What you’re about to watch involves half-dressed teenage boys working in poor living conditions in China. They spend at least 12 hours a day in front of the computer, playing online games to produce in-game currency, equipments and whole characters, which are then sold to American players via sites such as eBay.
Welcome to the World of
Warcraft Gold Farmers
This is an ongoing socio-economic phenomenon which to me, is further evidence of virtual worlds leaking into reality.
Ge Jin, a PhD student from UCSD, is the maker of this video documentary on the gold farming phenomenon. He investigates gaming workshops in China that hire people to play online games like World of Warcraft and lineage. Surprisingly, if you read TerraNova’s interview with Ge Jin, you’ll see that these young gaming workers are actually happy to be there. In Ge Jin’s own words, “I do see suffering and exploitation too, but in that place suffering is mixed with play and exploitation is embodied in a gang-like brotherhood and hierarchy. When I talked with the farmers, they rarely complained about their working condition, they only complained about their life in the game world.”
I understood that the kids have a choice and they weren’t working for the money as much as the pride and sense of achivement they took back from building their in-game characters. As I watched a scene involving one of the boys eating a bowl of rice, I couldn’t help but notice the other kid rubbing his eyes from prolonged exposure to the PC monitor. It sinks my heart to see this and perhaps it’s a stark reminder that gaming can be addictive (prolonged escapism?).