Is it illegal to cheat someone of an in-game item in MMORPGs?

Last updated on January 2, 2012

Computer-related crimes are primarily regulated via the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) in Singapore.

Whether it is illegal to cheat someone of an in-game item in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) would depend on the definition of “cheat”.

In games such as Team Fortress 2 and World Of Warcraft, players are allowed to trade items. A situation may arise where Peter lies that weapon X can do 100 damage and then proceeds to sell or trade this item to Tom. Tom then finds out that the weapon is only able to do a maximum of 80 damage.

This probably does not constitute cheating since the transaction is a consensual bargain, albeit one involving an exaggeration. If the item is worth a negligible amount of real world money, it is probably not worthwhile for the victim to pursue any form of compensation.

The CMA lists several offences that are actively prosecuted in Singapore. For example, unauthorised access to computer material (as provided for in section 3 of the CMA) could include hacking into a game account and emptying it of valuable in-game items.

The same could be said of exploiting game bugs to steal from other players. Other offences include unauthorised modification of computer material (section 5 of the CMA) and unauthorised password disclosure (section 8 of the CMA).

In addition, the Penal Code also prescribes certain criminal offences involving property. With the increased prevalence of technology in our everyday lives, it is increasingly likely that virtual property will be recognised as real property in the courts. Criminal offences include theft, extortion, and cheating, to name a few.

Since these are criminal offences, the victim may want to lodge a police report.

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