Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Virtual crime

I was going to write a review of Charles Stross' novel Halting State, a crime thriller that begins with a police team being called to investigate the theft of virtual goods from a MMORPG, when I read this recent story on the BBC website. You've probably seen it there or in the papers by now.

"Woman in jail over virtual murder.

"A woman has been arrested in Japan after she allegedly killed her virtual husband in a popular video game. The 43-year-old was reportedly furious at finding herself suddenly divorced in the online game Maplestory. Police say she illegally accessed log-in details of the man playing her husband, and killed off his character. The woman, a piano teacher, is in jail in Sapporo waiting to learn if she faces charges of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating data. She was arrested on Wednesday and taken 620 miles (1,000 km) from her home in southern Miyazaki to Sapporo - where her "husband", a 33-year-old office worker lives."

It's the 5-year sentence that makes this a serious story - in the UK you can still kill someone by dangerous driving, or under other circumstances falling short of murder, and receive a less severe sentence than this. Suspension of disbelief is sometimes necessary in the real world too.

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