“For The Win” by Corey Doctorow – A Fictional Insight into the Real World of MMORPG Gold Farming

This book is a must read for any gamers out there.  The two chapters that I read (one for each character) for my Comms module focused on two individuals with completely different demographics.

The first protagonist I read about was a young man in his teens called Matthew, who it very soon transpired was in fact Chinese.  He was working, as were so many of his peers, as a professional gamer in the equivalent of a modern-day sweat shop.  Here the sole purpose of the “employees” was to farm gold 24/7 for their employer.  This would then be traded for real world money.  This chapter gave some background into the character and his aspirations to succeed against the repression of his country.

The second protagonist was a young man, roughly the same age as Matthew, called Wei-Dong Rosenbaum.  He too had adopted a name that was not his own nationality and was in fact American.  The difference immediately noticeable is that Wei-Dong was playing for completely different reasons than Matthew.  Wei-Dong was your standard, over privileged Western teenager, squandering his education for the need to make himself more popular in the eyes of his virtual peers.  It seems that Matthew, like so many of the Eastern Communist countries, was doing this to survive.

How factual is this?

There are many articles found that highlight the scenarios that I have just mentioned.  Gold Farming has become a lucrative business.  The New York Times stated that there were over 100,000 full-time gold farmers in China alone and The Guardian reported that prisoners in Chinese labor camps were forced to engage in gold farming for the benefit of prison authorities.

How much can be made?

The total wealth generated from virtual economies is estimated to be between £4.3bn and £7.4bn, similar to the GDP of Malta or Iceland.  According to a 2007 New York Times article, Chinese gold farmers tend to work 12 hour shifts, seven nights a week in order to raise gold for sale online. Their pay is approximately 18 pence per hour.  This is a completely different scenario to rich, developed country players, that wish to save many hours of playing time and are often willing to pay substantial sums for others to do this for them, for either status or wealth.

An example of this is:

The highest real-money sale related to World of Warcraft occurred in 2008 when a New Yorker bought a high-level account for £3,085

 

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