An Avatar’s Day in Court: A Proposal for Obtaining Relief and Resolving Disputes in Virtual World Games

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Virtual world games are a hub for worldwide entertainment, social networking, and financial gain. They have also become a venue for criminal and tortious activities. Human players are using their in-game players, or avatars, to steal, defame, mutilate, defraud, and emotionally wreak havoc and disrupt other avatar game-play. Not only has this resulted in emotional detriment to players, but property and financial damage as well. Though such cruel acts are routinely brushed aside, critics, players, and scholars are increasingly attaching real life consequences to in-game activities. Despite the harm, victims are often unable to seek resolve, leading to a negative game-playing experience and potentially driving away business for game developers.

Though the real world is attempting to recognize in-game property rights to provide relief, it is not the viable solution some may think. As this paper demonstrates, parties face major obstacles in the real world attempting to resolve in-game disputes. Thus, I have proposed a two-tiered justice system: the In-Game Justice System (the “IGJ”) and the Real World Justice System (the “RWJ”) to provide a potential means of resolving in-game disputes using various real world theories of law and judicial proceedings. More importantly, real world courts would now be sought as a venue of last resort if an aggrieving player pierces the virtual veil (the “PVV”). This proposal intends to provide justice and relief to victims of virtual worlds, and hopefully a means towards understanding the interplay between the virtual world and the real world.

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