A topic I considered for my paper, but later abandoned, was whether your online character (such as in an MMORPG) could be defamed. In certain games, your reputation is quite important and the goodwill you have accumulated in the community can directly affect your ability to enjoy, succeed, and even profit from the game. For example, one could imagine that if you have a reputation for fraud in EVE Online, other players may not want to trade with you or associate with you. Or in Second Life, where you can actually sell virtual property, people might not want to engage in financial transactions with you if you have a reputation of a crook.
So can anything be done if someone defames your online character?
Since a considerable amount of communication in online games is still done through typing, we would probably be dealing with libel. But if voice chat was used, it would be slander.
A libel plaintiff has a cause of action if the words complained of:
1. Are capable of being defamatory
2. Refer to the plaintiff
3. Are published to a third party
a. Malice is presumed upon proof of publication
Thus, the question is, when someone speaks in a defamatory manner towards an online character, are they referring to the plaintiff? I’m unsure what the correct answer to this. On the one hand, the online character is often a different personality than the real person, but on the other hand, it is the plaintiff sitting behind the computer screen playing the game. Can the real person legally be separated from the online character?
I guess the closest non-video game analog of this would be with a pen name for a book. If someone became famous under a pen name, but then later that name was defamed, could the actual author sue?