Saturday, October 25, 2008

Click 'Yes' And Marry Me!

A bored husband walked out of his marriage. His jilted wife was so enraged that she was driven to murder him.

It does sound like a classic crime of passion ... Oh, wait! Not really!

In this bizarre crime, a Japanese woman was arrested for the murder of her husband whom she has met in the virtual world. She told the police that he had abruptly divorced her and that had made her so mad.

Her 'marriage' to him was a virtual one that took place on the Maple Story computer game, which originated in South Korea. Rather, his avatar was married to her avatar in the virtual world. The make-believe husband unexpectedly demanded a divorce. She was so furious that she logged into her digital partner's account using his password and destroyed the character that he spent years to create. When he found out that his online avatar was dead, he complained to the police.

Apparently, during their honeymoon period, the man made the mistake of sharing his login information with his "wife", and now he is paying the price. The woman, on the other hand, could face a maximum sentence of 5 years in a real jail or a fine of US$5,000 - real currency, if found guilty.

A divorce, real or virtual, can get really messy!

Virtual worlds are increasingly popular. In such places people can live parallel lives, experience adventures and obtain the successes they do not have in the real world. Players often abandon their inhibitions, engaging in activity online that they would never do in the real world.

Players of Maple Story, World of Warcraft and Second Life, create and manipulate digital images called avatars, which represent themselves. They virtually engage in relationships and social activities but meanwhile, true human emotions such as love and hate develop between the virtual characters.

Such parallel lives can blur the known boundaries between the real and virtual world. While the space and activities in the virtual world are make-believe, the feelings behind the avatars are real. Studies have shown that real people tend to respond realistically in virtual social situations.

In August, a woman was charged in Delaware with plotting the real-life abduction of a boyfriend she met through "Second Life".

In Tokyo, a 16-year-old boy was charged with stealing the ID and password from a fellow player of an online game in order to swindle virtual currency worth US$360,000.

Even virtual robberies are being punished in the real world. A court in the Netherlands sentenced two youths to infinite hours of community service after they had forced a kid to transfer two items in an online role-playing game to their game accounts. The judge reasoned that a virtual item could be treated like a tangible thing one actually buys in a shop.

In China, Hebei province, a young man went gaga over a woman he met in cyberspace. His feelings towards her was far from virtual. He "married" her in an online ceremony, divorced her and then remarried her. Their turbulent relationship in the virtual world has driven him to physically assault a person who asked her out in real life.

The next time you contemplate ending a relationship in an online game, think again. The people behind those avatars have feelings.

My advice:
  1. Don't start a virtual relationship.
  2. If you are already in one, DON'T click 'yes' if the gorgeous/handsome avatar proposes to marry you.

Stay real.

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