Japanese man arrested for stalking woman through Final Fantasy XIV and social media
A Japanese man was arrested on October 17 by Hyogo Prefectural Police under the suspicion of violating the Anti-stalking act by continuously stalking and messaging a woman through the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV and social media. Online users and players of the game were relieved to see an example of the law on stalking being applied to virtual space.
According to a report by Kobe News the suspect, a 38-year-old office worker from Tokyo, allegedly developed romantic feelings for a woman (28) he met through the game and proceeded to send unwanted messages to her through the game’s chat as well as X/Twitter and messaging apps from the period between March 20 to May 16. The man allegedly sent 22 messages, with some of them included threatening content such as “I’ll tell your family about everything up until now.”
The police reports that the two had first become acquainted in 2019 through FFXIV, exchanging messages through the game’s chat and on social media, but that, when the woman decided to end contact and block the man, he started stalking her character in-game and sending messages such as “Don’t leave me.” The man is reportedly partially denying charges, claiming not to have romantic feelings for the victim, which is an important factor for stalking cases in Japan.
News of the arrest has caused many surprised reactions from the public, and as the game’s title was revealed, the incident had been gaining significant attention among the FF community as well. Stalking arrests made based on a person’s actions within a game are quite uncommon, and some people are happy that a precedent has been set with the actions taken this time around.
Users are expressing their frustration with players who engage in the game with ulterior motives and negatively affect the game’s environment and reputation through stalking and similar acts, and many expressed hopes that the fear of real-life legal consequences will help deter such people in the future.
Square Enix has regulations and penalties in place against stalking activity in FFXIV, which includes physically following someone in-game, repeatedly sending unwanted messages and party/friend requests and similar. Committing such acts can result in in-game penalties such as a restraining order.
Most likely, the arrest this time around was a result of the stalking activity and unwanted contact persisting in-game while also extending into other spaces such as X/Twitter and LINE (messaging app), which are much more closely associated with one’s real-life identity.
In response to news of this case, a portion of users expressed fear of FFXIV being negatively impacted by the incident, i.e. potential players being scared away, and the game’s reputation being damaged going forward.
However, while every online space is bound to have the occasional creep, FFXIV generally has a rather favorable reputation in this sense. There have even been multiple stories of FFXIV partners who met naturally through the game ending up marrying in real life. It’s frequent enough for official FFXIV collaboration wedding celebrations to be a thing. That said, FFXIV is no doubt a community in which sincere use can lead to valuable encounters.