The Sociopaths of the Virtual World

Julian Dibbell in Wired:

Secondlife1_fThe Albion Park section of Second Life is generally a quiet place, a haven of whispering fir trees and babbling brooks set aside for those who “need to be alone to think, or want to chat privately.” But shortly after 5 pm Eastern time on November 16, an avatar appeared in the 3-D-graphical skies above this online sanctuary and proceeded to unleash a mass of undiluted digital jackassery. The avatar, whom witnesses would describe as an African-American male clad head to toe in gleaming red battle armor, detonated a device that instantly filled the air with 30-foot-wide tumbling blue cubes and gaping cartoon mouths. For several minutes the freakish objects rained down, immobilizing nearby players with code that forced them to either log off or watch their avatars endlessly text-shout Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Get to the choppaaaaaaa!” tagline from Predator.

The incident, it turns out, was not an isolated one. The same scene, with minor variations, was unfolding simultaneously throughout the virtual geography of Second Life. Some cubes were adorned on every side with the infamous, soul-searing “goatse” image; others were covered with the grinning face of Bill Cosby proffering a Pudding Pop.

Soon after the attacks began, the governance team at San Francisco-based Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life, identified the vandals and suspended their accounts. In the popular NorthStar hangout, players located the offending avatars and fired auto-cagers, which wrapped the attackers’ heads in big metallic boxes.

More here.