As the standards and conventions of online game titles and online game platforms are getting more and more sophisticated and more profitable, online game-related “crimes” have sparked a lot of interest, to which game developers are finding ways and means to keep criminals from turning up and about.
From implementing “restore” game options after cases of online game account theft to issuing “starter kits” made to facilitate the continued gameplay of “crippled” game-user accounts, the virtual world is well aware of how crime has gone broadly digital, divesting into the realms of gaming fantasy with actual currency involved.
Here are three of the most well known online gaming-inclined “crimes”, “crimes” which every gamer should know about and strongly advocate against, unless game conventions and standards would take on more drastic tones.
Gold Farming – with online game environments working under closed economy pretexts, the concept behind the “gold farming” practice (often attributed to be popular in Russia and in China) is easy to understand: real-world cash in exchange for in-game currency.
As a practice, “gold farming” is likened to exist as a function, a part of any existing real-world economy, where demand makes incentives out of production as supply drives price. Given how real-world economy based most online games are, the practice yields to a real-money trading (RMT) environment, and as any scheme out for a quick buck, it capitalizes on real-trading elements of online gaming ecosystems.
The practice negates the aspect of healthy competition, with “gold farming” advocates having their slews of “slaves” culling gold for them in exchange for cash. It doesn’t exactly hurt in-game economies, but it does have an impact in real world setups.
Account Theft – believe it or not, criminal organizations have actually been reported to engage in the theft of online game accounts, streamlining and even industrializing the processes involved in the practice.
Utilizing different tools, from keyloggers to spam/phishing oriented methods, the goal of most account theft proponents is access. Access to databases which house pertinent information, particularly credit card details. Though most companies employ encryption options with database records, hacked accounts could also be used for malicious online practices such as phishing and/or identity theft.
Anything of value is typically stolen once accounts are accessed, and reports of large networks (like Sony’s PlayStation Network) have histories of compromised user information and data, spilling over from hacked user accounts.
Virtual Item Theft – oftentimes following up after accounts are accessed through malicious means, virtual item theft has led to cases of rare in-game items being transferred to dummy accounts, later sold in exchange for real life currencies.
Though there have been a number of options offered by developers to compensate victims of virtual item theft, pinpointing and identifying legitimate cases of virtual item theft isn’t as easy, at times even difficult for most game developers.
It may not sound serious, but game developers are keen on ensuring a “safety net” for virtual item theft cases. The example of the Japanese MMO M2, which had to reset game data due to a server failure, left players without their character details and stats, which consequently led to the death of the game itself.
In keeping online game environments safe, developers are in constant search of strategies which don’t encourage the proliferation of criminals. But as lucrative as the arena has become over the years, a gamer’s sense of initiative stand to be the best safeguards against the rise of online gaming crimes.