Agent Smith invades online games

A Chinese exchange student was recently arrested in Japan for using software bots to rob characters in the Lineage II online computer game. This is a novel problem, and begs the question: what kind of penalty should be meted out for virtual thuggery?

A Chinese exchange student was recently arrested in Japan for using software bots to rob characters in the Lineage II online computer game. This is a novel problem, and begs the question: what kind of penalty should be meted out for virtual thuggery? It's not like anyone REALLY ended up with a broken nose because their software opponent rabbit-punched them faster than they could respond.

Of course, the really big question is: Where's Neo? (a.k.a. "The One," the human who moves faster than the intelligent enforcer programs in "The Matrix" and thinks dressing like a priest is extremely hip)

In truth, the problem of theft in online games is just an extension of the problem of theft in digital e-commerce. It likely won't get someone sent to San Quentin (like I said, no one's nose really got broken), but money IS being stolen, and that puts it in the same category as people who lift credit cards from e-commerce sites.

Imagine where this could go, though. Shortly after arriving in Switzerland in May of 2000, I discovered Tad Williams' "Otherland" series, thus proving that programmers and science fiction go together like Aussies and music by Abba. In Tad's universe, people get brain implants to enable whole sensory participation in virtual worlds, whether it's an online game or just virtual clubs. Getting manhandled by a bot would take on a whole new meaning, as you would experience the process in ways you don't when the action is confined to your computer monitor or television.

At that point, would we treat virtual assault in similar fashion to actual assault? Likewise, will our fragile psyches be able to handle "Butch," bouncer at "The Biker's Hangout," wiping tears from his eyes as he describes getting virtually attacked by "HackDaemon", a bot controlled by a guy who weighs 100 pounds and works at the local "Taco Bell."

Computers, the great social leveller.

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