Arms dealing in virtual worlds

Written by Ryan Garside

September 8, 2006 // 4:31 p.m.

Tags: #arms #china #crime #dealing #legend #mir #mmorpg #of #online

Who would have thought a few years ago that you could be prosecuted for illegal arms dealing in a virtual world? Not me, but it would appear that that is exactly exactly what has happened in China, in the online role playing game Legends of Mir.

The illegal weapons trade was operated by a fellow named Wang Yihui, a former deputy manager of Shanda's game project. He apparently was able to make around $250,000 between September 2004 and August 2005. He told the court:

"Because top-grade game weapons are very rare and precious for devoted players, they are valuable in the virtual world. We decided to make use of my position to produce a group of the weapons to get money."

Wang's operation was quite ingenious: by changing the game data from his job, he was able to produce virtual weapons for two other registered characters. These two, Tang Ming and Jin Ke, then sold the weapons on for profit in the game Legend of Mir 2. The powerful weapons made progression through the game's ranks a far easier task.

This is by no means an isolated task; a few weeks ago a somewhat similar incident occurred in the online game EVE, where a virtual banking system set up by one of the players turned out to be a scam. The head of the virtual bank took all of the virtual money deposited and did a 'runner.' You can view the video of his online confession here (though it is quite boring). In that particular instance, at least no real money was involved.

However, the principles of illegal trading in MMORPG titles is certainly one not restricted to Legend of Mir or EVE. These kinds of incidents have given rise to an overriding question - should virtual world crimes be punishable in the real world?

Let us know your thoughts over in the forums.

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