Memo to Gamer-Wives: You Can’t Take it with You

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A new candidate for membership in the unusual divorce settlement club: a judge in China has reportedly denied a woman’s claim that she owns half of the virtual assets accrued during her marriage.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, the marriage of a gamer-couple—not the ones pictured—came unstuck when neither of them would tidy their home up. (Somewhere in screenwriter-land, someone is already working on a romcom with just this premise.) The couple, who apparently had less in common in the real world than in the virtual, had merged accounts under his name after their happy nuptials and were building a little nest egg of virtual assets. (More on See the top 10 video games of 2010)

Virtual assets are currency that only exists in cyberspace. You may laugh, but they represent something of a blooming, if niche industry. People are  willing to spend real dollars to send other people virtual gifts or flowers. They’re handy if you’re trying to date online, for example.

These virtual assets can also be accrued by game-playing and reaching certain benchmarks. Generally, they’re needed to play games at a high level, to buy extra ammunition for the first person shooter or to unlock another level of the game. These games are particularly popular in China, where, in a practice known as “gold farming,”  gamers sometimes reportedly sell the points they accrued in a game to Westerners who don’t have the inclination or time to labor at the lower levels of the game and accrue the points themselves. (More on Video games to look forward to in 2011)

So, apparently, the gamer wife, who was not named, has to now start at the beginning of all her games again, since her husband won’t giver her any of the points in the account and a judge won’t make him. But she’s learned a valuable real world lesson the wrist-aching way: if you’re going to have a joint account, make sure your name is on it. Also, you may want to discuss who’s going to do which chores before you get married, because, as of yet, there’s no such thing as a virtual housekeeper.

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