I read an odd story recently about a woman in Italy whose home was robbed. Her virtual home, that is. At least it seemed odd to me, since I am not on any social networking sites (anymore) and never played in any of the virtual communities like Farmville or that kind of thing.
Paola Letizia, a resident of Palermo, Italy made a police report regarding a theft in her Facebook home called Pet Society. Somebody hacked into her virtual home via her Facebook page and stole furniture, household goods and everything else she had used to outfit her home. They only thing they didn’t steal was her cat, who was dressed in fancy outfits and tenderly cared for by her owner.
In case this seems bizarre to those who don’t play these kinds of games – a member pays real money for the virtual furnishings and outfits for the animals who reside there, so this virtual burglary cost an actual $140. Real police are looking into this crime and if caught, the perpetrator may face charges of “aggravated entry”. He or she is also looking at up to five years in a very real prison.
Theft is theft and should be prosecuted. However a person chooses to spend his or her own money is his or her own business. But what is most striking is Letizia’s deeply emotional attachment to this home and all its furnishings. She went public about the thefts and spoke to the press about the illegal invasion of her home: "I don’t think it matters that the flat [apartment] only exists in Facebook…it is real to me and I have suffered a real loss."
Letzia is not alone in her deep emotional attached to Facebook toys and games and other online gaming sites. Many people give their passwords to others if they will not be online so the person can water virtual plants, till the soil of online farms and even raise virtual children. They feel a tremendous sense of loss if these cartoon plants and vegetables wither or die, should their trusted password holder not fulfill the promise to take care of the farm. People panic to get home to take care of their farms, or complete other games and "projects" that they sign up for.