Meatspace Justice for Virtual Theft

Going on virtual quests filled with violence, death, and treasure-taking exercises a player’s spirit of adventure. But don’t try stealing his World of Warcraft account — by golly, there are laws against that sort of thing!

Four years ago in Finland Hannu Ahola bought a World of Warcraft account from a teenaged acquaintance. He spent many hours developing a strong character. He did such a good job that the acquaintance decided to log in and hijack the account.

Hannu appealed to the highest authority in meatspace — the acquaintance’s mom — but didn’t get the account back. So he hired an attorney and a year-and-a-half later received 4000 Euros in an out-of-court settlement. Which he’s presumably already spending to play World of Warcraft.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

This Week in Words: Monkeyspace

Plowing through the Hugo-nominated novels with the voting deadline bearing down on me was not very reminiscent of cramming for a final exam because all five writers made the experience far more entertaining.

Charles Stross’ Halting State is full of humorous and inventive computer jargon. Some terms are imported from the RPG-playing culture, and others are fabricated but sound authentic. All are half-casually sprinkled into the characters’ conversation. Every few pages I’d find myself going “What?” and laughing.

For example, “Monkeyspace” means everything “outside the game.” In a word Stross instantly conveys that there are players so consumed by the interactive gaming experience that real life feels like just another not-especially-interesting compartment of the RPG universe.

Some interactive RPG players genuinely worry that gaming is an addiction. A Google search for “monkeyspace” returned a blog entry about people trying to kick their World of Warcraft habit, or at least manage it. Someone suggested that WoW be redesigned to credit in-person contact with other players as a way of getting them to leave their computers and really meet people in monkeyspace. (But why would the owners of WoW want to do that?!)