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The great thing about video games is that they let you commit crimes without actually having to face the consequences of flipping your stolen Mustang into a fuel tanker during rush hour. In fact, becoming a digital criminal may actually lower your desire to shoplift a couple jugs of Tide detergent from your local Target. But every once in awhile, a love of video gaming can result in real-world legal trouble. For instance ...
Japanese Gamers Are Getting Criminal Charges Pressed For Cheating
In all the years of online jerks utilizing cheats like aimbots, hacked controllers, exploiting level glitches and self-hacking by pounding Monster energy drinks until time slows to a crawl, no Japanese gamer has ever gone to jail for their treachery ... at least not before 2014. Sure, deceitful gamers get banned from online play all the time, but rarely will a giant company like Electronic Arts see much benefit in spending the time or resources to sue some punk 12-year-old. But that all changed when, instead of the traditional banning, Japanese cheaters in the game FPS Sudden Attack (which sounds like it was named on a dare) suddenly had to face legitimate criminal charges.
In 2014, three gamers were arrested for "obstruction of business" after Nexon claimed that the cheats hurt the game and its integrity. The players had made themselves essentially invincible, which in turn made the game exactly zero fun for everybody else. Also, they’d become known in the community as "God Players” which is just pretentious.
Of course, the fact that the teenagers were also selling their cheats and had actually made $80,000 in real world money, didn’t exactly help their case. When that news came out, Nexon didn’t even have to press charges themselves -- the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department did it for them.
And once that cheating dam burst, the Japanese police started arresting other cheaters such as Akihide Yamamoto, who was allegedly selling cheats for the online shooter Alliance of Valiant Arms, which violates Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law. Usually, that law is invoked to protect company trade secrets, but it’s also totally unfair to sell pre-leveled-up characters for online computer games so ... to jail with him! If only it were as easy to prosecute people with hacks in their controllers in America. Our KDR would be so much higher, probably.
From 2002 To 2011, You Could Go To Jail For Playing A Gameboy In Greece
In America, the worst consequence for playing a Gameboy in public is running into a light pole while walking. Obviously, there’s nothing illegal about playing Elf Bowling in a public park -- you’ll just have to live with yourself. If you lived in or visited Greece between 2002 and 2011, however, playing even a single, elvish frame could result in a fine from $4,980 to $74,650 and/or a stint in jail for 1 to 12 months. For nearly a decade, the ownership or playing of any video games (mobile or otherwise) was treated as a serious crime ... much like Elf Bowling.
The Greek government knew that some video games were bad for you (in this instance, it was less about Grand Theft Auto and more about illegal gambling machines), but they didn’t know enough to distinguish which games might be okay to play. So they just up and banned them all. They could have hired any random teenager to help explain the difference between the latest Zelda and a casino simulator, but they figured it’d be easier to just make the whole industry illegal.
Totally worth it.
Naturally, Greek gamers were upset and attempted to appeal the ruling. The government held firm, however, and gamers across the country were arrested for playing games like Counter Strike. The police admitted they likely wouldn’t break into anybody’s home to stop them from playing Solitaire, but they would absolutely bust anybody that “flouted” their playing in a public space like an internet cafe. You know video gamers and their unbearable public flamboyance.
Eventually, the Greek government decided to repeal the law in 2011, a staggering nine years after the ban was enacted. It’s hard to know for sure, but we like to think the allure of Skyrim was just too much for lawmakers to resist.
A Russian Gamer Barely Avoided Jail For Playing Pokemon Go In Church
When Pokemon Go was first unleashed on the world back in 2016, very few people saw it as a means of stoking the fires of rebellion ... unless you consider covertly catching a Squirtle while on a conference call rebellious. Russia saw it differently. One YouTuber, Ruslan Sokolovsky, faced five years in prison for trying to catch Pokemon during church. Shortly after Sokolovsky posted a video of himself at the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, trying to nab pocket monsters, he was detained by Russian officials for inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities.
"Ash, why have you forsaken me?"
To be fair, this wasn’t exactly an accident. Sokolovsky had previously published several videos criticizing the Russian church, and it seems he knew he’d potentially get in some trouble for his actions.
Almost immediately after the incendiary video was posted online, Russian authorities began an investigation into the Pokemon Go-playing brigand. The police swiftly arrested Sokolovsky and threw him into detention for nearly a full year. Eventually he was released with a sentence of 160 hours of community service and a promise to reveal to the court how he got that sweet Gyarados.
GameStop Dumpster Diving: High Reward, High Risk
As long as you can stomach the inherent shame of digging through trash bags in a public place, there’s great potential to turn GameStop trash into perfectly good Playstation treasure. GameStop shelf space is increasingly important, and there’s only so much value that can be gleaned from the prominent display of Tony Hawk Ride and that dope-ass skateboard peripheral. Officially, GameStop employees are supposed to “field destroy” anything they’re going to toss into the garbage. But we're talking about real people with better things to do than ensure the total destruction of every single Duke Nukem Forever disc, which means gamers with a strong gag reflex stand to profit.
All jokes aside, GameStop “dumpster diving” can come with massive rewards. Some prominent divers have been known to make $1,000 a year by only checking their local dumpster once a month. On a larger scale, some garbage mongers have claimed they could make $250,000 a year if they dedicated themselves to the art full time (and expanded their diving forays to other businesses like Pier One and OfficeMax). See, GameStops don’t exclusively chuck mediocre Playstation 3 games -- they’ve been known to throw out working controllers, strategy guides, store displays and working TVs. Most of those things can be flipped for a tidy profit on Craigslist or Ebay. They can even be donated to charities, if you fancy yourself the Robin Hood of literal trash.
"And that's where babies come from."
But here’s the thing about dumpster diving: it’s not exactly the safest or most legal thing. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling back in 1988, most people are well within their rights to dig through somebody’s trash as long as it’s out in public and the trash is neatly disposed of after. GameStop, however, usually doesn’t throw their trash away in public, and game salvagers will often need to bypass a lock which constitutes trespassing.
Beyond that, more and more local ordinances are being passed against digging through even the most public trash as a way to limit identity theft. As such, it’s probably not exactly legal in your area, and even the best Madcatz controller with both analog sticks probably isn’t worth a hefty fine or a night in jail. Police don’t mind prosecuting people that dumpster dive to feed the homeless, so they probably won’t think twice about nabbing some thirsty nerd. That’s not even considering the possibility of injury or getting towed away with the rest of the trash.
Sex Company Sues Second Life For Ripping Off Their Virtual Sex Toys ... And Won
At its core, Second Life isn’t quite a video "game". It's mainly a low-res virtual world where players can hang out and build stuff. And the creations can be weird. People have made areas dedicated to living out 1920s Berlin ... others have made magic wands that summon briefcases full of cash whenever the word money is mentioned.
Of course, with such robust creation tools (combined with an utter lack of limits or direction) Second Life was always destined to be a hotbed for weird sex stuff. The real-world company, Eros, realized the game’s freaky potential and began releasing their own virtual sex-toys for players to go to town with/on. Unfortunately for Eros (and their insanely named CEO, Stroker Serpentine), somebody was ripping off their idea.
"Yeah, this one's OK, but do you have a rug that's suitable for cuddling?"
Although Eros’ SexGen Platinum Base v4.01 and SexGen Platinum+Diamond Base v5.01 typically went for around 45 real dollars, another user was selling the exact same products for a third of the price. Eros was not about to let their spicy product be hawked by another, so they took the virtual sex toy counterfeiter, Volkov Catteneo, to court. They claimed he’d infringed on the copyrights for what were essentially avatar animations ranging from sweet cuddling to tender intercourse to full-on group fetish play. Considering how realistic graphics from 2003 are, those stunning animations sound like a fantastic use of $45.
Eros ultimately won the case and turned their sights on other users that were ripping them off. Now $45 may not sound like that big of a deal, but in 2009 alone, Second Life reported something like $120 million in resident-to-resident purchases in just the first quarter. It was predicted by the end of the year, that number would balloon to $621 million. With that kind of money, you could probably build your own 1920s Berlin and populate it with a thousand willing cuddlers.
Like this article? Check out "5 Mundane Items That Are Contraband In Prison (And Why)" and "4 WTF Ways You Can Get Murdered Around The World".