:: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 ::

Fictitious Capitalism

Game Journalism: Virtual Mugging Leads to Real Arrest: "Japanese police have arrested a Lineage II gamer for creating a bot-controlled character that acquired a huge cache of game assets through 'virtual muggings' of overmatched players, and then sold them through an auction site. The perpetrator of the virtual crime spree was a Chinese exchange student, according to the writeup in New Scientist:

Several players had their characters beaten and robbed of valuable virtual objects, which could have included the Earring of Wisdom or the Shield of Nightmare. The items were then fenced through a Japanese auction website, according to NCsoft, which makes Lineage II. The assailant was a character controlled by a software bot, rather than a human player, making it unbeatable.

The incident highlights a harsh reality of the new virtual economy: when game assets have cash value, obtaining them illegally can land you in jail. But what is 'illegal' in a virtual world? Do game publishers' terms of service become de facto criminal statutes that extend into the real world? Bots and mods that juice gaming capabilities are creating some interesting offline ramifications these days, and this is one more area where 'meatspace' mechanisms for sorting out such dilemmas will be tested."

This story sets the grey matter turning. It is a reality that capital in the form of "money" largely does not really exist. It exists electronically. If we all went to the bank to get our money, it would not be there, the banks would collapse. So is stealing game "cash" any different legally or morally than stealing "real" cash? The answer, I suspect, is that it depends on whether it is judged to affect the system or not. As there are now actual third world sweatshops producing credits/xp points etc for the likes of Warcraft and other MMORPG's and selling them on, then the line between fictitious capital in a game and in a bank is getting slimmer every day, although there is nothing fictitious about the surplus value being produced by the sweat shop workers.

:: Alister | 12:29 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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