Anyone remember the old "pick your own path" or "choose your own adventure" books. Most were based on Dungeons and Dragons scenarios, but a few also were written after a science fiction role playing game that I played called Star Frontiers. (If you've never heard of it, see one my early blogs where I compare the similarities between it and Halo). So one of my favorite choose your own adventure books was "Villains of Volturnous". Sounds rather roguish, eh? With a hint of mystery. Well, when I read the books, I always picked the "good" choice over the "bad" choice, which in the end, usually got me captured and killed. The End. Game Over. Then I would go back and read some of the other choices and end up regretting having taken the high road. That whole, "Come to the Dark Side, We have chocolate chip cookies" concept.

Well the same principle holds true for me in massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG). I've only dabbled in a few of the various ones in existence, but when I play, I’m always one of the "good guys" that usually gets taken advantage of or beaten up. I've played some Star Wars Galaxies and EVE Online. My son is an on again off again (currently on) World of Warcraft player. I watch him play from time to time and have clicked the mouse a time or two when he isn't looking.

Frankly, I don't have the time to pour my heart into one (if I did, I sure wouldn't be able to blog every day and you wouldn't be reading this right now). Of course, there is that whole monthly subscription fee that some require that I’m not a big fan of paying.


I find these games fascinating. I really do. And what I find fascinating, is the gamers who, when faced with the "choose your own adventure" choices, they go down the less travelled path. The seedy path that leads to darkness, corruption and deceit. A life of virtual crime. The Dark Side.


I'm not talking something as simple as a team kill here or a gold farm there. I'm talking syndicated crime of such a magnitude that it makes headlines in real life. An unexpected resistance uprising. Or perhaps an act so brazen, bards will eulogize the deed in legend and song.


I'm going to mention a few events that actually occurred in various MMORPGs that made the headlines and caused many to question whether they were playing with fellow gamers or cut throat criminals.

Largest Heist Ever Recorded

Game: EVE Online

Crime: Theft and Murder

Damages: Estimated Value (Real Life US Dollars) - $16,500 + elimination of rival Corporation CEO.

The perpetrator of the heist was the Guiding Hand Social Club (GHSC) corporation; a freelance mercenary outfit that offers their services (which usually involves corporation infiltration, theft and assassination) to the highest bidder. Over a year in planning, the GHSC infiltrated their target's corporation with their own members and gained their trust, as well as access to the corporation hangers, with time. It all concluded in a perfectly timed climax, with a massive theft in multiple corporation hangars synchronized with the in-game killing of the corporation's CEO, the primary target of the contract.


What's most interesting and impressive about this operation is that it was entirely 'legal' and within the game's own rules, and the mastermind and his agents pulled it off together flawlessly, all the while staying in character. The estimated real-life value of the items stolen is, according to PC Gamer, $16,500 US. The in-game value of course is much, much higher as the things stolen would take years and years to acquire.


Read the whole story here as it appeared in PC Gamer. EVE Online is no stranger to crime. Here is another interesting article about a different crime.


Not all acts start off with malicious intent. This next example, gamers rebelled against the dictatorship of a powerful organization that sought ultimate control over their universe. Don’t ever mess with gamers. They can be a nasty lot and wreck havoc on your virtual worlds.


Biggest Ban Hammer

Game: Star Wars Galaxies

Crime: Mass Protests by players unhappy with Sony Online Entertainment.

Damages: Sony shut down servers affecting an untold number of gamers - guilty or not.


Star Wars Galaxies has had its share of problems, and thankfully I never played the game long enough to experience any of them. But apparently many years ago, SOE implemented a patch that significantly changed game play resulting in mass protest. A 16,000 member petition was signed. The forums were flooded with complaints and then, gamers took their frustration out on the game. Large crowds gathered in the populated areas, using the clap emote and chanting (through in game text) their complaints against SOE. This revolt flooded servers resulting in significant latency issues. Sony stepped in, shut servers down and started banning accounts. I don't know that any data was ever captured indicating the number of users affected, but anytime servers are shutdown, I'm thinking it has to affect more than one or two people.

And probably the most tragic crime committed within the gaming community...


Hero Assassination

Game: Ultima Online

Crime: Assassination / Murder

Damages: Death of Lord British


Lord Cantabrigian British is the name of the ruler of Britannia, and an in-game personification of the creator of the series, Richard Garriott.


Lord British is a man who comes from Earth to Sosaria through a moongate. He adopts the name Cantabrigian British, taken from his birthplace, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, in favor of his old name. He quickly meets the evil wizard, Mondain, and does battle with him. After defeating him, British becomes known as "Champion of the White Light" and "Lord British, Protector of Akalabeth." Numerous plotlines and side-quests in the Ultima games revolve around one of Lord British's adventures or public works projects


One of the most famous characteristics of Lord British is that he is (supposedly) indestructible.


This tale is now a classic, a legend even, in the field of MMORPGs.


The date was August 8, 1997 during beta testing of the game. Lord British’s royal visit was conducted as a part of server population stress test. A player character known as Rainz cast a spell called “fire field” on Lord British that, surprisingly, killed him.


Look at the now famous screenshot below and mark the chat; “HE DIED”. You can see the corpse just behind the raised portcullis in the lower left.


He recounted the incident below:


“The servers had just been taken down to prepare for the huge influx of players for the speech Lord British and Lord Blackthorne were giving throughout Britannia. When the servers came back up, I strolled through Britain with Helios, my fellow guild member. We headed to Blackthorne’s castle where the first speech was being given. LB, Blackthorne, and their jesters were up on a bridge orating to the masses. Unfortunately I wasn’t playing my mage character, so casting spells from a spellbook was out of the question. Luckily my character was a good thief who had high “stealing” skill. I desperately searched the backpacks of those around me and eventually came upon a fire field scroll. After that it was pretty simple, I just cast the scroll on the bridge and waited to see what would happen. Either LB or Blackthorne made the comment “hehe nice try”, can’t recall exactly who. It was a humorous sight and I expected to be struck down by lightning or have some other evil fate befall me. Instead I heard a loud death grunt as British slumped to his death. After that it was just pure mayhem, Blackthorne or another force summoned 4 daemons into the castle and people were dying left and right.”


Finally, when asked what he did after the nefarious deed;


“I hauled balls out of the region like there was no tomorrow.”


The fantastical world of video games. What an awesome turn of events and no one got hurt. Well, I'm sure feelings were hurt but there was no long term damage.


So, fellow gamers. Virtual it fair game or punishable by death? Which path would you choose...