Online multiplayer games abound on the Internet. In these virtual worlds, players adopt avatars or personas as their online identities, acquire and manipulate objects, engage in commerce, own real property, participate in community life, and forge bonds and relationships with other online personalities.
As a result it is no surprise to learn that the virtual worlds in which these games unfold have grown similar to the real world in one significant way: conflicts occur in them, arising out of online relationships and conduct. Indeed, recently in China a man murdered a competitor over the theft of a virtual sword in an online game. And CollisionDetection.net reports that virtual spouses, suspecting their partners of cheating, have hired virtual detectives to produce evidence of infidelity. Can virtual divorce mediation be far behind?
As it turns out, the fields of law and online dispute resolution have directed their attention to the conflicts and issues that result from virtual world interactions.
The web site for the New York Law School Law Review provides links to essays and articles presented at the Institute for Information Law and Policy Symposium: State of Play, which explore the legal and public policy implications which emerge in virtual worlds. Be sure to read “Bringing Online Dispute Resolution to Virtual Worlds: Creating Processes Through Code”, an article by Ethan Katsh, the Professor of Legal Studies and the Director of the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The experience of addressing conflict in virtual worlds will no doubt have applications to real-life conflicts in cyberspace.
For additional articles at the New York Law School Law Review web site relating to virtual worlds and online gaming, click here.