Taxing and Regulating Virtual Worlds

Here is a pretty common prank that is currently resolved in-game by filling out a complaint ticket:

A player (griefer) climbs his character onto a rooftop using a game exploit where no one else can get to him. He begins his hunt for lower-level players and spots … you. Then he proceeds to “melt your face” from afar. While you’re looking around trying to find him, your character dies. You run your ghost back to your dead body, which will be lying under the aforementioned killer, who is now dancing on your corpse. You resurrect and he kills you again. You run back and resurrect, and he does it again. This continues for about 20 minutes or so or until you give up and log off. It’s also known as corpse camping.

If government was involved, then that annoying corpse camper could be facing real charges of harassment and possibly mental anguish. (I’ve read some pretty heinous meltdowns from people being “griefed.”) No matter what the victim thinks is suitable punishment, jail time or massive fines wouldn’t fit the crime.

A good example of keeping jurisdictions in perspective comes from the article "Global Gaming Crackdown" in Wired:

The government lets referees police behavior in a hockey rink that would normally be the purview of local prosecutors. (Try high-sticking your mail carrier to experience the difference.)

Considering that regulation and bureaucracy never get smaller, let’s follow that idea of ever-expanding government even further into the virtual world:

If the virtual world is taxed like the real world, then it will eventually be treated more and more like the real world. Maybe a player’s warrior doesn’t need three swords. Let’s cap him at two and tax the third. Why stop there? If he can afford so much gear, why not redistribute his in-game wealth to other players who don’t have time to earn enough in-game money to buy good gear? I’m sure there’s a voting block online who would appreciate government kickbacks for being “victims” of having very little time to play.

I’d venture to say out of the eleven million Americans playing just the game World of Warcraft, most of them are adults and can vote. According to a Pew study, over half of American adults play video games.

Being an adult, you should know better than to make jokes about someone’s race, especially jokes about the gnome race. No one will tolerate that hate speech. You should be banned from your account for a month -- or, better yet, fined.

Played too much this week? The government should cut you off. China already does this for minors: after a certain point they get in-game warnings and then the game switches off. Parents obviously aren’t qualified to monitor their kids online.

Speaking of your kids online, those little crumb crunchers are usually the richest people in virtual worlds because they’ve got time to play the most. You better check their inventory of “phat loot,” because you may be taxed on it someday. After all, it is your credit card they’re using for their game subscription, right?

Does all of this supposed regulation sound ridiculous? Just take a look around in the “real world.” It’s already happened. Why not make the leap into the virtual world and harass people there too?