Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Julian Dibbell wrote an article about people who were making a real-world living selling imaginary goods -- or, more precisely, goods which exist only in the computers which simulate Britannia, the world of the role-playing game Ultima Online. Upon further reflection, he decided that sounded like more fun than trying to make a living as a professional writer, so he's trying instead to make the trade in imaginary artifacts his primary source of income.

The new job is landing him in some peculiar ethical dilemnas, as in this case, where he figured out that a high level in-game thief (a character class set up by the game's designers) was trying to convert his in-game thieving skills into real-world cash, using Dibbell as a fence. At a loss for direction, he consulted a more experienced dealer, who he calls Mr. Big, who advised:

Well - to be honest - stealing in game is not unethical to me. Rogue/theif is a player skill - so I would have no problem with that. Now, if it involved real life theft - real money or out of game scamming - that is a totally different story. But using stealth/stealing in game is totally acceptable in my mind.

Thus fortified by the moral distinction between real-world and play-world theft, Dibbell closed the deal. Of course, the money he gets paid these days, by electronic transfer, is barely more tangible than the clothes, castles, and magical artifacts he trades for it...

Found via BoingBoing's link to another post, which among other things, worries about the decline in on-line sales. I suppose it could be something within Britannia itself, or, say, currency manipulation, but it's also possible that the jobless recovery in the United States is starting to spill over into Britannia...


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