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Real enough to kill: on-line games and 'reality'.

On-line games are spilling over into reality. Rebang's weblog quotes a BBC report of a man who murdered a friend who borrowed and sold a virtual sword, which the first man had won in an on-line game.

Rebang has taken me to task before for dismissing on-line games too quickly. He's right that people are murdered for all sorts of trivial reasons. Why blame on-line gaming? he asks.

I'm not thinking so much in terms of blame. What is fascinating is the way that the game is spilling over into "reality". You can make real money and amass virtual property; you can be really killed as a result of that property.

Apparently the Chinese courts have no law covering virtual 'theft': in legal terms the sword did not exist as such, but simply as data on a server somewhere. However there are more and more of such cases being brought in China and the law may change. (And these days, my bank account is just data on a server somewhere; they don't really have a pile of £20 notes in their basement with my name on it.)

How much time and thought do people invest in these amazingly complex games? Reading the EBay ads for game artefacts (is that the word?) I'm struck by the detail they go into, and how that detail means nothing at all to me. Of course I don't understand higher mathematics or Swedish either, but at least (I believe) they exist in the 'real' world and have fairly wide usage. Without some pretty advanced maths we wouldn't have computers, and without Swedish we would never have had Abba....

Now, for $700, I can have something to do with Ultima Online that includes: "3700 empty bootles, 11300 silver coins, 23000 boards, 3700 daemon scrolls, 5700 leather, 9800 arrows, 120 legendary scroll of tailoring...." (and much more...)

For somebody, this list is meaningful and worth real money. (I don't even know if 'bootles' is a misprint for 'bottles', or refers to the town in Lancashire.) Somebody spent time and effort collecting or winning these things. Presumably hundreds of people are doing the same right now. My instinct is to say - "Go outside and smell the roses..." - but then I'm sitting here blogging myself, also in front of a computer, also adding to data on a server somewhere.

I'm confused. Must re-read Baudrillard. In the meanwhile I have to go out and smell a rose.


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