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Virtual Culture, Real Vice

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  • Virtual Culture, Real Vice

    Some food for thought for those into virtual culture studies and related fields...

    Noteworthy in the article below is the lax attitude towards virtual sex crime in the USA compared with other nations. This accords with American laws on expression, which allow for far greater levels of hate speech than Canadian and European laws and tend to place individual rights over collective welfare. American jurisprudence permits far greater levels of online hate and virtual child porn than other Western democracies (on thiis also see The Empire of Mind, M. Strangelove, UT Press, 2005).

    From today's Washington Post:

    "Does Virtual Reality Need a Sheriff?
    Reach of Law Enforcement Is Tested When Online Fantasy Games Turn Sordid

    By Alan Sipress
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, June 2, 2007; A01

    Earlier this year, one animated character in Second Life, a popular online fantasy world, allegedly raped another character.

    Some Internet bloggers dismissed the simulated attack as nothing more than digital fiction. But police in Belgium, according to newspapers there, opened an investigation into whether a crime had been committed. No one has yet been charged.

    Then last month, authorities in Germany announced that they were looking into a separate incident involving virtual abuse in Second Life after receiving pictures of an animated child character engaging in simulated sex with an animated adult figure. Though both characters were created by adults, the activity could run afoul of German laws against child pornography, prosecutors said.

    As recent advances in Internet technology have spurred millions of users to build and explore new digital worlds, the creations have imported not only their users' dreams but also their vices. These alternative realms are testing the long-held notions of what is criminal and whether law enforcement should patrol the digital frontier.

    "People have an interest in their property and the integrity of their person. But in virtual reality, these interests are not tangible but built from intangible data and software," said Greg Lastowka, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law at Camden in New Jersey.

    ...

    Simulated violence and thievery have long been a part of virtual reality, especially in the computer games that pioneered online digital role-playing. At times, however, this conduct has crossed the lines of what even seasoned game players consider acceptable.

    In World of Warcraft, the most popular online game, with an estimated 8 million participants worldwide, some regions of this fantasy domain have grown so lawless that players said they fear to brave them alone. Gangs of animated characters have repeatedly preyed upon lone travelers, killing them and making off with their virtual belongings.

    Two years ago, Japanese authorities arrested a man for carrying out a series of virtual muggings in another popular game, Lineage II, by using software to beat up and rob characters in the game and then sell the virtual loot for real money.

    Julian Dibbell, a prominent commentator on digital culture, chronicled the first known case of sexual assault in cyberspace in 1993, when virtual reality was still in its infancy. A participant in LambdaMOO, a community of users who congregated in a virtual California house, had used a computer program called a "voodoo doll" to force another player's character to act out being raped. Though this virtual world was rudimentary and the assault simulated, Dibbell recounted that the trauma was jarringly real. The woman whose character was attacked later wept -- "post-traumatic tears were streaming down her face" -- as she vented her outrage and demand for revenge in an online posting, he wrote.

    Since then, advances in high-speed Internet, user interfaces and graphic design have rendered virtual reality more real, allowing users to endow their characters with greater humanity and identify ever more closely with their creations.

    Nowhere is this truer than in Second Life, where more than 6 million people have registered to create characters called avatars, cartoon human figures that respond to keyboard commands and socialize with others' characters. The breadth of creativity and interaction in Second Life is greater than on nearly any other virtual-reality Web site because there is no game or other objective; it is just an open-ended, lifelike digital environment.

    Moreover, Linden Labs, which operates Second Life, has given users the software tools to design their characters and online setting as they see fit; some avatars look like their real-life alter egos, while others are fantastical creations.

    ...

    "This is the double-edged sword of the wonderful creativity in Second Life," Dibbell said in an interview.

    One user found herself the unwilling neighbor of an especially sordid underage sex club. "Tons of men would drop in looking for sex with little girls and boys. I abhorred the club," wrote the user on a Second Life blog under the avatar name Anna Valeeva. She even tried to evict the club by buying their land, she wrote.

    The question of what is criminal in virtual reality is complicated by disagreements among countries over what is legal even in real life. For example, virtual renderings of child abuse are not a crime in the United States but are considered illegal pornography in some European countries, including Germany.

    After German authorities began their investigation, Linden Labs issued a statement on its official blog condemning the virtual depictions of child pornography. Linden Labs said it was cooperating with law enforcement and had banned two participants in the incident, a 54-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman, from Second Life.

    Some Second Life users objected on the blog that Linden Labs had gone too far.

    "Excuse me. You banned two residents, both mature, who did a little role-playing? No children, I repeat no children, were harmed or even involved in that act," protested another user on the Second Life blog. "Since when is fantasy against the fricking law?""
    sigpic

  • #2
    Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

    My opinion: it's just a game. Games are full of immaturity; just take a look at the player base. Unless they violated the Terms of Service, they really haven't done anything wrong.

    I seriously think that if whoever was "virtually raped" was so psychologically attached to his or her character that the trauma was even slightly transfered to real life, the individual needs to take a break from fantasy until he or she can get a grip on reality.
    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. ~
    I have a tendency to key out three or four things and then let them battle for supremacy while I key, so there's a lot of backspacing as potential statements are slaughtered and eaten by the victors. ~
    Feel free to quote me. ~

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    • #3
      Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

      I hope I don't get investigated for tea bagging.

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      • #4
        Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

        Play games with heavy firepower...

        This way you can defend yourself from unwanted advances.
        Do or do not, there is no try....
        -- Yoda, Dagobah

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        • #5
          Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

          In World of Warcraft, the most popular online game, with an estimated 8 million participants worldwide, some regions of this fantasy domain have grown so lawless that players said they fear to brave them alone. Gangs of animated characters have repeatedly preyed upon lone travelers, killing them and making off with their virtual belongings.
          TG WoW players, is this even remotely true? It sounds like the authors don't understand the concept of PvP. Don't let them near EVE.
          In game handle: Steel Scion
          sigpic

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          • #6
            Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

            Very interesting read. It really demonstrates the different cultural attitudes towards these things. There are two sides to this coin for the US, one is that the US is too permissive and callous. The other is that US does not take their games too seriously and gaming worlds are simply not that important.

            “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough!” Benjamin Franklin

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            • #7
              Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

              Originally posted by gunjunkie View Post
              Play games with heavy firepower...

              This way you can defend yourself from unwanted advances.
              Exactly!

              Originally posted by Science
              Very interesting read. It really demonstrates the different cultural attitudes towards these things. There are two sides to this coin for the US, one is that the US is too permissive and callous. The other is that US does not take their games too seriously and gaming worlds are simply not that important.
              I think that the second side of the coin negates what you call the first.

              It's just a game. What's next? Arresting anyone that plays Thief? Charging people with murder when they play Hitman?
              Become a supporting member!
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              • #8
                Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                Yeah I don't get it... wouldn't this make all of us the most prolific mass murderers ever? And will people who've played GTA3 be arrested for soliciting prostitutes?
                A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

                "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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                • #9
                  Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                  Originally posted by Steeler View Post
                  TG WoW players, is this even remotely true?
                  That's awesome. Looks like this might spawn some groups of people interested in taking care of the pirates. Have any Charles Bronsons shown up?
                  The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. ~
                  I have a tendency to key out three or four things and then let them battle for supremacy while I key, so there's a lot of backspacing as potential statements are slaughtered and eaten by the victors. ~
                  Feel free to quote me. ~

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                    Originally posted by Hambergler View Post
                    I hope I don't get investigated for tea bagging.
                    Haha! Now THAT's funny!
                    "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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                    • #11
                      Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                      Originally posted by Steeler View Post
                      TG WoW players, is this even remotely true? It sounds like the authors don't understand the concept of PvP. Don't let them near EVE.
                      Yes and no. However it sounds like the author is getting Ultima Online (the MMORPG most notorious for PVP ganking) and WoW.

                      There is a problem with 8 year olds with high level characters and an e-peen the size of a peanut who think its cool to repeatedly kill low level characters and corpse camp them until they logout or spirit res (coming back at a graveyard instead of the corpse). You can't loot corpses killed in PvP so they get nothing out of it and you don't lose durability when killed from PvP so the victims don't lose anything out of it either except time. There are definate 'ganking is bad' and 'ganking is cool' camps on the PvP servers where this is allowed. On PvE servers the only way to kill another player is to flag PvP (turning it on manually or through actions) or enter a PvP Battleground.

                      So yeah, if level 70 ashats want to band together and make life for level 15 characters a living hell by repeatedly killing them its allowed. Their response to fair play is the ever repeated "reroll carebear PvE noob" line.

                      Then again I hear horror stories of people who play Ultima Online. Three steps after leaving a town they are killed by a delayed cast fireball from someone they can't even see, have their corpse looted, and have to start from scratch/what they've saved with an XP penalty. Rinse and repeat.

                      Think Spawn Camping in a FPS with the same people yelling "It's a legitimate strategy!"
                      My sanity is not in question...
                      It was a confirmed casualty some time ago.


                      Light, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of the people I had to kill because they ticked me off.



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                      • #12
                        Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                        The same thing goes down in Eve. Older players and pirates preying on newer players who venture into low security areas or using some un-obvious mechanics to get the newbies to aggress them in high security space. Whats different about Eve, is that its feasible for a bunch of newer players to gang together and utterly wtfpwn the asshat. Or hire a corporation of mercs to do that for them. :)
                        Do or do not, there is no try....
                        -- Yoda, Dagobah

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                        • #13
                          Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                          So is this your way of igniting another gun debate? I'll throw the first stone then.

                          Maybe they should allow the virtual citizens in the games to arm themselves.

                          There it is. Ladies and gentlemen light your flamethrowers!

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                          • #14
                            Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                            Originally posted by Judge_Leo View Post
                            So is this your way of igniting another gun debate? I'll throw the first stone then.

                            Maybe they should allow the virtual citizens in the games to arm themselves.

                            There it is. Ladies and gentlemen light your flamethrowers!
                            How many games do we play that don't already have armed characters?
                            Become a supporting member!
                            Buy a Tactical Duck!
                            Take the world's smallest political quiz! "I was touched by His Noodly Appendage."
                            TacticalGamer TX LAN/BBQ Veteran:

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Virtual Culture, Real Vice

                              Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
                              How many games do we play that don't already have armed characters?
                              I kind of agree with him. I one-starred the thread and consider it little more than flamebait. When the thing opens like this: "...is the lax attitude towards virtual sex crime in the USA compared with other nations.", I can tell it's going to be a whole new "America is bad, we're good" speech.

                              Just another Bandoleer of Carrots.
                              Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.

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