New ‘Elite Dangerous’ players are getting tricked into a forced labor camp

“Not only will I keep doing it, I’m going to step it up a notch.”

The alleged creator of a gulag trap in ‘Elite Dangerous’

A screenshot of gameplay in Elite Dangerous
Elite Dangerous

Video games that are more open world can expose both the best and the worst parts of humanity, often simultaneously. Popular sci-fi game Elite Dangerous is no exception, and it’s currently the home of a nefarious scam. Using military level recruitment tactics, a group of players is tricking those newer to the game and essentially stranding them at a space gulag, Polygon reports.

Space scammers — Members of the group lurk around areas where newer players are more likely to congregate, offering them a too-good-to-be-true offer. Players would have to run a mission to gain funds and those funds would be used to create a new spaceship for them to take to a mining colony under the guise of a commune-like enterprise.

As part of the scam, newcomers were promised training on how to break apart asteroids to mine a rare, lucrative commodity in the game called Void Opals. Recruits were taken 800 light-years away from civilization on fleet carriers (think aircraft carriers, but make it Space Force), a fairly new part of the game. Their new ships, outfitted with mining rigs, were also specially designed to have a two-light-year range, at best. Once there, these players were left with two options: self-destruct and lose everything or mine Void Opals to sell to the scammers at bargain basement prices because there’s no one else around to buy them.

This isolation is compounded by being in a private player group specifically targeted toward the game’s much smaller Xbox community.

The alleged creator of this scam told Polygon that the scheme had scaled up enough that anyone who wanted to leave could theoretically catch a ride back to civilization. Even with the newfound buzz around the plot, which is perpetrated against adults and minors alike, they have no intention of stopping and every motivation to be more brazen.

“I along with my cohorts are going to build the greatest noob army this game has ever seen. We will truly be able to shape the galaxy with our wealth and influence,” they bragged to Polygon. “All this publicity has thrown us into a frenzy. And we will not go into private play like some are saying. We’re going to do it in the open. So all can witness the glory.”

The scheme finds the midpoint between the prison industrial complex, a gulag, and an anti-competitive economy, but it’s easy to see why the mind might jump to concentration camps when you consider the scammer’s Discord server is named after a Nazi tank fleet.

Help is on the way — Other player cohorts are already leading efforts to rescue those stranded by this group, but game publisher Frontier Developments isn’t doing much else than watching and waiting. In a statement, it claims the company is “continuously surprised by the way in which players choose to role play within the galaxy” and “closely monitoring the situation.”

The company does not condone the scammers’ actions, but will only act if they breach community guidelines. Frontier is, however, supportive of in-game rescue efforts, just as it has been in the past. Relying on in-game policing and human decency is working for the company for now, but how long can it expect its players to pick up its slack?