acts that would be considered felonies in the real world are seldom met with more than a complaint to a Game Master (GM, referred to by different titles in each game) and a "Duuude! That sucks!" from fellow gamers.

Since I just finished My Tiny Life by Julian Dibbell, this issue has been on my mind.

A Rape in Cyberspace
The In-game Economics of Ultima Online
Rare (at the time) Horned Tribal MaskCoveted True Black Robe (simulated)
noctalis.com :: Ultima Online :: Rares :: Dye Tubs
noctalis.com :: Ultima Online :: Rares :: Gift Item List
noctalis.com :: Ultima Online :: Rares :: Rare Item List

-Medievia: CPK zones. Not whoever was best, but who had the best macros. Often entire combats were fought by machine, using TinTin scripts. Grey area (at the time), but not strictly illegal.
-Theft of bedroll in UO. Petty annoyance, but could have cause real problems. Frustration at having no recourse.
-Cornering and harassment by player using an illegal macro and illegal speed increasing package. Explain how he repeatedly tried to steal from my inventory in order annoy me enough to attack, thereby skirting the notoriety hit for player killing (after a theft attempt, a player can retaliate without taking a notoriety hit, and the defender can defend himself without a hit- shortlived hack, Byzantine notoriety laws). Explain CPK vs. NPK vs. Lawful. Detail why: the rares. Explain ultra-rare status of tribal mask (at the time). Explain the origin of the black robe (1997 Christmas, low notoriety score gets a lump of coal, lump of coal and dye tub makes extremely rare "true black" dye tub). Neither item gave any kind of stat or power boost. Just looked cool. Liken to killing someone for their tennis shoes. Could have called a GM, but that seldom works, they seldom show up in a timely fashion, and I had no way to prove the crime- he'd just stop using the illegal software add-on when a GM showed, and act innocent and slighted. GM policing is laughably ineffectual.
-Vigalante justice. Hovered near a corpse too long. Thought they saw me steal from a corpse. Ultimately led to irrecoverable character death in a remote location. Loss of all goods. Quit the game in disgust soon after. Player solutions are unsatisfactory, too.
-Fraud in SWG. Early on, when characters were able to make items and edit the item titles. In the first month or two, the item inspection tools were lacking. So for a time, an unscrupulous player could fashion a cheap item and sell it as an expensive item to a newbie. Quick technical fix, but not before dozens were defrauded.

So what's my point? Was I the victim of any kind of real crime? Maybe, maybe not. In some cases, I was robbed of time.


And that's it. Okay, I've posted it. Now I can delete it from my e-mail.
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