This is What It Sounds Like When Avatars Die…
Virtual Estates Lead to Real-World Headaches
Chris V. Nicholson, The New York Times (November 02, 2009)
I am not an online gamer so I don’t have any experience with the bazillions of virtual worlds inhabited every day by living people. That said, it’s impossible to spend any time online these days without hearing about World of Warcraft, Second Life, or the Sims, so I know all about these places. I never really gave much thought to what happens to a person’s accumulated virtual world wealth until I read this article.
The key question is this: who (or whom) inherits or keeps your ‘stuff’ after you die but your online persona hasn’t? A number of e-mail services and social networking sites have changed their policies to deal with user deaths. I wrote about a recent Facebook change here. And, as the article linked above describes, Yahoo ended up in court over the release of a dead solider’s email to his next of kin.
The article mentions a company which handles many of these online-property issues, The Digital Beyond, and if I were going to law school right now I would absolutely focus on individual internet property rights. More and more of everything is online and unless the national power grids all go down then that situation won’t change anytime soon.
The article also discusses this apparently HUGE online incident (based on what the almighty Google showed me) from a 2005 World of Warcraft funeral. Mourning avatars gathered in-game to pay their respects and were slaughtered by a rival group. It’s all like some kind of crazy drive by shooting at a funeral for a rival gang member or something.
But since this incident involves an online funeral turned avatar massacre, someone produced a YouTube video. I won’t pretend to understand what is happening in this video but it looks like a lot of gaming nerds got really really upset:
This kind of makes me want to know what is going on in these online worlds. But not enough to actually become a gamer. Death already eats up enough of my online time.