I should probably quit reading newspapers, but then I’d never have any blog topics. I read an article last week that stated a woman in Japan was arrested for virtually killing her husband. She didn’t kill her real husband, she killed his online gaming personality. My first thought was, huh? I read further and found out that she was arrested for illegally accessing the man’s computer and stealing his password. Wait—it gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). They weren’t married in real life—only in the game. When her virtual husband divorced her virtual self, she killed him.
This just sounds so bizarre to me. I know there are all kinds of virtual gaming sites out there, but I didn’t realize people took it so seriously. I did some more research and found out that there’s a game called Second Life which has over six million registered users. Real businesses are even getting involved. IBM has set up a virtual office. Reuters has opened a virtual agency, and former presidential candidate John Edwards even had a virtual campaign headquarters.
Not too long ago, police in Belgium investigated a virtual rape that allegedly occurred in the game. Police in Germany investigated an incident where a virtual adult had sex with a virtual child. Although no real act took place, the incident violated Germany’s child pornography laws. Although these are virtual crimes, players take the events so seriously that they are suffering from real trauma. One woman whose character was attacked in the virtual world suffered from real life post traumatic stress disorder.
Crimes such as theft are more common. Virtual thieves are making off with virtual money and property. On occasion, real crimes such as stealing credit card or social security numbers occur and authorities take these very seriously. The FBI has been called on several occasions (they’ve even created their own characters and checked out the site).
This all made me wonder if this virtual world is really any different than the worlds we create in our books. Haven’t we all heard of readers who take books so seriously they believe the characters are real? That’s our goal, isn’t it—to create virtual worlds for readers to enter to escape from real life for awhile?
What do you think of these virtual games? Have you ever played one? Or do you prefer your virtual world in the pages of a book?