Mobs Move Into Sims Online Power Vacuum

An underground group known as the Sims Shadow Government has taken over the fantasy world that is The Sims Online, meting out mob justice.

It's a violent twist for The Sims, the dollhouse-inspired computer game that has long been portrayed as the antithesis to guns-'n-gore bestsellers like Grand Theft Auto. The emergence of a seedy underbelly in the online game may reveal more about the dark fantasies of middle-aged suburbanites than anyone suspected.

To hear the ersatz mob boss, Piers Mathieson, tell it, it all began innocently enough, with the desire to impose order on the chaos that is The Sims Online. To Mathieson, the lack of a government to lay down laws in virtual online communities like Alphaville -- let alone cops to enforce the rules -- resulted in anarchy. ``Grievers'' arose -- players who delight in creating misery for other players -- stealing money, trashing houses or even appropriating another's online identity.

Mathieson, 34, who lives in Las Vegas and promotes bands, said players turned into racketeers. "They show up at your house and they request protection money. `You have to pay me 100,000 simolians if you don't want your house torn down.' It's technically harassment." "We weren't playing the games as hoodlums, we were playing the game as protectors of the city," said Mathieson. At least at first. Somewhere along the line, though, the Sims Shadow Government turned from benevolent overseer to a virtual version of La Cosa Nostra.

The in-game hits are not as gory as a bloody horse head in the bed of a movie producer who offended Don Corleone -- the fictional Godfather created by Mario Puzo. But for online game players who invest months developing a character, it can be nonetheless devastating. Like the time 28 gang members stormed a rival's property and delivered a ``red link'' -- the game's way of designating another player as an ``enemy.''

Game experts say organized gangs are the hallmark of successful online multiplayer games, like ``Lineage'' or ``Ultima Online.'' Sometimes, it's a sign that the game lacks enough interesting elements to engage the players -- so they create their own drama. More often, it means players are so attached that they invest the time to exploit its rules.

News source: Slashdot

View: Full article @ Silicon Valley

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