Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Virtual plague

I find this mildly hilarious.

It seems that a monster in Warcraft (the online game) was infected with plague by the creators of the game. When you sliced open the creature in gameplay, it spewed out 'Corrupted Blood' which infected your character.

It seems the plague spread through the virtual world through a virtual character's pet. Now, whether this was a deliberate 'virtual bioterrorism incident' or just accidental spread of the plague, two things spring to my mind:
  1. At what point will the law need to regulate virtual universes? I remember virtual land being sold for $20,000 odd a while back. At what point will contract law, property law and, say, family law need to step in to regulate these transactions? If I buy a block of virtual real estate to house a character in the main street of a cool town, does my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/de-facto obtain any property rights in settlement of divorce or separation proceedings? Or, when we are selling this virtual real estate after a virtual housing boom, will we need to draw up a section 32 statement and ring VicRoads, to check if any virtual roads have been planned through the site? This sounds pretty damn silly, but I can see it happening...
  2. What can we learn in terms of real life applications from such 'virtual' incidents? I know we use flight simulators and that sort of stuff, but what could FEMA have learnt from a virtual hurricane, for example? Can we create these virtual disasters to test our response mechanisms in the case of natural disasters such as Katrina, or terror attacks? The Beeb article talks about dead characters in the streets, surely we could recreate, say, the London bombings and work out virtual responses, if only to test their applicability in a real world scenario. I am not great with computers, so not sure of the feasibility of this, but it could be quite interesting...
  3. Sorry, three things. Let's say this was actually programmed to happen by a Warcraft user. (a) Is this 'virtual bioterrorism'? I would say yes. (b) Supposing people need to pay to use a service like this, is this (i) vandalism or (ii) some criminal act? I know Warcraft characters revive when they die, but what if you had to pay $20 each time the character died? Sounds like real world property damage to me...

As I said, these scenarios seem absolutely ridiculous. But I am interested to hear what people think about regulation of a virtual environment. Maybe someone should write a paper, I know I haven't got time to!!!


Blogger Dash Brannigan said...

You should look at what has happened in the world of diablo II (which is made by the same people as Warcarft).

People bought items on ebay for sometimes hundreds of dollars. Although the items always remain the property of Blizzard at all times. Instead of buying the item per se you are paying that person for the time they spent collecting it.

I know with diablo II you may have controlled characters and items online but you didn't own any virtual thing.

As for simulating disasters and the like there will always be one group ahead of the rest... Insurance companies.

3:32 am  

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