Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you're about to read is true. Only the names and story have been changed to protect the innocent.
It was a normal Friday night in Ogrimmar. Raid parties were forming up, and newbs were spamming the open chat. That's when I received the call from Detective Barthashar, a MOP out of Qeynos. It seems they had a line on some bot activity and had traced the guy to my turf. We compared some notes, and sure enough, it was the Bully Bot Boy, Morii. I've been tracking that scumbag for quite some time now, and it turns out he's been crossing realm lines, trading out his gold in several different games, shaking down newbs and veterans alike.
His activities had brought him to the attention of several enforcement agencies. A joint investigation was being launched between our department and three other jurisdictions.
Now Morii had been traced to my jurisdiction. This is the city. Ogrimmar, Durotar. I work here... I'm a MOP.
It's only a matter of time before some sort of law enforcement agency begins policing the ranks of Massively Multiplayer Online Games. After all, we're talking about third-party companies doing hundreds of millions of dollars selling "merchandise" in these games. The game companies are fighting it as best they can, but it is an industry that grows right on par with the growth of gaming companies.
With the encouragement of Sony Online Entertainment in its own Station Exchange, virtual items are being ascribed with real-world dollar values. And once something has a real-world value, it's only a matter of time before our beloved elected officials take action - for the greater good, of course - and begin legislating things. If I steal a sword from you - even if it is merely a bunch of ones and zeroes - I have stolen something with a defined, measurable market value.
A pair of "Gnoll Skin Wristguards" are listed on the Station Exchange for $140.00 as I write this. If I went to the local police station and filed a complaint that I was robbed of $140.00, it might only be a charge of Petty Theft - but don't let the name deceive you: It is a charge, and one that is punishable by a stiff fine and up to a year in jail. And if I stole seven pairs of those wristguards, I've just graduated to Grand Theft. And not the Rockstar Games variety, either.
So who gets to investigate these matters? Why, Joe Friday and his fellow MOPS, of course!
MOP, Massive Online Police, will have to be introduced to the game worlds. Never mind petty GameMasters or Customer Service Reps; MOPs will quickly supercede them with the ability to investigate not only things like duping and bots, they'll investigate exploiters' real-world identities and track them from game to game. Regular patrols will be set up in the most dangerous areas of MMOGs as MOPs "walk their beats" looking for bots and exploiters. MOPs will enter PvP servers in heavily-armed Special Reaction Teams, looking for the worst PKers using exploits or hacks to best their opponents.
The MOP department will regularly publish their "Most Wanted" list to game companies, a black-list of players for whom they're on the hunt. In-game MOPs will coordinate strikes with real-world police agencies to raid gaming "sweatshops," where children are being forced to farm gold for less than a dollar a day.
Once the quasi-legitimate companies are driven out of business, Virtual Cartels will arise, specializing in underground gold farming and power-leveling; headquartering themselves in third-world countries where the laws are friendlier for their ilk. MOPs will find their jobs a constant uphill struggle as they fight against better-financed, better-equipped and better-scripted avatars. The Cartels will continue to smuggle their gold into the games, often times with the help of MOPs they've bribed to work with them.
Eventually, a group of exploiters will rise up and manage to avoid prosecution and not be caught by authorities. They will conceal their cheating and violations of Codes of Conduct and End-User Licensing Agreements through triple-layers of fake accounts. They'll take on identities of dead people to set up accounts (buying scores of dead identities from Voter Registration). They'll employ the most elite of script kiddies to avoid detection from developers.
They will come to be known as the UnNerfables.
And, of course, the MOP Squad will catch them when the UnNerfables forget to file their taxes correctly.
Shawn "Kwip" Williams is the founder of N3 (NeenerNeener.Net), where he toils away documenting his adventures as the worst MMO and pen-and-paper RPG player in recorded history.