The harsh reality of a gold farmer

goldfarmerI remember the long World of Warcraft gaming sessions where during a quest or just running around, I would rudely get spammed by advertisements to buy gold. Also I would see the same characters, day after day, at the same location killing monsters (otherwise known as "farming").

While many websites have profited for providing gold to eager players, it ultimately boils down to the actual workers who attempt to make a living just out of killing thousands of virtual enemies for "fake" currency.

The New York Times did a seven page spread about this ordeal called "The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer" It chronicles the life of one worker, named Li Qiwen, who works twelve hour shifts, seven nights a week with only a few nights off per month. Li works with nine other workers, whom only earn about 10 Yuan ($1.25) for every 100 gold they rack up–which ultimately accumulates to 30 cents an hour.

It’s estimated that over 100,000 workers are employed by these type of businesses, which racks up over $1.8 billion in worldwide trade value. While the businesses themselves earn a decent profit (the company Li works for earns about $80,000 in annual revenue), Li and many other workers, are living the harsh reality of the long shifts, low pay and endless workweeks.

Ironically enough, the conditions of virtual gold farming mimics the hard times of Chinese immigrants who came to the United States to make their fortunes during the California gold rush during the 1850’s where low pay and long hours were the norm.

While Li has aspirations of settling down and starting a family, that dream may stay a dream, especially if he continues to work earning only 30 cents an hour.

Although these workers have been trying to earn an honest living, their infamous reputation in the online world hasn’t gone unnoticed. Videos have been created to mock the farmers, messages filled with threats and insults are hurled everywhere and if you simly utter the two words "China Farmers", everyone else immediately knows who you’re talking about.

One of the workers described the experience as, "I have this idea in mind that regular players should understand that people do different things in the game. They are playing. And we are making a living."

Still, Blizzard Entertainment, whom owns and runs World of Warcraft, has taken many steps to combat gold farming. Last year, Blizzard banned over 50,000 World of Warcraft accounts associated with gold farming and are continually doing so. On the flip side though, some companies, like Sony Online Entertainment, have embraced the user-driven economy, where players are charged a small fee for real-money trades.

Even though these players may be doing a seemingly automated task, they are still gamers at heart and still enjoy the gaming aspect just like the rest of us.

[with additional reporting by Frank Ling]


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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