Woman jailed for murdering avatar

Tokyo woman jailed for murdering her virtual ex-husband's avatar.

The line between virtual reality and its flesh-and-blood cousin blurred a little this week as a 43-year-old Tokyo woman was jailed for murdering her virtual ex-husband's avatar.

After she suddenly found herself divorced in "Maple Story," a popular 2-D side scrolling MMORPG, the unidentified woman used her ex-husband's ID and password to log into the game and kill him off. Call it Death by Deletion.

When the man discovered his beloved avatar was gone, he contacted authorities, which led to the woman's arrest. "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning," the woman told investigators. "That made me so angry." The AP reports that the woman had no intention to carry out violence in reality.

The charges are "illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data," which carries a sentence of up to five years in jail or a fine up to $5,000.

This is the first time I've ever heard of real-life authorities getting involved with virtual homicide. While the charges have nothing to do with the avatar's death, but rather the woman's illegal methods of bumping it off, it certainly illustrates how emotionally involving online MMORPGs can be.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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