Online Gamer Stabbed - A Case for a Virtual Police Force and Courts?

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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.

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5 responses

  1. Avatar for Walt
    Walt March 31st, 2005

    The problem with having a virtual dispute resolution process is that gamers, who live in the real world, want real world retribution. Would the gamer in the article been happy if his competitor's character had gone to virtual prison, or paid a virtual fine? He might have stabbed the guy anyway. When virtual assets have real world value, real world solutions are needed.

  2. Avatar for haacked
    haacked March 31st, 2005

    I was intending that to have real resolutions. For example, a virtual police officer would investigate the theft and selling, track down the buyer, inform him that he has stolen property and ... Ok, that's being silly.

    Well the in-game process might involve the guilty party to compensate the aggrieved with virtual assets of equal value. If the arbitration process couldn't come up with a solution, then they'd take it to the real law. I'm only throwing this out there. I'm not sure if it'd work in real life (or virtual).

  3. Avatar for Guido
    Guido April 2nd, 2005

    I do mainly play WoW, and in this game, it's incredibly simple. Everything that is in the game is owned by Blizzard, the player simply has the licence to use it and is not allowed to even sell it on eBay. This forbids any real-world value.

    Simply put: It's only a game, and nothing that ever happens in there should ever affect the real world, and no player has the right to stab anybody to dead because the other guy just unlawfully used the first guy's assets. Those assets are all Blizzard's anyway.

  4. Avatar for SqueeD
    SqueeD April 21st, 2005

    I was just suggesting to my Fiancee that it's time I got out of developement and moved to Virtual property assessment.

    While I was kidding around, it is possible for this to happen, I don't doubt that a reliable ROI/risk assessmenet study could mean that Insurers start taking on virtual possessions. The GDP for virtual trade as a whole is eclipsing the GDP of a good deal of countries already - I don't have a source for this anymore but it has been taken as a serious economic study.

  5. Avatar for Sneshatha
    Sneshatha June 1st, 2005

    i fink him ova dere did it i do, he luks a bit dodgy to me, he also looks likes he gots a guilty consience bout summat.