Working in China's Gold Farming Factories

Posted on December 12, 2005

Today's online worlds in massively online roleplyaing games are very popular. Sometimes people want to jump ahead without having to go through all the trouble to gather their own experience, gold and weapons. An underground trade in virtual gold has been rapidly developing to fill this need. The New York Times has a fascinating article that discusses the lives of China's gold farmers -- the people who build up virtual characters and collect gold and weapons for companies that resell them.

A 23-year-old gamer who works in the makeshift factory told the New York, "For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, me and my colleagues are killing monsters." Another virtual gold miner says, "I make about $250 a month, which is pretty good, compared to the other jobs I've had. And I can play games all day."

This $250 a month is very small compared to most first world jobs but the gold farmers don't seemed to mind the small pay or the grueling 12-hour shifts. So far it sounds like they are faring better than some of China's laborers.

The article says there may be as many as 1,000 game farming factories in China "employing" as many as 100,000 people. As the popularity of online games like World of Warcraft grew a virtual black market also developed to support it. Blizzard and Sony have both called the trading illegal according to the article but the characters and items often appear in online auction listings and online classifieds.

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