Internet spaceships are seriously organised business

R.W. Fleet

Griffith University – School of Criminology and Criminal Justice,

Organised crime seeks to make money from the market for illicit goods and services. These illicit markets are characterised by the use of violence as a tool for market protection and dispute resolution in the absence of legal recourse. Illicit Market Groups are organised groups that operate within these illicit markets for the pursuit of profit. Illicit markets and Illicit Market Groups are also characterised by their covert nature and have proven difficult to observe in the real world. The current study utilises a new and novel approach to overcome this difficulty.  Using data generated by a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, it observes the behaviour of profit seeking organised groups. The particular MMO (EVE Online) studied has previously been the subject of a number of research areas including economic research which demonstrated its similarity to real world economic markets. Furthermore, the virtual market is also characterised by using violence as a tool for market protection and dispute resolution in the absence of legal recourse. Importantly the virtual market and the use of violence by groups is able to be observed in a complete, correct and consistent way. The present study leverages the ability to better observe the virtual market to investigate the use of violence within virtual market groups and draws parallels with illicit market groups. The observations made shed light on the covert structures of illicit market groups, the use of violence, and the decision-making process. In particular, the research focuses on the link between violence experienced and violence perpetrated. Additionally the link between the materiel cost of violence and levels of violence will be investigated. The findings from the study will contribute to expanding knowledge of the decision-making of organised groups and the application of novel research environments to real world issues.


Robert is currently a PhD Candidate at Griffith University in Brisbane. He holds a BSc and MA from the University of Auckland. Robert is interested in the novel research environments found in virtual universes and other virtual spaces.