As anyone who has played this game for any real length of time can tell you, there is no such mechanic in World of Warcraft that allows anyone to kill someone else and "make off with their virtual belongings." Sure, in the Battlegrounds, if you kill someone, you can loot little trash items/coin. But those are not items that come from a player's inventory -- the items you "loot" are things that are generated in that battleground instance. Once you step outside of those instances, nobody can loot anything from you.
And what about these "gangs of animated characters" that are mentioned? Sure, people tend to like to group to achieve objectives, but even in the absolute worst areas a PvP server has to offer (Stranglethorn Vale, anyone?) I don't think anyone would class the the ganking that goes on there as involving "gangs" that make the area "so lawless." Even talking about NPCs that travel in packs -- like the Courier and her toadies in Eastern Plaguelands, who will most definitely kill most any solo player unlucky enough to run into her -- they don't make off with your belongings at any time. For that matter, I don't think anyone would even consider contacting a GM to complain about being ganked by an NPC -- or another Player if they're flagged for PvP. These fights are all fully within the game's expected and understood mechanics.
The nearest examples that we could figure that they might have meant would perhaps be RuneScape, where you lose everything if a player kills you while you're "skulled." I know in EVE Online you can be killed (or "podded") at any time in any location, and your ship can be salvaged. There was also the old days of EverQuest and Ultima Online when PvP had harsher repercussions that involved losing gear. But World of Warcraft is far removed from those games, as anyone who has played them can tell you.
In short, I'm surprised at the Washington Post for namedropping World of Warcraft in this recent article when the topic of virtual crime (the rest of the article is about virtual rape, virtual pedophelia, and other crimes that are actually being investigated by real world police) has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with WoW. There is no lack of topics to report on in regards to WoW, either. Examples include the recent lawsuit Blizzard started against The Company Who Shall Not Be Named By Me, all the great content in the Black Temple patch, or how about a comparison of the insane profits that Vivendi posted last quarter versus many other companies who have MMO games in their stables. But I suppose they're not as interesting and attention-grabbing as the topic of horrific virtual crimes in video games.
The only problem is that - when it comes to World of Warcraft - the sensational virtual crimes just don't exist.
[via the WoW LJ community]