Online gamer arrested for 'virtual murder' in Japan

She isn't accused of homicide, exactly, but a woman in Japan could spend five years in jail on charges related to "murdering" her virtual husband in revenge for a virtual divorce.

Police in Japan suspect that a 43-year-old woman grew enraged after her online husband "divorced" her in the interactive Maple Story game -- so much so that she virtually eliminated him.

The woman, Mayumi Tomari, has been arrested by the police on suspicion of illegally using the man's logon and password to steal his ID in the game and delete his character, according to an account in the Daily Yomiuri Online.

As of Friday, Tomari hadn't been formally charged. But she could face a hefty fine or up to five years in prison if charged and convicted on allegations of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data.

Maple Story is an online role-playing game (it claims to be the first) in which online characters engage in relationships -- and apparently end them -- while also battling virtual enemies.

No indication has emerged yet that the 33-year-old purported victim of the alleged crime plans a civil suit around any sort of damages -- something that might be theoretically possible in some countries, at least, if the victim had invested in his online character in the way that some Second Lifers do, for instance.

Although the impact of the alleged ID theft seems to be confined to the virtual world, there have been other instances where game interactions have actually sparked real world crimes.

As one example, a blogger on TechnologyExpert.com has pointed to the arrest of 33-year-old Kimberly Jernigan of North Carolina of charges of trying to kidnap a boyfriend she'd met on Second Life, after he'd ended their real world romance and sexual affair.

Then, there was the killing in Russia of a 33-year-old member of the Platanium clan of an MMORPG guild by a 22-year-old member of the rivalrous Coo-clocks clan. When the two virtual gang members confronted each other in the physical city of Ufa, Russia, the 33-year-old got badly beaten. He died on the way to the hospital.

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