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16 April, 2005

Boundaries blurring

A couple of weeks ago, a man in China was killed, for stealing an item from his murderer in a computer game.  That's a real stabbing for a virtual theft, of a 'fictional' in-game item.

That's odd enough in itself, but an even more surprising part of the BBC report is an incidental comment that unlike China (and the rest of the world), South Korea has a (real world) police division specially dedicated to in-game activities.  I wonder if they ever struggle to claim jurisdiction in Raccoon City, San Andreas, or wherever.

Okay; that's facetious. The real point, which I do find genuinely interesting, is that entirely 'non-existent' property is beginning to acquire real-world value, and real-world society is having to adapt to the virtual. I'm not simply referring to intangible property – text, images, music and data stored in purely digital formats have been with us for a while, but interaction with them is in the real world. Material only relevant to the online world, with which one can only interact in-game... that's the sci-fi part.

I put 'fictional' and 'non-existent' in quotes in foregoing paragraphs because in some ill-defined sense such items aren't quite fictional any more and, in certain practical terms, exist.

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