Did you read about the Chinese online gamer who stabbed a competitor after the competitor sold his borrowed virtual sword?

One phrase in the article caught my attention:

But other experts are calling for caution. “The ‘assets’ of one player could mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers,” a lawyer for a Shanghai-based Internet game company was quoted as saying.

I don’t buy that argument as I told my friend Walter who wrote about this from a legal perspective. The argument that the “assets” of one player means nothing to others just because its virtual actually applies to all property, physical or otherwise.

If society in general decides that virtual assets are somehow inherently different than physical assets, then it behooves the gaming companies to create a microcosm of the real world within the virtual space. Think about it for a second. If I’m paying $20 to $40 a month (not to mention my time) to play some online game, I want to make sure that if someone swindles me of property that has real-world market value, I have some means for recompense.

Can you picture it? Using a portion of the online gaming fees, these gaming companies might neet do hire virtual police force where characters can resolve violations of the “law”. Likewise you might start a character to be a virtual lawyer to handle arbitration between characters. Heck, I’d probably create a character and provide consulting work within the virtual market

Look, your dragon slaying operations is suffering from bottlenecks at the weapons manafacturing plant. I’ve got some magic potions here that will integrate your Dwarven procurement system with an EERP (Elven ERP) system providing efficiencies in your supply chain. I can also build you a portal.

The problem with this of course is that a game world is not meant to be like the real world. For example most MMORPGs involve a lot of killing. Some even allow killing other characters. If my character were to kill your character and then take your stuff, should you be able to sue me for the real-world material value of your character’s possesions? That would certainly put a damper on the game.

I don’t think many game companies anticipated that virtual assets would command such real world market value and did not prepare for thes scenarios. It seems to me that they ought to require waivers from players indemnifying all other players and the company from any loss involving virtual assets. Either that, or put an in-game arbitration system in place and have players sign waivers stating they agree to resolve disputes via the in-game system first.