For our Communications module, we were tasked with reading the introductory chapters from a book titled For The Win.
For The Win is centered around massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s). Even though the novel is targeted toward young adults, it takes on significant concepts such as macroeconomics and labor rights. It covers the new and fast evolving concept of virtual economy. It also deals with MMORPG specific topics like gold farming and power-leveling.
We are introduced to two of the main protagonists Matthew & Leonard (Wei-Dong) Who both play MMORPG’s in order to make money, however, there are significant differences between our characters which we soon learn about.
Matthew, who lives in China, is farming gold in an online game called Svartalfaheim Warriors, in which he has found an optimal way to earn virtual gold in a dungeon in minimal time. Selling this gold for real currency, albeit at a very shocking exchange rate. He is making enough money to get by.
Matthew’s story is based upon real facts:
Gold farming in the People’s Republic of China is more pervasive than in any other country, as 80% of all gold farmers are in mainland China, with a total of 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country as of 2005. Gold farming in China is done in Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes. When organized as an actual informal business, they are known as “gaming workshops” or “play-money workshops”.
Prisoners in Chinese labor camps have been forced to engage in gold farming for the financial benefit of prison authorities.
A popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game subject to gold farming in China is World of Warcraft.
Leonard, who lives in California, spends his time helping players level up their avatars in the game of Savage Wonderland, for real currency, with the help of his guild members who live in China.
Leonard’s story is also based upon real facts:
Power-leveling is using the help of another, stronger player to level a character more quickly than is possible alone.
One kind of power-leveling refers to an experienced player assisting a player of much lower power in defeating enemies that would normally be too powerful for the inexperienced player, but are easily and quickly killed by the more powerful player. Defeating high level enemies rewards the lower level player with more experience points than normal.
A second kind of power-leveling refers to a player paying a company or individual to play and level-up their character. The customer provides the company with the username and password for their account, and the company assigns an employee to play the character for the customer until a desired level is reached.
The distinct difference between our characters is that Matthew is only doing this as a method of making money efficiently, whereas Leonard is earning money whilst getting to play a game he actually enjoys as a hobby.
As both stories are based upon situations that can be found in the real world, the book does a great job of emphasizing the contrast between both characters and the problems they encounter on a daily basis.