Gamer steals from virtual world to pay real debts

Thu Jul 2, 2009 12:54pm EDT
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By JaShong King

TORONTO, July 2 (Reuters Life!) - Facing real world debts, a trusted figure in a popular online game stole money from the virtual bank he ran and exchanged it for cash through the black market.

It happened in EVE Online, where more than 300,000 subscribers pay $15 a month to play. They gain wealth through hard work, manipulating the market, or killing rivals in a distant future where humans have colonized the stars in an online game similar to World of Warcraft and Second Life.

EBank, EVE's largest player-run financial institution which has thousands of depositors, is at the center of the scandal.

"Basically this character was one of the people that been running EBank for a while. He took a bunch of (virtual) money out of the bank, and traded it away for real money," said Ned Coker, of the Icelandic company CCP, which developed the game.

The CEO of EBank, a 27-year-old Australian tech worker who identified himself only as Richard and used the online name Ricdic, embezzled about 200 billion interstellar kredits, the game's virtual currency.

He broke the rules of the game by exchanging the stolen virtual funds for $6,300 Australian ($5,100) with players who preferred to buy virtual money rather than earn it playing the game.

"It was a very on the spot decision," the married father of two explained in an interview.

He said a spam email for a black market website that traded online money for real cash popped up on his screen, prompting him to exchange the virtual cash for real money to cover a deposit on his house and expenses related to his son's medical problems.   Continued...

<p>The avatar for the EVE Online character EBANK Ricdic is seen in a handout image. REUTERS/CCP/Handout</p>