But is it REAL?

A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from “rooms” in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.

For any of my readers older than 14 out there, let me explain. In virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel and Second Life you can buy “virtual” goods (clothes, furniture, weapons etc.) from the web site or from virtual designers who make a (very good) living designing these things. Although the goods themselves are “virtual”, the money you pay for them is real, hence the arrest.

This particular case involved a virtual thief luring unsuspecting users to a fake Habbo Hotel website and stealing their user name and password. Once he was in possession of this information he logged in the victim and “gave” the goods to his own avatar. In banking terms the thief would log on as a bank client and transfer all the funds to his own account.

This is not the first case of virtual theft reported. In fact even “real” murder has been committed in response to a virtual crime.

In 2005 a Chinese gamer was stabbed to death in a row over a sword in a game.

Shanghai gamer Qiu Chengwei killed player Zhu Caoyuan when he discovered he had sold a “dragon sabre” he had been loaned.

There are even law suits pending between users of Second Life who are suing each other, and Linden Lab, the owners of Second Life, for copyright infringement relating to virtual designs “stolen” by users.

The Washington Post explains: In Second Life, more than nine million users spend many real hours and lots of very real money to clothe, feed and comfort their avatars. According to Linden Labs, proprietors of the virtual environment platform where all this craziness takes place, users cumulatively conduct transactions totaling more than $1 million each day. That’s real dollars — the kind you can use to clothe, feed and comfort yourself in the real world.”

And just one last word of advice. If you do steal a virtual chair, just make sure it’s big enough for your virtual ass.


Enjoy your weekend.



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