Some months back, we noted that something odd was happening in Japan: online gaming cheaters were being arrested. Yes, arrested. Not arrested in a virtual sense, not banned from games, arrested as in picked up by police and charged with a crime. This, in case you are undecided on the matter, is insane. Cheating and online gaming have been a virtual arms-race for going on forever and generally it’s been on the gaming companies to win that war. If they can use law enforcement as a new ally, the implications could be scary, especially when it’s quite easy to levy accusations of cheating and when simply finding ways to exploit an advantage within a game is often times mistaken for cheating as well.
The latest incident is not an example of the latter. A man in his thirties in Japan, named Akihide Yamamoto, was picked up for running a web-store for cheats to exploit a game titled Alliance of Valiant Arms.
According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest paper, Yamamoto was arrested for suspected violation of Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law. Reports state that Yamamoto, a Himeji City resident, is believed to have apparently sold a hacked character and overpowered weapons to a 40-year-old man in Saitama Prefecture for 20,000 yen or US$168. This isn’t a first for Yamamoto, who has also been arrested for using cheats in another game.
Look, on the one hand cheaters are beyond annoying. Add to that the emergence of big-time eSports, the tournaments of which often times include large sums of prize money, and I can see why a gaming ecosystem exploding around online gaming means that cheaters are a bigger problem today than they were ten years ago. That said, c’mon, arresting these people and charging them criminally? For gaming? And, in this case, it’s not even the cheater that’s being charged, but a person providing the “tools”, if you will, for the cheaters. That adds a whole new layer to this, because at what point do we want to chill the tinkering and hacking that goes on with the possibility of criminal charges?
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for Yamamoto, who might well be the gaming-world’s devil for all I know. But gumming up the legal system with guys who are selling game exploits seems like a massive waste of time and resources.