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When Is a Con Not a Con?

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the ethical-dilemmas-of-modern-life dept.

441

From the journals, here's some food for thought: Does a "crime" committed in an alternate world have any ramifications in the "real" world? Case in point is this article from the Gamers With Jobs site outlining the exploits of one Dentara Rask, a character in CCP's Eve Online massively multiplayer online world. According to the the article, Dentara Rask ran a Ponzi scheme within the game, amassing a large amount of on-line wealth (700 billion ISK), and then bragging about it. The question is posed: since a Ponzi scheme in real life is a punishable criminal offense, what about when it happens in a MMORPG? Assuming there are no rules within the game environment to prevent this, how would you go about punishing someone in the real world for something they did in an artificial one? And can they be punished?

cancel ×

441 comments

Cheating in video games (5, Insightful)

nosredna (672587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037814)

Trying to get any kind of RL punishment for this would be like calling the cops because somebody stole a stack of $500s during a game of Monopoly.

Re:Cheating in video games (3, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037828)

Exactly! Also, if anyone thought about this seriously for a long period of time then you shoudl consider getting professional help. You have lost touch with reality.

Re:Cheating in video games (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037874)

Except these online currencies end up being worth real money, do they not? The market determines an exchange rate to USD, as with any currency. So it could, arguably, be more like stealing the chips from a poker game. As I understand it, Las Vegas doesn't look kindly on that and you can go to jail.

Re:Cheating in video games (3, Insightful)

Dissman (997434) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037945)

Except in EON, buying or selling EON Currency on EBay is punishable by account banishment.

Re:Cheating in video games (5, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038056)

"Except these online currencies end up being worth real money, do they not?"

No. There is no actual scarcity and no central bank backing the currency, nor any financial controls. The same applies to any items and other 'valuables' in those games; any particular scarcity of any particular item is purely artificial and can be instantly changed at the whim of the company (or any less than honest admin or someone exploiting the game).

The lack of scarcity based value of course doesnt mean you cant pay to avoid actually playing the game (altho anyone actually paying to not play the game should seriously consider not playing the game for free and doing something else instead).

"So it could, arguably, be more like stealing the chips from a poker game."

Casinos back the chips. Most MMORPG's do not back their currencies.

Re:Cheating in video games (5, Insightful)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038059)

As I understand it, Las Vegas doesn't look kindly on that and you can go to jail.

Because it's not the same thing. When you go into a casino and purchase chips, you and the casino have an understanding that the chips are merely placeholders for real money, and are exchangeable as such within that casino only by the bearer. Thus, if you steal chips from the casino or from another player it's treated the same as if you took actual money, since there was that pre-agreed understanding that the casino will unconditionally buy the chips back at their face value regardless of who presents them. It's rather like stealing a bearer-only check - the check itself is not currency, but it is understood to represent it.

There is no such understanding regarding currencies in an online game, and the poster that compared it to stealing Monopoly money is exactly correct. The only difference is that there aren't many people willing to pay real money for Monopoly scrip, and thus it has a correspondingly low resale value in the real world. If someone is so wrapped up in some damn game that they're willing to spend real money just to increase their standing, that sounds to me like a problem for a psychiatrist, not the courts.

Re:Cheating in video games (4, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037883)

Well, I mostly agree... but... it's not so cut and dry as you make it seem. Think of a game like second life, where in-game money can be directly transferred back and forth for real world money. If someone ran a ponzi scheme in SL, should THAT be punishable with RL rules? Honestly, I haven't decided for myself yet what I think, but I think it's worth discussing where the line should be drawn.

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038079)

That is a more interesting question. In SL the currency is freely traded by third parties for USD, yet it's considered "units of license to utilize certain parts of the service", not money. That doesn't mean it's without value. I think the theft of SL currency (by anyone other than Linden Lab themselves) could probably be charged as a crime. It has a fair market value, and is freely and legally tradable.

Not quite... (2, Insightful)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037889)

The stack of $500's in monopoly has no very little intrinsic value based on labor, because it only takes a couple of bucks to get a whole new stack. Therefore, someone calling the police about a stolen stack of monopoly money is doing it for only sentimental reasons, or no good reasons at all. The amount of labor it takes to get the item outside of the game is much, MUCH, less than it is inside the game.

HOWEVER, these items in online games have MASSIVE intrinisic value based on labor. If there's only one of such item known in existence, and I've put 400 hours into obtaining said item, I can't simply go and pick up another one at the dollar store. There is no equivalent conversion in the real world, and if someone steals the item, they're essentially stealing 400 hours from my life. Those 400 hours of my life have massive value, both to me, and in the real world, where it could easily translate to $5000 or more dollars.

Saying that monopoly money is analogous to a super-rare item in one of these games isn't really true.

Re:Not quite... (2, Insightful)

Opie812 (582663) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037999)

The only reason this stuff is super rare is because some programmer says it is. Why wouldn't you just email the company and tell them you'd been ripped off. All they would need to do is something like: user.add(superRareItem);

Re:Not quite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16038027)

Gee comrade, thanks for sharing the Marxist point of view with us.

Re:Not quite... (4, Insightful)

Des Herriott (6508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038037)

HOWEVER, these items in online games have MASSIVE intrinisic value based on labor. If there's only one of such item known in existence, and I've put 400 hours into obtaining said item, I can't simply go and pick up another one at the dollar store.

Yeah, but that's 400 hours that you chose to spend on playing a game to obtain an item with no physical reality. It's rarity is irrelevant. You didn't have to spend that time obtaining said item, and the time you spent is - by definition - leisure time.

Which is why I doubt that any real-world court is going to offer much sympathy, unless the in-game object can be shown to have direct real-world value (as someone else pointed out, Second Life has an official means of converting in-game money to US Dollars). It's hard to argue that an unofficial black market for virtual items gives them any real-world value in a legal sense if that sort of trading is explicitly banned by the game developers.

Those 400 hours of my life have massive value, both to me, and in the real world, where it could easily translate to $5000 or more dollars.

If by that you mean that you could have earned $5000 in those 400 hours that you chose to spend playing a game, I suspect a defense lawyer's response might be "so why didn't you?".

Re:Not quite... (4, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038041)

An assembled cardboard puzzle with 5000 pieces has a high labor value under your definition. Somehow I think it would probably not be treated as a serious offence if someone stole it.

Re:Not quite... (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038067)

Except for the fact that, you know.... it's not a "super-rare item". It's not an item at all. It's this tiny little bit of data that could be replicated a million times much more easily than the monopoly money could be replicated-- it's only the game developers who are artificially setting the rarity of that data.

And there's nothing inherently valuable about that data either. You can't justify its worth by labor alone, since it's entirely possible to spend 400 hours on an endeavor that has no intrinsic value whatsoever. Spending 400 hours picking your nose wouldn't make your boogers valuable.

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037860)

This would still be theft, as the paper Monopoly money has a physical presence, and presumably belongs to you. The real world value isn't so important.

This story is silly on so many levels. Have virtual worlds become so real to us that we've lost sight of the fact that it's all just a game? It's supposed to be entertainment.

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

chrispycreeme (550607) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037926)

Except that according to the law the game currency doesn't have value. The federal government frowns on people who try to create a new currency, as do most governments I think. Just a point to one earlier poster too: the monopoly money that is stolen isn't legally stolen if it's never removed from the context of the game. If I walk out of your house and down the street with the fake money then it might be theft, but still only of something worth maybe a penny or two. My understanding is that it isn't possible to remove online game currency from the game.. where would you take it? IANAL blah blah blah.. I really think that people who get ripped off in the game need to solve it in the context of the game.. Or just go ride a bike or something and forget about it.

Re:Cheating in video games (2, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038032)

I would, but someone stole my bike. I was going to exchange my game currency for real money and buy a new bike, but now someone ripped off that too.

Re:Cheating in video games (5, Funny)

Ours (596171) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037933)

Damn right. Next thing they'll talk about puting in prison people who shoot each other in the game. Hey, murder is illegal isn't? Then why would a virtual scam be any different?

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038019)

How about this diffrence, A virtual murder no one is actually killed. Quite often a virtual scam, real money can be lost.

Just something to think about.

Re:Cheating in video games (2, Insightful)

fhmiv (740648) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037961)

You're probably right about the first claim --- it isn't interesting that someone "cheated" in an online game and amassed an in-game fortune. However, the second claim IS interesting. These ISK's can be exchanged for legal tender, and in the USA, that is called Income and is subject to taxation.

Law enforcement and the IRS would be uninterested in me stealing $500 worth of Monopoly money because there is no exchange for Monopoly money to US Dollars or any other legal tender. This issue could be different. Consider someone who exchanges US dollars for casino chips to play poker, wins a bunch more chips, and then exchanges their casino chips for US dollars. According to the IRS, they owe taxes on their winnings/earnings. I think Dentara Rask's take in the game could be classified like gambling winnings.

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038040)

"These ISK's can be exchanged for legal tender, and in the USA, that is called Income and is subject to taxation."

It's surely called something else (I'm not sure exactly where it would fall within the legal system) when the exchange of that ISK for cash is forbidden by contract (the game's EULA).

I am sure CCP is watching Dentara Rast closely. For now, they are allowing the theft to go forward, as it does not violate the rules of the game.

If Dentara wishes to, he can buy a lifetime's worth of game time cards, which are the ONLY real life item you may trade for in-game items. That said, trying to buy that many GTCs would completely foul up the exchange rate of GTCs to ISK.

Re:Cheating in video games (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037968)

the exchange rates make 700 billion isk to be more than $100,000 [1]. from a replacement currency pack, 23 500-monopoly bills cost 4 dollars [2] (not to mention wasteage from having excess other currency). this would be like using social engineering to steal the high-value paper money from 25,000 boards, yielding almost 600,000 bills worth 300 million monopoly dollars. That's a few hotels, or 3000 m^2 of money. [3]

1. http://www.gamepal.com/buycurrency.php?gameid=15&g ame=eve&serverid=79&x=28&y=14# [gamepal.com]
2. http://www.unclesgames.com/product_info.php/produc ts_id/631 [unclesgames.com]
3. Yes, all my calculations are approximate. However the results are almost certainly an underestimation.

Re:Cheating in video games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16038007)

After hearing the 911/Burger King call, [snopes.com] someone calling the cops about some stolen Monopoly money wouldn't surprise me at all...

When is a news article not a news article... (2, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037816)

Should you also be able to sue Quake 3 players for murder? hmm?

Re:When is a news article not a news article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037908)

Killing someone in real life is a huge crime since that person is lost forever. A better example woule be if you killed someone in quake, their character doesn't revive, and then banning them from ever playing quake again.

Re:When is a news article not a news article... (1)

tvon (169105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037958)


Killing someone in real life is a huge crime since that person is lost forever. A better example woule be if you killed someone in quake, their character doesn't revive, and then banning them from ever playing quake again.


Attempted murder is also a crime.

lol, what? (1)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037818)

This is a fucking stupid story. Slashdot "original" content would be a good idea if it wasn't for the fact that the editors are so fucking stupid and the average user is even dumber.

Why punish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037823)

It is a game. Unless their actions in the game had an illegal effect in the real world, the real world has no business being involved in the game. Should they be punished by the game makers? Only if they violated game rules. Should they be punished by people or governments for what they did in the game world? Only if they violated real-world rules.

Re:Why punish? (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038081)

It all depends on whether they entered into a real world contract before playing the game. Roulette is a game, but you can loose real world "stuff" in it. And real world contracts are enforceable by real world governments.

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037826)

And while we're at it, why not convict all those gamers of multiple counts of murder? They've killed so many people online, it's not even funny. Of course, we'd have some interesting questions of law. Is killing a troll as bad as killing a human?

Re:Why not? (2, Interesting)

spiffyman (949476) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038062)

And while we're at it, why not convict all those gamers of multiple counts of murder? They've killed so many people online, it's not even funny. Of course, we'd have some interesting questions of law. Is killing a troll as bad as killing a human?

This is one of the most insightful comments in this story. Not because murder is a real issue in MMOs, but because the government will really have to answer these questions at some point. You disagree with me and think that MMOGs are not worth the time right now, and that's fine. But eventually something will come up that has real-world value to you, me, and everyone else. The issue then will be how to handle crimes committed in these spaces. My guess is that it will have multiple stages.

First, incidents of serious theft will become more common as people figure out they can score big with relatively little consequences. RL time and money spent on acquiring currency or items will be invalidated by these acts. Victims will get pissed. Then those victims will (finally) decide to pursue legal action. A lawyer will eventually take the case, and after a period of time involving subpoenas and warrants, someone will get hauled before the court.

Here's where it gets interesting: the courts have to decide whether the alleged theft is illegal under current law. I'm guessing that a whole lot of judges are going to laugh these things off, and only a few will buy in - judges haven't proven terribly tech-savvy up until now, and there's no reason to think they will any time in the next 20 years or so. Cases might be relatively easy to win if the judge will allow them to go forward, since evidence will ordinarily involve usernames, passwords, IP logs, and often direct admissions in-game that the theft has been committed. So you'll end up with a whole lot of case law both for and against including these things as crimes.

What next? At some point, there will be petitions and lobbying asking Congress (or state legislatures) to clarify the law. There will be a battle over exclusion or inclusion, and politicians will have to make the call. Judging by their past performance, including many dismal failures, my hopes are not high.

Give me a break (2, Funny)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037827)

If crimes committed in a game could be punished in real life, I'd be serving life sentence for mass-murder.

Re:Give me a break (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037909)

If crimes committed in real life could be punished in a game, I'd be ... oh wait.

Re:Give me a break (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037950)

This also means that any nethack player would get a life sentence for poaching rare and endangered animals, eating them, feeding his pets with them, performing lewd and indecent acts with the aforementioned indecent animals and being otherwise deviant from the norm.

Now... where did that succubus go... Definitely worth trying to shag another experience level out of it before killing it.

Property & the internet (0)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037832)

This is simply another aspect of the question that philsophers have been struggling with for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Are the things that you have earned on an internet game your "property", per se? Obviously, property doesn't have to be tangible, and the product of your labors has netted you said item. In that sense, it is very much your property.

Of course, the game manufacturer still owns everything, but an argument could be made based on the value of the labor to you and the fact that they've effectively stolen YOUR time and YOUR labor.

Unfortunately, such an argument probably wouldn't hold up legally, even if it does philosophically. Fortunately, more and more safeguards are being put into these games, and if you can prove that someone was trying to con you or DID con you, you can usually get them in quite a bit of hot water, as well as getting anything you have lost back. Also, the community can make their life hell, even if there isn't enough proof that the actual game company will believe you - no item is worth never being able to get in a good group.

Re:Property & the internet (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037894)

Of course, the game manufacturer still owns everything, but an argument could be made based on the value of the labor to you and the fact that they've effectively stolen YOUR time and YOUR labor.

How is this substantially different to salaried labour?

Re:Property & the internet (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037949)

I don't know if I fully understand the concept, but when you're a wage labourer, they're paying you in cash, which is VERY CLEARLY your property. Here, they're paying you in items, which may or may not be.

Re:Property & the internet (2, Informative)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038066)

Of course, the game manufacturer still owns everything, but an argument could be made based on the value of the labor to you and the fact that they've effectively stolen YOUR time and YOUR labor.
How is this substantially different to salaried labour?
And then the boy suddenly realized that playing a game is NOT labor, that pretending to do something tangible was NOT itself doing something tangible, and that he was NOT being paid by the game company in gold coins to kill ogres -- but rather that it was all entertainment, and he was in fact paying the game company to do it. He then got off his butt and actually did something tangible.

When is hitting people legal? (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037833)

When it's part of the game. If I body-slammed someone on the street, I'd be heading to jail. If I do it on a football field, it's good play.

Re:When is hitting people legal? (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037857)

Conning people ISN'T legal in the game - it's not a part of it at all.

In no MMO I've ever played was it OK to exploit game mechanics, or even misinform people to get a better deal.

Re:When is hitting people legal? (2, Informative)

flooey (695860) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037923)

In no MMO I've ever played was it OK to exploit game mechanics, or even misinform people to get a better deal.

I believe that in EVE Online, it's perfectly fine to con people in this manner. It's not okay to exploit game mechanics to do so, but convincing them that their money really belongs with you is within the rules of the game.

Re:When is hitting people legal? (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037934)

Interesting. Well, I stand corrected.

In most games, however, this isn't standard practice, and with EVE it's a moot point, because you know what's allowed in the game by the time you have enough resources to make them worthwhile.

Alternate reality defines the game (3, Insightful)

EXMSFT (935404) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037834)

With few exceptions, games generally exist to provide an alternate reality. Enforcing laws from the real world into a virtual world would seem to render the whole point of the game moot. If the game's authors want to enforce certain aspects of normally accepted culture or law into the game, it would seem they would do so.

Re:Alternate reality defines the game (2, Informative)

Premo_Maggot (864012) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037963)

But Eve-Online does have a legal system. You can't attack someone without taking on the reprecussions yourself (the police blowing up your ship).

someone is missing the point of games (5, Insightful)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037836)

He violated the rules of a game. If the game is part of legal gambling, then that may be a crime. But this is presumably not a gambling operation. So, if it's not a gambling operation, then violating the rules is roughly like cheating at Scrabble or Monopoly.

In any case, the appropriate punishment for virtual fraud is to demand virtual restitution from the virtual character and put the virtual character into virtual prison. That is, unless the virtual world is supposed to be lawless or anarchic, in which case he did exactly what he was supposed to.

Re:someone is missing the point of games (1)

Usekh (557680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037869)

Actualy no he didn't violate the rules of the game I beleive. Eve is pretty much a case of buyer beware.

Re:someone is missing the point of games (2, Insightful)

rpj1288 (698823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037900)

The cardinal rule of EVE is this: let the buyer beware.

Re:someone is missing the point of games (5, Informative)

Idaho (12907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038020)

He violated the rules of a game.

No, he didn't. As others also pointed out, there is nothing in the Eve Online EULA or in the game mechanics that forbids what this guy has done. There is no "exploiting" of bugs or broken game mechanics going on here. "Exploiting" of stupid people, sure, but that's a different matter.

What *is* explicitly forbidden by the EULA however, is converting in-game money to real money. That is a bannable offense.

wtf? (5, Informative)

xophos (517934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037837)

It`s a game. And the scam was clearly inside the rules of the game. So i see no need for discussion here.

Jack thompson, is that you? (0, Redundant)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037840)

> how would you go about punishing someone in the real world for
> something they did in an artificial one? And can they be punished?

Jack Thompson, this is a very transparent ruse. And no, no matter how much you have against grand theft auto, no you cannot have people punished for stealing cars in a game. Sorry.

mm (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037841)

Would this become a bi-mon-non-sci-con?

it's a game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037842)

It's a bloody game, get real. If you want legal representation or to sue someone in a game for something that is illegal in the real world I think that you need to stop gaming NOW and get a life instead.

It's all in the game (4, Insightful)

MadMoses (151207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037843)

In-game crime => in-game punishment by in-game law enforcement.

Or in-game death by angry mob or assassin.

Real-life consequences (1)

hernyo (770695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037856)

When I was a kid I used to play "Bruce-Lee" on my ZX80 (hand-made by my father). A few years later I began karate. However, I doubt that I'd be a serial killer if I had powerful PC and played Quake, for instance.

But surely I'd be a more aggressive person.

You hit the nail right on the head: (1)

meisenst (104896) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037864)

Assuming there are no rules within the game environment to prevent this

This falls within the realm of a wholly contained artificial environment. It is up to the owners (or creators, or maintainers, or what have you) of that environment to set up "legal" codes to deal with situations like this. It has happened in Everquest, it has happened in World of Warcraft, and I'm sure that given enough abuse, it will happen in the EVE universe as well.

For the record, there used to be a vast number of "casino" scams in the Everquest world (random such-and-such a number and I'll pay you double your bet, triple your bet, etc). When a player would win at such a scam, the scammer would disconnect, keeping the player's virtual money. These people were reported en masse by the player base, and eventually, the majority of them disappeared as their accounts were suspended.

It is just a game. (0, Redundant)

MrRuslan (767128) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037865)

Get over it I say.

In game crimes call for in game punishments (1)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037866)

As many readers pointed out, his crime was only inside the game, and had nothing to do with real life. I expect the game developers can suspend his account, seeing as it is almost certainly in their Terms of Service.

Re:In game crimes call for in game punishments (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038075)

As long as Dentara does not try to sell any of the ISK for real life money, this goes forward without any intervention by CCP. What Dentara did sucks, but as it was done without any exploiting of game mechanics, it is 100% legit as far as CCP rules go, as long as that ISK either stays within the game or is used only to buy game time cards.

What are the rules of the game? (3, Insightful)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037872)

Does it violate the rules of the game? After all, no one gets upset about the mass murder and genocide that occurs routinely on PvP servers in WoW. It's part of the game.

Assuming there are no rules within the game environment to prevent this, how would you go about punishing someone in the real world for something they did in an artificial one?

There's a difference, though. There are rules in the real world saying that something is illegal. There are no rules about it in the game world. Piracy is illegal in the real world. (I'm talking about the "arr matey!" kind, not the "RIAA" kind.) But it's permitted in the game world of EVE. Should the pirates be brought to criminal court of piracy in the spaces of EVE?

This story is just ridiculously stupid. It's a game. Only the game's rules apply. Whatever the rules set out by those who run the game are the only rules that matter.

Get conned while playing a game? Learn from it and just be glad it wasn't real.

There's no rules? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037876)

You kill the character. Isn't that half the point of mmorpgs?

 

Shouldn't be charged. (1)

AgentFade2Black (968245) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037890)

There is no way that this money can be converted back into RLC (real life currency.) If there was a way, and he did, then he could easily be punished under fraud/racketeering laws. But again, IANAL.

What was the name of that MMORPG that would let you move game currency into the real world and vice-versa?

Re:Shouldn't be charged. (2, Interesting)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038015)

There is no way that this money can be converted back into RLC (real life currency.) If there was a way, and he did, then he could easily be punished under fraud/racketeering laws. But again, IANAL.

Yes, there is [ebay.com] . ATM the bid on 1 billion ISK ~100$, so 700 billion ISK is about 70000$!

What was the name of that MMORPG that would let you move game currency into the real world and vice-versa?

Second life.

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037895)

Crimes committed in the virtual world can be punished in the virtual world. It's the character that committed the crime, not the player.
But I guess in our overly sensitive society a brand new crime definition will be made to accomodate some pathetic whiner's claim.

Tangibility (1)

rf0 (159958) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037898)

If I could somehow do a scam and then transfer these winnings into tangible good / money. i.e. say via ebay then I would consider it to be a "real crime". If it is just money only used in the game then its down to the game designers / users to sort out appropriate punishment. Prehaps it could be argued that as ingame characters get better AI could the real world user be accused of murder, though that of course is another can of worms

Re:Tangibility (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037982)

If I could somehow do a scam and then transfer these winnings into tangible good / money. i.e. say via ebay then I would consider it to be a "real crime".
Except that scams are part of the game, so he would just be someone who did well in the game, not guilty of any crime. Besides, as the article points out (then apparently disregards), all in-game assets remain property of the game company, so you couldn't legally sell game money for real money.

This is sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037902)

The very fact some people here probably can't distinguish between the real and game worlds is enough to make a person weep. Let me fill you in: For example, a person giving themself to you out of love and respect (sure, and lust too) is real. WoW is not real, no matter how much you rape and pillage, or whatever you do in WoW. If you're old enough and smart enough to run a computer and yet you don't know this I beg you to seek professional help, because there's an unbelievable gamut of stuff that's passing you by; and there's no way to re-start.

When is a Con not a Con? (2, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037904)

When its Gencon.

It's a kind of success (1, Interesting)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037920)

I believe that, when the State of Israel had its first criminals, Ben-Gurion was actually pleased because it meant that Israel was becoming a real country, not just a club of highly educated idealists. In the same way, this is perhaps a sign of the growing capability of games. (Though please note I am not in any way comparing Israel to role playing games...)

Real money (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037922)

I seems to me it depends on whether the in game money can be converted to real money or not. If it can be then doing things in game that would be illegal to do with real money (gambling, ponzi schemes etc) are surely still illegal.

Re:Real money (2, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037954)

Not quite. *Most*, not all, Ponzi schemes are illegal. Governments generally reserve that right to themselves, and conduct them if they believe (not necessarily correctly) that to do so would serve the public interest. See: Social Security, issuing debt.

Transfer to real life cash (1)

niaski (1000196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037928)

I would think that this is not a punishable crime except for one thing. It is possible to transfer this 700b ingame money to real life cash. What you do is buy game time cards in EVE. CCP allows people to purchase game to buy game time cards from other players for in game money. Then you take these codes and sell them on ebay. Granted, it would take a while to sell ALL 700b worth of codes (each code costs ~300mil), but when you're done you'd have roughly $120,000 USD.

Duh! (3, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037931)

Listen up folks, it is a GAME WORLD. Nothing you do there should subject you to any sort of sanction in the real one. The whole point is to be able to do things you can't do in reality. After all, in the real world you can't kill people, heck you can't even kill most things. In most games though you wade hip deep in gore. If the game system doesn't provide a 'fix' then exploiting it is just good play according to the rules of the game world.
Playing for hundreds of hours doing the grind is only one path to success, it is perfectly fair to play smarter, instead of harder. To realize that the in game obstacles might be hard but the stupidity of players is a constant and can be exploited a lot easier. And some people like the interraction with real people more than the challenges placed by the designers.

Running a Ponzi scheme depends on a steady supply of idiots, something no rule in a game is likely to dry up the supply of. Face it, they should be legal in the REAL world so long as the financials are fully disclosed. It is the fraud (like the US Social Security system) that makes any real world Ponzi scheme immoral. Run it out in the open and any person with a few brain cells still functioning would instantly see it for the scam it is and as for the others... it is immoral to let a sucker keep his money after all.

No Punishment (4, Insightful)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037936)

Hopefully people learn things in games. Like how not to get swindled. I think they learned a cheep lesson.

What ever happened to "buyer beware" (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037941)

I mean, seriously how did the "investors" in this bank think that this was legit? Real banks make their money primarily from loans, ie they collect money from savers and loan it out to others at a higher interest rate. However, banks have a lot of legal means to collect on debts. The bank also usually takes collateral.

A video game bank not run by any central authority doesn't have that power. So suppose they did try to make a legit business out of lending others money. How could they collect? I guess they could take some equipment as 'collateral" but if a player is taking the loan out to buy better equipment what is to prevent that player from reneging on the debts? He no longer needs that old equipment. And there certainly aren't repo men in the game who can take back the property for you(I guess you could destroy it, but you don't gain much). I suppose they could resort to mob style "break your thumbs" type tactics, but they would have to be a powerful player or a player with lots of allies to even do that. Plus, I don't exactly trust "Mob Savings and Loan".

So what on earth did the players who gave this person money think he was going to do with it? 10% no risk returns don 't exist in the real world(well, aside from hyperinflationary periods at any rate), so it should have been pretty obvious to anyone with half a clue what this guy was up to. Another greedy rube got fleeced(virtually at any rate). Boohoo

What was the real-world value of the theft? (2, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037943)

If he used illegal-in-the-real-world techniques to defraud people of "goods or services" such as game gold that had a real-world value > 0, or > whatever the legal cutoff is for fraud, then you can go after him in the real world. Otherwise, you can't.

If the law says you can only prosecute or sue if the fraud is > $50, and the gold he obtained by fraud sells on eBay for $49 or less, or has no market value, he's off the hook.

Here's an idea:
Get a few hundred gamers out there to declare a vendetta on him and make his gaming life miserable.

Re:What was the real-world value of the theft? (1)

Dissman (997434) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037976)

IIRC, EON rules dissalow buying currency on ebay, and doing so is punishable by account banishment.

So, any "market value" comments would be moot, because it isnt legitamately sellable on e-bay.

Re:What was the real-world value of the theft? (1)

niaski (1000196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038013)

But it IS ok to buy game time codes in game and it IS ok to do whatever you want with those codes (sell them on ebay). Thus a transfer to real life cash is possible.

Neither is cocaine (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038023)

If I steal $10,000 worth of cocaine, I can be arrested for both possession AND grand theft.

In this case, it's up to the prosecutor to prove the gold CAN be shared and not have the account canceled, and that there IS a good way to determine it's "street value." Given how thinly-traded-in-the-real-world such gold is, and that there's no ready-open-market, a good defense lawyer could easily shoot down all but the most conservative valuations as "inflated." Still, though, if there is a black market for this, then it does have a value. On the other hand, if not enough people care about this game, or if the enforcement is good enough, then as you said it's probably worthless.

Re:What was the real-world value of the theft? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16038055)

He quit the game IIRC, cold turkey, after pulling off the online scam of the century.

It was funny how he left too: he chanced upon this n00b in a new tiny ship I think, and asked him, Hey, kid, want some money, and dumped all the loot on this kid. His farewell to the game was almost like, Who was that masked man?

do game cause crime? (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037947)

This whine could equally be called 'do violent games cause people to commit real world violent acts?'. For the most part /. would say no, yet I suspect we will get a number o greedy people who say 'that's not fair'.

Games are a useful way for us to simulate life. For the young it teaches rules and basic social skills. For the teen it can be a good way to learn advance socialization. And for the older people, the working gamer for instance, it can teach that greed can lead to ones downfall, and nothing comes without a price. One hopes that a person old enough to working has learned this lesson, but we do hear stories all the time of people who have fallen for the line 'I will pay you $1000 and all you have to do is deliver this package'. Certainly something we might forgive a child for, but not an adult.

If I were one of the people that fell for the scam, I would be thankful that I learned the lesson in a simulations and not in life. I would even, perhaps, go as far as thanking the person who took the time to craft the lesson that would clearly save me the inevitable misery of having to go to my family and admit that my greed allowed a clever person to steal all my money.

Back to the top, games help us learn socialization. Part of socialization is knowing and following rules, so some games are big on rules. Part of socialization is knowing that rules are not always enforced, and therefore we must take responsibility for ourselves. We hope that games teach proper socialization, and, for instance, do not teach that crime is without consequences. OTOH, sometimes crime is without consequences. At the end of the day, though, games simply provide a safe place to run scenarios and see what might happen. In this case, a few people got 'rich', and many fold other lost it all. Isn't this what all the anti-gaming people want. A game that responsibly reflects consequences of an action? The only thing that is left is the introduction of jurisprudence, and as we all know that is the best way to ruin a game.

Hard to prove 'damage' (1)

Dustotepp (1000271) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037948)

One of the definitions of fraud is "Obtaining money or property by false pretenses." Problem 1 - So long as the game companies continue to own the rights to everything in the online game, it would be pretty difficult to prove that you had lost any money or property. Problem 2 - It would be very difficult to determine exactly what constitutes 'false pretenses' in an online game.

Re:Hard to prove 'damage' (1)

Dustotepp (1000271) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038021)

Additional Thoughts - So long as the game owners can strip you of your virtual money at whim, then you have no real claim to any of it. You are playing with their toys, and so you couldn't really claim to have lost anything.

I confess! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037957)

I am guilty of killing some friends in CS a few years ago... I can't live with this pain anymore.

When he.. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037971)

supports gun control and abortion? Oh wait, we're not talking about that type of con?

Counterfeit Monopoly Money? (1)

whyde (123448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037972)

Dear God, I hope not. If so, you could be arrested in the "real world" just for printing more Monopoly money [hasbro.com] .

This is the most idiotic thing I've heard about in a long time.

Boba style (5, Insightful)

EvilXTC (920051) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037974)

The best way to deal with something like this is to pretend that it is real (in game of course) and deal with it the way that the game world would. How about bounty hunting? How about military/mafia recruiting players to hunt him down? Keep it a game. If people fall for a scam in a game, get back at him in the game. Don't suspend his account. That's just lame. I'm sure that not many people would continue to risk their characters' well being and those that do have it coming. Also, I think that would make an interesting off shoot for people on level a billion and have nothing better to do than start a war; new game content dynamically created.

Re:Boba style (2, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038092)

That's basically what is happening, and in fact Dentara is ENCOURAGING it.

Dentara put a 1 billion ISK bounty on himself, bought a top-end ship with top-end gear (another 500mill to 1bill), and started PvPing with it, AND told everyone he was doing so (although not where).

Note that Dentara is not necessarily that good at PvP - I've heard he's gone boom quite a bit already. That money is already being distributed to those who kill him and those who sell high end gear on the market.

The Blurred Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16037980)

Where do we, the civilized society, draw the line and distinction between real crimes, crimes committed in a REAL PHYSICAL WORLD, and crime equivalents committed in an ELECTRONIC WORLD?

To make THAT leap, that the electronic equates that of the PHYSICAL, is an all or nothing proposition. Whether its a PONZI scheme in a MMORPG, sarcastic physical assault threats in an IM chat session with your friend, or stating the some gov. administration should DIAF, such things CAN ONLY exist on the Internet, in that electronic interactive medium. It is not until such time that such actions are eminated (sp?) into the physical world can something be called a crime.

This goes right in line with the OHIO pre-crime BS. Could the above examples of online possibilities of crimes be considered pre-meditated even though they may never occur in REAL LIFE? Physically being committed??

I personally, take life with a grain of salt. The Internet even moreso. I recall the phrase 'BUYER BEWARE', as such a thing should apply to the Internet. Life, including the Internet is most likely not as it seems. If you are taking everything online at face value, I both pity and admire your innocence. Those who this apply to, have not yet experienced the spectrum that is life. Its ups and downs, nuances, sublimalities, and underlying change.

The day certain online behavior is deemed criminal by laws that exist in the PHYSICAL WORLD, and this might have already occurred I don't know, is the day the police state no longer becomes a phrase to fear, book theme, or mental abstract, but a real living force.

I for one, weap for that future, and that reality.

I can't believe how utterly stupid... (1)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037984)

...and irrelevant the topic and question are.

Better debate: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

BWilde

Private justice (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037992)

It solely depends on the game reglementation. The game world is sovereign and belongs to the mmporg creators thus they can enforce any law they wish on it.

Stop calling it "real world" versus "non real" (4, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037996)

MMORPG's are in fact actual economy units governed by their own rules.

Asking whether game crime should be punishable in real world is like asking whether crime comitted in Belgium should be punished in Australia.

The game developers have ultimate power over their world. If they want to confiscate those 700mln ISK (whatever the hell ISK is) they can do it with a mouse click, a lot easier than in "real world".

If game developers want to cooperate with police for creating "interworld" laws that apply in there and give a specialized institution the jurisdiction to enforce those in a game then ok.

It's not up to the government or whoever to mess into the games' internal affairs however. It's not a lot better than invading an actual country.

Yes you can convert virtual assets to real, but I can convert dollars to euros as well, this doesn't mean that US should mess into EU's business.

I don't really understand the question (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 7 years ago | (#16037997)

It's a GAME.

And, in a game, "normal" rules don't apply. Neither the "Law of Gravity", or "Thou shalt not Kill".

Take Grand Theft Auto.

Anyway, in this game, a Ponzi scheme was possible. And that was exploited. In chess, "en passant capture" can be exploited -- even though some players are not aware of its existence.

If some players feel "cheated", don't play. This will apply pressure to have the rules modified. As to "real world consequence"? Exactly HOW "politically correct" are you? Are you going to regulate my chess and backgammon play next?

YMMV
Ratboy

PVP/PK (1)

Walenzack (916393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038006)

Hey, call the cops, some dude killed me in the MMORPG of my choice! Murder! Jail! Quick!

considering (1)

jt418-93 (450715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038016)

the fact that game money can be sold for real money, there is a tangeble loss of money.

pretty soon this is going to start hitting the courts. items in online games all have an exchange rate with real currency. fwiw: i played star wars galaxies from launch till last year. when i quit, i sold my account for 400$. that's real money, and you can bet if someone tried to jack me for my space dollars, i'd sue / get the law, whatever.

going to be really funy though when this starts becoming common law fodder.

So.. (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038017)

Next time you kill a cop in GTA, you are punished for murder in real life. Get a life!

Of Civil Court, Losses and Gains (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038039)

IANAL, but it would seem that the defrauded parties could always try to take the person to civil court. For better or worse, you can sue over anything.

Of course, if you can argue that losses in the game have a real-world monetary counterpart, then any gains in that world would seem to have a real world monetary counterpart. That gets the IRS involved with issues of income tax on gains in the game.

If game gains are taxable, then perhaps they can get the Ponzi scheme operator on tax evasion -- it worked with Al Capone.

Let's answer this right now (2, Informative)

DesireCampbell (923687) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038042)

From the journals, here's some food for thought: Does a "crime" committed in an alternate world have any ramifications in the "real" world?
Maybe.

Case in point is this article from the Gamers With Jobs site outlining the exploits of one Dentara Rask, a character in CCP's Eve Online massively multiplayer online world. According to the the article, Dentara Rask ran a Ponzi scheme within the game, amassing a large amount of on-line wealth (700 billion ISK), and then bragging about it. The question is posed: since a Ponzi scheme in real life is a punishable criminal offense, what about when it happens in a MMORPG?
Um... nothing? Murder is a punishable criminal offense in real life, but we don't dream of prosecuting people for doing it in a game.

Assuming there are no rules within the game environment to prevent this, how would you go about punishing someone in the real world for something they did in an artificial one?
You wouldn't. It's stupid to try and hold someone responsible for what they did in a video game. Again, how many of us would be in jail right now for all the people we've killed in video games?

And can they be punished?
Well, legally we can't. But there are people in Guantanamo Bay with less proof of having committed a crime.

sorry but .... what the hell is a "con" ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16038065)


and,
how was one supposed to find that out
before it became possible to find acronyms online ??? ... damn !!!!

Game-Life consequences. (2, Interesting)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038076)

Generally any kind of scam in game works against the player. Especially in Eve.

For example most players won't deal with people under a certain number of skill points as the points are created over time (not gametime). This means players with lots of money generally have to have the skills to show they are a legtimate character and not someones ALT.

It is possible to create an ALT by just buying a second account but it costs money. You also tend to leave a trail unless you have been planning this for sometime.

This is the third biggest Scam I have seen (I'll let someone supply the links).

Search for "A Great Scam by Nightfreeze"
1. Scammed loads of money out of people by pretending to buy a blueprint. The overall scam itself was brilliantly done and the guys where asses for doing it but at the end his friend got greedy and the leader of the scam deleted his character (after giving the cash to some newbie).

http://www.mmodig.com/?p=155 [mmodig.com]
2. I don't know what caused this to happen but it was a paid hit. The person was killed, and thier corporation looted on a scale not seen since Enron.

So in the end you should be dealt with in game. I have seen other players steal from corps only to have thier clones turned into corpses scattered through the system to the point they have to quit the game.

If anything this is really a learning experience for players. Would you prefer to be scammed out of virtual cash or real cash? Remember that next time you need the wallet inspectors in game.

when it's a chille-con-carne? (1)

PowerBert (265553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16038093)

when it's a chille-con-carne?

Then it's yummy. What article?
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