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When Is a Con Not a Con? 441

Posted by Hemos
from the ethical-dilemmas-of-modern-life dept.
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?
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When Is a Con Not a Con?

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  • wtf? (Score:5, Informative)

    by xophos (517934) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:08AM (#16037837)
    It`s a game. And the scam was clearly inside the rules of the game. So i see no need for discussion here.
  • by flooey (695860) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:22AM (#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.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:24AM (#16037943) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Premo_Maggot (864012) <nessnoop@gmail.com> on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:27AM (#16037963) Homepage
    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).
  • by Idaho (12907) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:35AM (#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.
  • by DesireCampbell (923687) <desire.c@gmail.com> on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:39AM (#16038042) Homepage
    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.

  • by E++99 (880734) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:42AM (#16038066) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:Boba style (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:48AM (#16038092) Homepage
    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.
  • by MORB (793798) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:52AM (#16038110)
    EVE is a PvP game where players are pitted against each others. Unlike most other MMOs, however, it goes way beyond killing each others.

    CCP made a lot of efforts to setup complex and realistics economics in their game for the sole purpose of making all kind of swindling possible.

    People ripping each others of money, corporate politics, corporate spying, economic war, thief, and of course murder are possible and encouraged in EVE. The whole game is built to enable these things to occur, and it's what people playing that game seek.

    So why on earth should it be punished? You can't complain about getting conned in EVE anymore that you can complain about getting slaughtered in UT2004, because it's the reason why you play the game in the first place.
  • by jmauro (32523) on Monday September 04, 2006 @10:53AM (#16038115)
    It'll get you banned by CCP in EVE as well. And CCP will take all the money from the player that bought it.
  • OMG how sad! (Score:1, Informative)

    by ukemike (956477) on Monday September 04, 2006 @12:30PM (#16038696) Homepage
    IT'S A GAME!

    Come on I've played monopoly games that lasted for many LONG hours. If someone steals a few thousand dollars from my pile while I'm taking a leak then they are cheaters not criminals. What they took involved hours of investment. The only difference is a matter of degrees. In one case someone wasted 4 hours playing monopoly with a cheater and in the other someone wasted hundreds of hours geeking out online and got pwnd! Maybe he should waste hundreds more hours crusading for reform and a working justice system in his mmorpg... OR maybe he should get out into the real world and get laid.

    Can't your character be killed in these games? Would the killer be a murderer?

    Fell for a ponzi scheme!! HA! Well maybe the poor sucker learned his lesson and won't fall for one in the real world! HAHAHAHHAHHhahhahahahAHAHAHAH!!!!
  • Only Partly right. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Martin Spamer (244245) on Monday September 04, 2006 @04:16PM (#16039790) Homepage Journal
    Selling ISK on ebay directly is against the EULA, however it is not against EULA to purchase game-cards for isk and sell those for local currency.

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