Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 73–87 | Cite as

On crimes and punishments in virtual worlds: bots, the failure of punishment and players as moral entrepreneurs

  • Stefano De Paoli
  • Aphra Kerr
Original Paper


This paper focuses on the role of punishment as a critical social mechanism for cheating prevention in MMORPGs. The role of punishment is empirically investigated in a case study of the MMORPG Tibia (Cipsoft 1997–2011) ( and by focusing on the use of bots to cheat. We describe the failure of punishment in Tibia, which is perceived by players as one of the elements facilitating the proliferation of bots. In this process some players act as a moral enterprising group contributing to the reform of the game rules and in particular to the reform of the Tibia punishment system by the game company. In the conclusion we consider the ethical issues raised by our findings and we propose some general reflections on the role of punishment and social mechanisms for the governance of online worlds more generally.


Virtual worlds Cheating Punishment Rule enforcement Moral entrepreneur 



This research received the support of the Irish Higher Education Authority under the PRTLI 4 programme and their partners on the ‘Serving Society: Future Communications Networks and Services’ project (2008–2010). We would like to thank Brian Conway for reading early versions of this manuscript and Cristiano Storni and Dmitri Botvich for their comments on this work. Stefano wishes also to thank the <ahref Foundation for supporting the writing of this manuscript. We also would like to thank the Ethics and Information Technology reviewers for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.<ahref FoundationTrentoItaly
  2. 2.Sociology DepartmentNational University of Ireland MaynoothMaynoothIreland

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