The Telegraph, a United Kingdom daily paper, reports on deviant behaviors surfacing in Second Life and other virtual communities, in its 2 June 2007 article, Trouble in Online Paradise . Problems include players posing as minors to sell virtual sex, gather in virtual riots, virtually assault one another, human avatars having sex with virtual animals, and “real life” Chinese sweatshops playing 24 hours a day as “gold farmers” in World of Warcraft where they earn credits that can be sold for real cash to Westerners who don’t want to spend the time to earn the credits or tools.
Some people have even been killed in real life for their virtual actions. The Telegraph article reports 41 year old Qiu Chengwei of Shanghai stabbed Zhu Caoyuan several times in the chest after he was told Zhu had stolen his “dragon sabre” used in Legend of Mir 3. The sword sells for about 430 British pounds, but required a tremendous amount of energy and time to acquire. Qiu actually reported the theft to “real” police but was told they “could not investigate the loss of virtual property”.
The Telegraph article goes on to report last month (May 2007) German prosecutors launched an investigation into players who “were buying and selling sex with underage avatars.”
Way back in 1997 we noted this trend when we tried to identify Recent Developments and Trends in Keychain Virtual Pets. Our 16th trend was Pets From the “Seedier Side” and noted the Tamahonam Gangster Pet, and how the initial Rikou Rikou Chan if not properly cared for drank beer, smoked cigarettes, and stabbed people. Since then several more seedier pets have appeared including a Charles Manson Tamagotchi.
Most virtual pets and virtual communities start with good intentions, but when traffic gets mainstream and heavy, the seedier side begins to show up in the dark corners and prey on others, just like in real life.