Friday the Associated Press reported that a Japanese woman hacked into her online "husband’s" Maple Story account and killed the avatar. While the report said that she had no intent to cause the other player physical harm in the real world, she now faces a prison term up to 5 years or a fine up to $5,000 for "illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data," or in other words, hacking.
Apparently, her reasoning for killing off the virtual husband was because she suddenly found herself divorced without any reasons given, without any prior warning. The woman originally obtained the 33-year-old office worker’s login information while the virtual couple was still happily married. Thus, out of anger, she took her revenge. The man called the police once he logged in and discovered that his Maple Story alter ego was murdered. Although the woman has not been formally charged, she was arrested at her home in southern Miyazaki and taken 620 miles across Japan to Sapporo, the city where the male player resides.
Physical crimes based on online gaming are nothing new. Back in August, USA Today reported that a North Carolina woman was charged with plotting an actual, physical abduction of a "boyfriend" she met through Second Life. Although the man broke off the virtual relationship after meeting her in person, the 33-year-old woman drove to his apartment in Delaware armed with a stun gun, duct tape, handcuffs, and waited. She chickened out and ran off when he came home, however he called 911 and had her arrested.
In January, Pink Tentacle reported that a 16-year-old boy playing the MMORPG Mabinogi hacked into the game’s host (NEXON) and stole $325,000 (USD) worth of virtual money. The hacker used illegal software to obtain the ID and password of a former NEXON employee. Once he gained access to the game’s backend, he thus registered a new ID and password and began stealing the virtual money. His original intent was to acquire a rare dress worn by the game’s princess. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested the high school student with basically the same charge as the Maple Story hacker.
It’s really no surprise that incidents such as the ones listed above occur. MMORPG’s are especially engaging because players create their characters from scratch and - through their actions - watch them develop and grow. These games are so emotionally engrossing that either children die from neglect, the players themselves take their emotions out of other human players, or don’t even bother to take care of themselves at all.
To make things worse, now many MMORPGs offer virtual marriages; obviously, there are repercussions from such a feature. Marriage seems to be the commonplace in most MMORPGS such as Lineage 2, Ragnarok Online, Maple Story, and many others. Divorce systems are even in place to dissolve those in-game relationships. However, gamers need to keep in mind of who’s on the other end of that avatar before making those virtual “I Do’s.”
Developed by South Korean company Wizet, Maple Story is a free-to-play MMORPG featuring 2D avatars and a "Cash Shop" system where players buy items using real currency. Although the game reaches multiple countries including Korea, China, Brazil and even Thailand, over three million fan currently play in the North American / Asian / European area alone; the game currently has fifty million players worldwide.