Interplay between ownership and game mechanics in EVE Online

The concept of ownership established in the real world doesn't always equate with 'reality' in the virtual. When someone robs a person in real life, we don't just hope that they will be punished for this, we expect it. We demand it. Theft runs counter to law. But within the virtual, what if theft of another's property falls within game mechanics? If something is a crime in the eyes of players but doesn't violate the EULA, and the crime is committed fully within permitted game mechanics in the virtual space -- the game world equivalent of 'law' -- can it even be called "crime" at all? An article at The West Georgian titled "A Nerdy Commentary on Governments, Games, and Property", written by Jacob Lovell, explores this interplay between real world concepts of ownership and the virtual world's crimes.

To do so, Lovell looks back on what stands -- to this day -- as one of the most significant ways people pushed the boundaries of what's permissible in an MMO: the Guiding Hand Social Club's (GHSC) defining act of espionage in EVE Online from 2005. Most EVE players are quite familiar with the event, when the GHSC took a contract to bring down their 'client's' rival corporation, Ubiqua Seraph. Operatives in the Guiding Hand Social Club spent roughly one year infiltrating the target corporation, until the codeword 'Nicole' was called out. At that moment, operatives at all levels within the target corporation raided its assets. The heist coincided with an assassination of the Ubiqua Seraph CEO, by her own trusted lieutenant... also a GHSC operative who led her into the trap, followed by some excellent PR spin.

Their actions had a mixed reception by the EVE playerbase at the time, the concepts of ownership and criminality in the game not having been fully explored (or exploited) until that point. Some glorified the GHSC's actions. Others, however, were horrified that this was allowed by EVE's creator, CCP Games, and called for the MMO developer to respect claims of ownership in the virtual space. Lovell writes, "It is in this range of responses that one may catch a fleeting glimpse of the minds of people and reactions to events in reality." He goes on to point out that all games must have winners and losers. If one can simply change the rules of a game because they've lost, or drastically reduce the risks of losing... there wouldn't be much point to playing.

[Via CrazyKinux]