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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer 553

Posted by Zonk
from the no-glam-no-fun dept.
An anonymous reader writes "This weekend's New York Times Magazine puts a human face to the 'gold farming' profession. Virtual world economist Julian Dibbell travels to Nanjing, China, for a look at the working conditions and first-hand experience of farming gold from virtual monsters as a way to make a living. From the article: 'At the end of each shift, Li reports the night's haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20. The small commercial space Li and his colleagues work in -- two rooms, one for the workers and another for the supervisor -- along with a rudimentary workers' dorm, a half-hour's bus ride away, are the entire physical plant of this modest $80,000-a-year business.'"
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The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer

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  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:08PM (#19553913) Homepage Journal
    what is bad about gold farming? well, it allows some rich asshole to buy his way into a game he should have worked hard at. it destroys the concept of a meritocracy, and replaces it with aristocracy. hwever, there is no financial replacement for real skill. and so any such bad player behind a high level avatar will rapidly become apparent: a joke

    furthermore, what is good about gold farming? well, some guy in china is actually feeding himself on the effort. this matters a whole hell of a lot more than some stupid game and the feelings of the players of that game in my book. real life survival is a whole hell of a lot more important than the romance of a MMORPG

    so i vote: gold farming is fine by me

    • Military commissions (Score:3, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566)
      For longer that the US has been around, persons of wealth used to buy military commissions which often involved them taking over some pre-established regiment, naval vessel crew, or outpost. Likewise placement in religious orders, bishops and so forth, did not involve working ones way up the hierarchy but buying a position. A seat at the House of lords did not come from merit.

      Why does this bother you that rich folks can pay to play. Why should they not if they can? It's the way of the world and always h
      • Well in the case of something non-trivial, like the military, the reason why it's a Bad Thing is because then you end up with some rich incompetent running something that they have no business running. Which is not to say that the military is anything like a meritocracy in its current form, but it's a little better than cash-on-the-barrel-head.

        That general point is true of more trivial activities, like games; if you destroy the meritocratic aspects in favor of pay-to-play (really, pay-to-advance; you already have to pay to play!) then you'll end up with a worse result, in most cases, overall. The difference due to putting people with either less skill, or less interest, in higher positions than they would otherwise occupy.
        • Time is Money (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Alaren (682568) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:35PM (#19554381)

          The difference due to putting people with either less skill, or less interest, in higher positions than they would otherwise occupy.

          What about people with less time?

          I quit MMORPGs after Everquest almost helped me flunk out of college. I played the highest level character on the server. It was exhilarating; people wrote fan-fiction about my character, people I didn't even know. They would travel across the world to buy my wares--always the finest available on the server. I set the prices and controlled the economy. It was a lot of fun. Also: when I wasn't sleeping (3-4 hours a night), I was playing. It took literally 18-21 hours per day to stay "on top."

          I know MMORPGs have changed a lot, but so have I. Several times since graduating I have seriously considered picking MMORPGs back up. But "serious" players basically have a part-time (or full-time!) job playing the game. The main thing holding me back at this point is that I will never again allow myself to be a "serious" player.

          Time is money, money is time... you can, in the real world, usually buy one for large quantities of the other. The "for pay" model is problematic in real life for a lot of reasons, not just because someone doesn't "deserve" what they get but because good ideas can (and are) often buried under piles of money. But in a game, what's the difference? You think because you devote 40 hours a week, you deserve to have more fun than a subscriber who can't find a good group because he only plays 4 hours every Saturday? Because the economy and society on the server makes it impossible for casual players to ever see high-end gear or end-game content?

          I've thought a lot about this, because I absolutely do not believe that the real-life purchase of political positions or military commissions is right or proper. But in a game, I don't see how letting someone invest their money while you're investing your time is an imbalance. I don't think those who invest extra money should have access to better content, necessarily, but maybe if I could spend a few extra dollars to have as much fun as those who spend a few extra hours, I would get back into the MMORPG scene. I have the interest and I have the skill, but I don't have the time, so for the moment, the only multiplayer games for me are on my console, with my opponents sitting on my couch.

          • Blame the game! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:58PM (#19554815)
            The problem with these types of games is that in their effort to be "massive" they link everyone together in the same type of game with the same type of players. Associating "worth" with your character's stats and fake digital possesions has been the bane of these types of games (and even going back to some MUDs, Telearena, BBS, etc). You will get a good crop of obsessive "gotta have it all" type players, but it really alienates the casual type of player who might like to have access to the high-level content but doesn't have the same amount of time as everyone else. Now, you're saying, "well, that's fine, he'll just take longer to get there", but in a PvP world, you're behind the curve if you're not on all the time raiding with your guild. Really what they need to do is set up "weight classes" for players. Let some servers have time limits on the amount of stuff you can do per day - BBSs used to have thsi stuff out of necessity, but I think actually only allowing an hour or two online on a server would keep things fair and more interesting to casual players. People who want a more "immersive" experience can play on the "heavyweight" servers and spend as much time online as they want. Other things that could help would be adopting a more Eve like approach to skills where you earn them per day, but maybe tweaking it a bit so the power players can still level up by doing tasks, etc. I just think MMORPG makers need to think a bit more about the casual gamer who really doesn't want to spend all day online - 5-10 hours a week for busy people with jobs, families, other hobbies, etc. There's a lot of money to be made from subscriptions outside of the hardcore, powergamer scene.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Retric (704075)
              The problem with MMO's is they are designed to limit the amount of skill required to play them. A level 60 cleric played by a 12 year old is vastly more useful than a level 30 cleric played by the most skilled player in the world. But as they try and avoid the need for "skills" the only way to win is Time.

              Let's face it grinding, grouping, and raiding are BORING. So when you can spend money to skip Time there is nothing left in the game. Or think of it like this...

              Let's drop the concept of time from the g
          • I understand your point, but I think that your problem really ought to be less with the prohibitions on gold-purchase or other pay-to-advance schemes, but more with the fundamental design of the game itself. Most MMORPGs are designed to be time-intensive, such that your advancement is tied directly into how much time you can afford out of your day to sit in front of your PC and play them.

            That may not be everyone's idea of a good time. It certainly is for some people, as the success of Everquest and WoW has demonstrated. But it's probably not yours, and it's not really mine, either. (I had fun playing WoW for a while, but it's just too damn slow to keep me interested.) But that's the game. That's how it's designed. And that's what a great many of the people who are playing it, are playing it for.

            People play MMORPGs because they want to escape reality; they want a world that's disconnected from how much money they make in their day job (and, thus, how valuable their time might be). They want a place where the $12/hr UPS package handler can beat the shit out of the $650/hr attorney, if he can play the game enough, gather enough widgets, go on more quests, whatever. That's the whole point of the game. If you reintroduce a way to capitalize on real-life success within the context of the game, it stops being a game anymore, and instead just becomes a pastel-colored extension of real life.

            There is room -- and probably, demand -- for 'games' that take different approaches on the amount of disconnection that they demand from the physical world. I think fantasy worlds like WoW are on the more disconnected end of the spectrum, and I'm not sure that there's any inherent unfairness in making it entirely meritocratic and letting people decide how much of their real-life time they're going to invest in advancement. On the other end, or more towards the other end anyway, you have Second Life type places, which have currency that's exchangable to real-life currencies on the open market. If you're rich in real life, you can be rich in Second Life, too -- from a certain point of view, you already are, in the same way that you'd be rich in any other country, subject to cost-of-living and exchange rates. There's no inherent unfairness in this, either, because it allows people to "play" SL more casually than WoW: if you have a successful RL occupation, you can spend your time doing that, and use the money you make there to buy nice stuff in SL, you don't have to spend 20-hour days questing to get mods.

            Neither of these approaches is objectively better than either, at least in any way that I can really see or argue. (I suppose you could argue, depending on your feelings of the inherent fairness of our capitalist real-life economy and labor market, that the WoW one is a purer meritocracy, though.) They each have their strengths and weaknesses, and if you don't like the design of one, rather than trying to subvert the rules and "break the fourth wall" that's so carefully constructed (and desired, desperately, by many people who play them) in some online worlds, it's probably best to find an online world that's designed to be less disconnected from that giant MMORPG called Real Life.
          • Re:Time is Money (Score:5, Informative)

            by miller60 (554835) on Monday June 18, 2007 @04:26PM (#19556263) Homepage
            Demographics is a major factor in the demand for gold exchanges and growth of power-leveling services. As the player base has expanded beyond hard-core young adults, many new players are older and have careers and families - leaving less time available for grinding through levels. A C/Net story [com.com] last fall noted that in some cases, parents wanted to play Warcraft with their kids, and paid to have their character leveled up.

            Sony did a white paper on the Station Exchange economy [raphkoster.com] which noted that the largest sellers were 22-year-olds (who have plenty of time but not a lot of money) and the largest buyers were age 34. These older players have more money than time, and that fact drives the demand side of the virtual economy, creating a sustainable market for both power-leveling and game accounts.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:37PM (#19554419) Homepage

        Why does this bother you that rich folks can pay to play. Why should they not if they can? It's the way of the world and always has been.

        Always has been? You might learn a little bit about the history you misquote so freely.
         
        Setting aside the use of influence and nepotism (which are fraternal - not identical, twins of outright purchase)...
         
        Persons of wealth buying the positions (in the Church and in the Armed Services) isn't something that happened (or happens) in tribal societies - nor (in the Western) world does it happen today. (It was largely wiped out in the late 1800's to early 1900's.) It was rare in feudal Japan and virtually nonexistent in classical China. It was extremely rare in classical Greece and semi-common only in later period Rome. In fact in the Western world - the practice was only widespread from late medieval times to early modern times.
         
        Or in short, no - it's not commonly the way of the world nor has it always been.
        • by manifoldronin (827401) on Monday June 18, 2007 @03:51PM (#19555703)

          Persons of wealth buying the positions (in the Church and in the Armed Services) isn't something that happened (or happens) in tribal societies - nor (in the Western) world does it happen today. (It was largely wiped out in the late 1800's to early 1900's.) It was rare in feudal Japan and virtually nonexistent in classical China.
          Please define "classical". There are historical records going back to as far as the Han Dynasty of emperors or powerful ministers literally selling government positions. The same happened repeatedly in almost all the following dynasties as they drew to their respective end.
        • by vertinox (846076) on Monday June 18, 2007 @06:36PM (#19557873)
          It was rare in feudal Japan and virtually nonexistent in classical China.

          Actually it was not rare towards the end of the Tokugawa era for wealthy merchants to pay for Samurai to adopt them in order to gain that class status. (Actually to be fair, General Hideyoshi tried to get a descendant of the Shogun to adopt him even though he was older than the descendant so he could gain the official title for himself, but the descendant would not and he had to settle for a lesser title)

          Although, by the end of the Tokugawa era, most Samurai had no true formal military training (and sometimes no swordship training either) and lived from hand outs from their feudal lord patron so were often more than happy to adopt anyone willing to foot the bill.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Deliveranc3 (629997)
          rare in feudal Japan

          Um lords were commanders and their sons became the lords/commanders.

          Samurai was an aspect of lineage. Basically the whole thing was nepotistic and aristocratic, if you know people higher up (Through friends or family) they'll talk to you at parties, instruct you in the craft and want you as their backup.

          If you were starting a company right now with a good idea you'd probably look to your friends or online aquaintences for employees rather than hiring someone who you may not get al
      • by vux984 (928602) on Monday June 18, 2007 @04:17PM (#19556131)
        It's the way of the world and always has been.

        Thing is, see, this isn't the world. Its a game. Games have always been distorted to an extent by financial interests, but games always *resist* this distortion. In theory the fastest man wins the 100 yard dash, not the richest, the best chess player wins the tournament, not the richest, etc.

        Sure these players use their wealth to their advantage. They don't have to work other jobs, they can hire coaches, and personal trainers etc... but on the PLAYING FIELD, its just them. That is part of the appeal of games.

        Nobody wants to play a game that simply rolls over to rich folks paying for *in-game* advantages. Its one thing to buy books about the game, hire someone to learn to be a better player, buy a faster computer, or to have enough money not to need to work so you can spend more time playing the game. Its something else to just buy advantages INSIDE the game.

        In chess for example, no matter how much wealth you've expended in honing your ability to play the game itself you still can't drop a thousand bucks in someones pocket and add another queen to your side. Its simply against the rules. And that's all a game is -- a set of arbitrary rules. If you disregard the rules there is no point to playing the game.

        If you want to disregard some of the rules, that's a different game. And its ok to play different games under any rules you want, but if you are playing the game with someone else, you can't just decide to which rules you want to ignore mid-stream whether they want to or not.

        In other words, if you want to play games that let you buy your in game items, fine, find or start a game that allows it and play it. But don't play games that don't allow it and then break the rules.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by numbski (515011) *
      I say the same here, but I'm curious...$1.25/100 gold pieces is fine and all, but how is it that they make so little money in a week? Is gold THAT hard to come by in-game? I could rack up 10,000 gil playing FF12 in an hour. Is gold harder to make playing online games?
      • by Graff (532189)
        In World of Warcraft you can make around 100 gold per hour of work at level 70. If you are decently geared and know some prime locations that can go up but 100 gold an hour is a good rule of thumb. Given the economy of some nations $1.25 US per hour is probably not that bad of a wage for the workers although it certainly is no get rich quick scheme.
    • by realmolo (574068) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:15PM (#19554035)
      I completely agree. Seriously.

      Who, really, is getting hurt by gold-farming? I mean, we're talking about a game, after all. And it's not even a game with PRIZES. It's not even a game you can WIN. What could the gold farmers possibly be taking away from other players, besides time? Time which they are spending on a GAME that they aren't obligated to play.

      • by Winckle (870180) <mark@@@winckle...co...uk> on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:26PM (#19554227) Homepage
        is to not play.
      • No-fucking-body.

        But our culture hates cheaters, so we hate gold farmers.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:37PM (#19554421) Journal
        If the game is so badly designed that it's more fun to pay someone else to do 90% of the playing for you, then I can't help but wonder why people play it at all.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Hognoxious (631665)
          Being a level 23 million wizard is a status symbol, just like wearing a Rolex or driving a Hummer.

          Or in two words: small cocks.
        • by iceperson (582205)
          Whether your giving someone $$$ or farming yourself you're "paying" for the gold.

          I'm curious though, do you wonder why the guy who takes his Ferrari to someone else to get it detailed bought it in the first place?
          What about the person who has someone else do all of their pool maintenance?
          For many gold farming is one aspect of a game they don't consider "fun" but other aspects are enjoyable enough that they are willing to part with $$$ so that when they log in they can focus on the things they like to do.
          • by misleb (129952) on Monday June 18, 2007 @05:31PM (#19557109)

            I'm curious though, do you wonder why the guy who takes his Ferrari to someone else to get it detailed bought it in the first place?


            No, because the person buying a Ferrari bought it to drive it, not clean it. Presumably if you pay to play a game, you're paying to play the game. Paying someone else to play a game for you is bordering on absurd. It would be like buying a Ferrari and paying someone else to dress up as you and drive it around town in your place.

            What about the person who has someone else do all of their pool maintenance?


            What about the person who has someone else swim in their pool?

            "Who's that swimming in your pool, Bob?"

            "Oh, that's my pool boy. I don't have time to swim in it myself so I pay this Chinese guy to swim in it for $.30 an hour. Pretty cheap compared using my much more valuable time to do it."

            "Gee, Bob, don't you think it is kind of silly to own a pool, not use it yourself *and* pay someone else to use it? I mean, shouldn't your pool boy be paying you for the privilege of swimmin in it?"

            "Privilege? Swimming is a lot of work. My time is money. Swimming in that pool would actually be a loss of money above and beyond the cost of purchasing and maintaining it. It is much cheaper to pay my pool boy to do it."

            "Then why'd you buy a pool then, Bob?"

            "Because the pool looks good in my back yard and having someone swimming in it makes me seem more active to my neighbors. Did you notice that the Chinese guy kinda looks like me from a distance?"

            "Oh."

            For many gold farming is one aspect of a game they don't consider "fun" but other aspects are enjoyable enough that they are willing to part with $$$ so that when they log in they can focus on the things they like to do.


            Our friend Bob likes to sit around the pool and watch the pool boy swimming.

            -matthew
        • It's much more interesting to focus on the game design instead of only discussing the act of buying versus grinding.

          IMO, MMOs are still in their toddler stage. Single-player games also had lots of grind 10 years ago. As the genre matured, repetetive and boring gameplay has largely been removed.

          Though there is some deeply rooted satisfaction in repeating activities to gain power in a virtual world. So it may take awhile before someone tried to make a non-repetitive MMO. Not to mention it would be insanely ex
      • by dc29A (636871) * on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:45PM (#19554587)
        I completely agree. Seriously.

        Who, really, is getting hurt by gold-farming? I mean, we're talking about a game, after all. And it's not even a game with PRIZES. It's not even a game you can WIN. What could the gold farmers possibly be taking away from other players, besides time? Time which they are spending on a GAME that they aren't obligated to play.


        There is much more than meets the eye about the negative effects of gold farming.

        In MMO games there is a lot of space shared by players. If player X is killing mobs in the same area as me, we'll have to share or fight for spawns, that's fine if we both use ingame tools. Now enter gold farmer with bots, insane knowledge of spawn patterns and times, and you won't find mobs to kill. In WoW for example, you can go around in zones and mine ore for your weapon that you want to craft as a blacksmith. Good luck, gold farmers are on ore veins the moment they appear. Gold farmers make it nearly impossible in many cases for legitimate players to collect items/resources/gold for themselves because gold farmers can (and do) monopolize entire regions of the game. People who played WoW can surely remember zones like Tyr's Hand being perma camped 24h a day by gold farmers.

        Also, every time an exploit or bug is found, gold farmers exploit it massively and force the game company to bring down servers and fix them causing downtime for players. Not to mention you can kiss the game economy good bye. How many games have had their economy ruined because of gold farmers. Gold farmers abusing bugs/exploits not just flood the economy, they have no problems in griefing players (Final Fantasy Online) and monopolizing game content (WoW). Even if they get banned, they are back operating within hours. To them a ban from game is the cost of doing business, just like Microsoft and lawsuits against it.

        And finally, in game currency can be used to gain advantage in PvP (buying gear, potions, consumables). PvP is competitive, maybe you don't care because it's a "game" but some people care because they want a leveled playing field. You know, having a game that's fair and fun ...

        Gold farmers are a cancer to MMO games. Some people might not care, but these people negatively impact everyone's enjoyment of the game, be it because they destroy economies or hack or monopolize content. It's not healthy for games.
        • by vertinox (846076) on Monday June 18, 2007 @06:50PM (#19557993)
          Gold farmers are a cancer to MMO games.

          Which is why the leveling system itself is the carcinogen.

          Gold farming is a sign of a broken game that allows too much disparities in levels and lack of skill being used for game play. When all game play on MMOs is time sinks, then the developers see all problems as "not enough time sinks".

          The Diku mud style of play doesn't work well for server with more than 100 players and the model is completely broken when you scale to games like WoW.

          The only MMO that got it right the first time was Ultima Online.
    • by Speare (84249) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:24PM (#19554191) Homepage Journal

      well, it allows some rich asshole to buy his way into a game he should have worked hard at. it destroys the concept of a meritocracy, and replaces it with aristocracy. hwever, there is no financial replacement for real skill. and so any such bad player behind a high level avatar will rapidly become apparent: a joke

      I think of it this way: a rich guy buys a top-of-the-line $5000 Digital SLR camera, and then he takes fifteen snapshots of his beagle, and doesn't really scream when his silver-spoon daughter drops it down the country club's marble terrace staircase a couple months later. The guy was a boor when he showed off this camera to his friend, who busted his ass to get through photojournalism school with a $500 camera. The guy was a boor when he recounted the complete "horror" story of how the insurance company denied his claim for full replacement. But you know he'll buy another $5000 camera when that beagle has her pups.

      How has this honestly changed the profession of photography? His friend probably felt uncomfortable with the rich man's effortless and pointless consumerism, but his friend wasn't actually denied other opportunities when it came right down to it.

      The MMORPG is a smaller economy but it works the same way. The real issue is the design of that game, and whether it can withstand such tilted gamesmanship. If the gold farmers or the insta-knighthood characters are really clogging up the playground by camping at all the spawn points and inflating the price of dragon eyeballs, then I would point to the playground designers, not the farmers and not the insta-knights.

      • said what i said with 100x more wit and intelligence

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday June 18, 2007 @03:38PM (#19555511)

        How has this honestly changed the profession of photography? His friend probably felt uncomfortable with the rich man's effortless and pointless consumerism, but his friend wasn't actually denied other opportunities when it came right down to it.


        The boor with the $5000 camera is in no way competing with the up-and-coming professional with his $500 camera. So sure - there's no impact to the profession. Moot point.


        The MMORPG is a smaller economy but it works the same way. The real issue is the design of that game, and whether it can withstand such tilted gamesmanship. If the gold farmers or the insta-knighthood characters are really clogging up the playground by camping at all the spawn points and inflating the price of dragon eyeballs, then I would point to the playground designers, not the farmers and not the insta-knights.


        I agree to a large extent. Good game design goes a long way. However, ultimately you have to deal with the very nature of the game. At some point you have to allow for rewarding luck and (to a larger extent) time with some sort of gains. If you want to maintain a social structure... you have to allow for trading of some form of token. As soon as you do these two things, you'll have individuals looking for a short-cut and a market willing to supply them with one. Once that shortcut involves influences outside the game, then are you really playing the game any more? Or are you simply cheating?

    • "what is bad about gold farming? well, it allows some rich asshole to buy his way into a game he should have worked hard at. it destroys the concept of a meritocracy, and replaces it with aristocracy. hwever, there is no financial replacement for real skill. and so any such bad player behind a high level avatar will rapidly become apparent: a joke"

      That's completely wrong.

      What can lots of gold buy you in WoW?

      1) an epic mount
      2) two professions, which yeild 3~4 epic gadgets

      That's it. Nothing else. Nada.

      You c
    • You don't have to be rich to buy gold. I just hit Google up for WoW Gold and found about a hundred sites. A quick flip through them showed that about 100G is worth about US$50 - not bad. However, if the farmers themselves are getting short changed so bad ($1.25 / 100G) somebody is price gouging. Seems to me the farmers should make at least 25-50% of the cost.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)


      Gold-farming itself creaets inflation. Thus casual, and even not-so casual players, cant afford items they should be able to afford considering the time they spent online playing because of this inlfation. Thse people then considering buying from farmers and leading to even worse inflation.

      Also. Gold farmers dont just farm gold. They also sell items. That messes with groups (ninja looters) and with the game economy.
    • by ajs (35943)

      what is bad about gold farming? well, it allows some rich asshole to buy his way into a game he should have worked hard at.

      Wow... those are SOME assumptions in your lead-in. I was firmly middle-class, not rich at all, when I bought plat for EverQuest. Why? Because I was playing with a guild which had demands on my time, and at the same time helping several friends get established in the game. It was the best way to trade a commodity that I did have (modest amounts of money for a hobby) for one that I did not have (time to further invest in the game). I spent about what I would have spent on any other hobby, I imagine. My frien

      • by ajs (35943)
        Just to clarify: I bought plat in EQ... so far I've never had to buy gold in WoW, and the prices are actually less reasonable anyway. The most expensive thing I'd want would be an epic flying mount, and I'm willing to wait and farm for that, as the process itself is fun, and I'm not over-committed like I was with EQ.
    • So the fact that gold farming ruins in game economies and can make it impossible for newer players who won't buy gold to keep up with in game inflation. I'm not going to waste my time with one of the hundreds of unequal comparisons, but I must ask you this, is someone else earning money by damaging the quality of a service paid for by others ever acceptable?
      • when it's hurting a game played by a bunch of rich kids (and if you playing MMORPG for leisure, you are rich by any world standard), and some poor guy is feeding himself on the proceeds, then by all means, damage the quality of a service paid for by others, 100% acceptable

        i really don't care that some rich kid thinks their expensive distraction is being hurt. as far as i am concerned, they are wasting their lives away in a fantasy game. really, i am completely uncompelled to care about how a fantasy game's
    • When you listed the bad things about gold farming, you totally neglected to mention the gold selling companies.

      What's bad about gold farming?

      Gold farmers occupy areas, often en-masse, making it tricky for regular players to complete quests.

      Gold farmers have to advertise and they do this by spamming in-game. That is arguably the most irritating aspect of their business. They take very intrusive approaches such as randomly inviting you to a group or filling your chat window with a wall of shite. With this in
  • Cost of living? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What is the cost of living for that area? How much does that 10 Yuan a week compare to other salaries?
  • by dr_dank (472072) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:13PM (#19553995) Homepage Journal
    At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him.

    They've built a mom's basement in China where they can all do it better for half the price. Even geeks aren't immune from outsourcing.

    If any of you have access to good prices for bulk tissue and lotion, I have a great idea for the next activity to outsource to China. Access to a tiled area with good drainage a must.
  • by Palmyst (1065142) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:14PM (#19554015)
    I have no problem with some Chinese people making money off of selling "farmed gold" to rich gamers in the West, but the fact that more than 90% of what the customer pays goes to middlemen, rather than the "farmer", in a set of transactions conducted entirely on the internet is rather rankling.
    • This is what happens when you have cronyism in the guise of capitalism, paired with vastly disparate wages between the workers and mangement/ownership.

      The workers in this sistuation do not have the contacts or capital necessary to get the required permits to run a business like this, let alone the capital for equipment and workspace. This is compounded by high unemployment in areas of China, so that workers are easily replaced.

      It amuses me to no end (until I think of the hardships endured) that a nation
      • by spun (1352)
        I don't think you can say that China is really founded on ideals of collectivism. More like Confucianism, which teaches subservience to authority. Collectivism is a new thing in China, and the rulers there have never done more than pay lip service to it's ideals.
    • by legojenn (462946)
      Maybe someone should create an fair-trade gold business where the farmers get paid a fair wage.
      • I'm slightly surprised Blizzard doesn't just sell gold directly. They can always undercut sellers who actually have to play the game, since 'farming' gold for them is just updating a number in a database somewhere. If a market rate for gold exists, why aren't they selling it themselves?

      • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday June 18, 2007 @03:26PM (#19555293) Journal
        Yeah, and sell them at Whole Foods with a big poster showing one of the gold farmers and the story behind his life and his gold farming. It shows him staring passionately at a computer screen in some smoky room with a bunch of post-it notes on the monitor.

        "This is Chang Lee. He helped bring this WoW gold to your local store. He works over 12 hours a day, part of which pays back the microloan he used to purchase the lvl 20 paladin he uses to harvest gold..."
    • by magarity (164372)
      but the fact that more than 90% of what the customer pays goes to middlemen

      90% is a heck of a good deal for the originator compared to real physical goods examples in the world. Look at how much diamond miners in the Congo and Sudan are paid: they get not shot for digging up diamonds. Comparatively these Chinese guys, who work in an office and get company housing, are living like kings. I spent over a month in China last year and 30 RMB goes a long way; you can eat out on the local equivalent of
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SydShamino (547793)
      If an individual in China posted his "isellgold.ch" web site and asked for your credit card number, would you give it to him? If he doesn't farm your server, would you do a google search through hundreds of hack, warez, and cheats sites until you find one with a link to someone who farms your server and accepts credit cards?

      The middlemen act as a "legitimate" front to a distributed back-end operation. I don't think there's any doubt that they are necessary for this operation.

      Now, regarding the price, othe
  • I wonder if I could hire these guys to make me Supreme Commander?
  • "well, it allows some rich asshole to buy his way into a game he should have worked hard at."

    In this respect, it's just like real life.

    The thing I found most amazing was that after a 12-hour shift grinding, some of these guys played their own toons for fun.

    • by blueZhift (652272)
      The thing I found most amazing was that after a 12-hour shift grinding, some of these guys played their own toons for fun.


      That proves it then, crack's got nothing on WoW!
  • by mrjb (547783) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:15PM (#19554029)
    30 cents an hour amounts to about 48 dollars per month. Putting things in perspective, when I lived in Asia, that was more or less the normal wage of a janitor. Not a lot of money, and life conditions are poor with those wages- but the money goes a long way compared to the same kind of money in western 'civilization'. In those countries, 30 bucks pretty much buys you nutricious, delicious, high-quality all you can eat for 8 people. 20 cents amounts to a liter of petrol which goes a long way as well in those cranky noisy motorcycles of theirs.
    • 20 cents amounts to a liter of petrol which goes a long way as well in those cranky noisy motorcycles of theirs.

      Hm...

      Could they maybe send some of that to the US, where it definitely costs more than 80 cents/gallon?
  • so that means that if he is earning 30c/hour then he is only collecting like 25 gold coins in an hour. Seems to me if he'd work harder he could make a bit more than that. I don't exactly know how common gold is in WoW, but it seems to me that after a month or so of work, his character would be of sufficient level to be making a lot more money than that.

    What other job do you know of that putting extra work actually incurs better pay? How many of you wish you got payed on scale with how productive
    • by k_187 (61692)
      No, 25 gold in an hour is pretty damned good, even for a max level character. That's certainly better than I ever did.
    • by RichMan (8097) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:23PM (#19554167)
      This is WoW related as WoW is the biggest game.

      1g = 100silver = 10,000 copper

      When you start. You start with copper coins.

      Your mount at level 40 costs ~100g.
      Your mount at level 60 costs ~600g.
      Your mount at level 70 costs ~1000g.
      Your fast mount at level 70 costs ~6000g.
      6000g = 60,000,000 copper

      The game is designed with a rudimentary economy that despite the unlimited gold from killing things is designed to eat up money for repairs and other equipment costs. It is easy to spend all your money on shiny objects.

      Top end quests are worth 10-20g for completing.
      • by NickCatal (865805)
        Farming doesn't involve completing quests though... it is 100% grinding... then when you get a blue/purple item you auction it off, vendor the rest, and if you get a green you use your enchanter character to disenchant it into materials to sell at the auction house...

        Right now the prices that are getting paid to suppliers are about $30-40(on a good day) for 1000g so it is more like $3. Sometimes it spikes higher. The real money comes from european gamers, where gold costs a lot more.

        Of course, sales to game
  • 100 gold coins takes this guy Li 4 hours to come across. He gets paid $0.30 for it. I pay the end seller $5 for the same 1 hour of coins (25 gold coins). So I'm basically saving myself 1 hour (or more, if Li is extra-efficient) for the low cost of $5. Sounds like a winning situation for me.

    As for Li, it sounds like a good place to start also. It's a new market, and in all new markets people have to work for peas (or less) to until the market breaks open. We might see Li running his own show in 5 years (or we may not).

    Until then, he gets to work indoors, on a computer, smoke as much as he wants (try that in the US!), and learn a skill that some may consider mundane, but shows a helluva lot of marketability with a longterm and bright future. Now it sounds like a win-win situation.
    • by Shakrai (717556)

      smoke as much as he wants (try that in the US!)

      With the added advantage of now he doesn't have to worry too much about saving for retirement ;)

    • Until then, he gets to work indoors, on a computer, smoke as much as he wants (try that in the US!), and learn a skill that some may consider mundane, but shows a helluva lot of marketability with a longterm and bright future. Now it sounds like a win-win situation.

      And don't forget he get's a free WoW account.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      and learn a skill that some may consider mundane, but shows a helluva lot of marketability with a longterm and bright future.


      Yeah. I'm sure "extensive knowledge of epic drops and mote grinding" will go real big on the resume.
  • by Shambly (1075137) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:19PM (#19554093)
    I really like the part where he was saying that he was making less money as a vehicle repairman. It really brings the discrepency of money accross the world to light. Although the shifts seems fairly excessive they seem to be able to live off of it decently. I really have a problem seing the downside to it. Besides the fear of taxation and policing by the providers of the game. They are providing a service for a fee. If people weren't willing to pay for it they wouldn't exist. Inflation works both ways. If people with more money buy the best gear its easy for the people not willing to pay up for their gold to make a lot of money selling the gear they get for profit. Really isn't it about finding what makes the game fun for you and doing that part of it?
  • No problems here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:19PM (#19554097) Homepage Journal
    If it were my game I would not mind that people were gold farming. But I don't own it, Blizzard does, so they get to define what the rules are. Although I think it's pointless to fight things like gold farming, it would seem more practical to embrace it and have some control over it. (like set up a currency exchange rate for it).

    One thing gold farming does is exploit a weakness in a games economic system. Which can introduce imbalance through inflation. But this is countered somewhat because NPCs don't participate in the free market and have (generally) fixed pricing. But the price for things you can't buy from an NPC just sky rockets as the gold farming persists. the buying power of your gold will just keep going down as long as it is easy to get. just shell out the price of two months subscription and you are set for a good deal of time on gold, at least for normal in-game purchases.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:20PM (#19554121)

    You need to hire your own Chinese guys to farm gold for you! There's a 1600% markup on Chinese gold, if you go through the retailer.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:21PM (#19554135) Homepage Journal
    I haven't found any really concrete numbers or sites, but it sounds like a living wage in china is $3/day. At $.30/hr these guys have a pretty easy job compared to a lot of the textile and merchandise manufactures where people are getting paid less per hour in much more dangerous environments.

    -Rick
    • by Loundry (4143) on Monday June 18, 2007 @03:46PM (#19555615) Journal
      I haven't found any really concrete numbers or sites, but it sounds like a living wage in china is $3/day.

      The notion of a "living wage" is completely bogus and here is way.

      Living according to what kind of lifestyle?

      That question is left out. Instead, it is merely assumed that a certain "comfortable" lifestyle will be attained. But what, exactly is "comfortable"?

      There is an interesting series in the travel section of my local newspaper about an American female expat living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She makes a "living wage" working there. This week, she detailed the things that she dislikes about the city (next week she will list the things that she likes about living there). One of the things that she dislikes is that ATM machines don't always have money, don't always give you all the money you asked for (even if there is money in your account), and Buenos Aires is still almost a completely cash-based city. What this meant for her is that she had to visit a series of ATM machines at odd hours every single day, gathering up only small amounts of money at a time, in order to gether up enough money to pay her rent. The task of "gathering up rent money" from scattered ATMs all across town became part of her daily routine. Do you think this would hamper your lifestyle if you're used to living the the USA or in Europe where cash-on-demand is a no-brainer?

      That is but one example among countless other ways to measure the value of one's own lifestyle. The fact that Americans are so fat is merely evidence that they have buttloads of free time (due to not having to spend their time on frustrating, mundane tasks) combined with an abundance of food (not to mention little knowledge of good eating). Keep in mind that the majority of overweight and obese persons in the United States are described as "living in poverty". The more wealthy you get in the USA, the thinner you get, statistically speaking. Is that weird? Not at all. It's just that our notions of "poverty" and "abundance" need to be reexamined, particularly in light of the notion of wealth envy. I.e., "I'm poor because I don't have as much stuff as my next-door neighbor!"

      An interesting exit question: what are the demographics of the anarchist movement in the USA?

      Demographics fascinate me ... hardly any chubby dark-skinned people to be found at Trader Joe's. Lots of skinny light-skinned folks, though ... in their pretty, hippie dresses and John Kerry bumper stickers on their SUVs. I like Trader Joe's. Ramble ramble ramble ...
  • by Durrok (912509) <calltechsucksNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:23PM (#19554169) Homepage Journal
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/04/14 [penny-arcade.com] Need to get me one of those... imagine the savings! :p
  • $0.30/hour sounds like just enough to afford food while sleeping in a shed, but when you consider that housing is also provided, it's not so bad.

    Seriously, for $0.30/hour, you only have to work 1 hour per day to afford three meals of delicious ramen noodles. So with 1 hour of work, you have food and housing, and the other $3.30 you earn per day is free to be spent on hookers and blow. A good life.
  • My two copper. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:29PM (#19554269) Homepage
    I both love and loathe gold/item farmers. First, the reasons why I loathe them (most of these should be obvious to anyone that plays any MMO...I will stick to WoW since that is what most people play) For one, it helps to drive low-level blue prices to completely INSANE levels. Yes, I am aware that this is also because of twinks, but I am quite sure many people twink their toons out with gold that they have purchased. A general increase in the cost of everything (due to more players having gold in hand) also occurs...thus you have speed potions which sell for as high as 10 gold per stack of 5 on some servers, etc. Farmers also inevitably make it harder for a player to farm for him/herself; I like farming the same places they do for the same reasons that they do! Now, for why I love them. As previously stated, someone on the other end is indeed being fed and kept warm because of gold farming...Blizzard makes even more money due to the multiple account purchases meaning they have more money to invest back into the game. Gold farmers also help increase the supply of items on the AH (unfortunately, they are generally overpriced though...) All in all, the biggest issue I have with it are people standing in the cities with an incomprehensible name spamming of /say adverts for various gold-selling sites. If it weren't for the in-game economic impact (which isn't as drastic as people think it is) and the /say spam, I frankly wouldn't have a problem with WoW farmers at ALL. Besides. It makes it easy to tell if someone actually PLAYS the game or not (Hint: if they are decked out in BoE blues/purples, they don't play the game.)
    • by Pojut (1027544)
      ugh. sorry for the "one paragraph", I meant to hit plain text but completely forgot -_-;;
  • They should try cornering sectors of the market in the AH. I make more money trading there with my lvl 20 char than I do questing, buying from people at low prices and selling at higher.
  • by metrometro (1092237) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:34PM (#19554369)
    Here's a challenge to all of Slashdot: Cut out the middlemen.

    Gold-farming isn't going away, but at least it could be a positive social force, fighting global inequality while building IT capacity in the developing world. As it is, most of the money is going to middlemen. But the product is virtual, and we can bring farmers to markets at potentially no cost. If 100 gold (or whatever the unit) retails for $20 in the west, then let's transfer that money into technology cooperatives in developing countries, who use their non-gaming hours to provide email, web access and other vital resources to their communities. Wouldn't you rather buy 'gold' from a fair trade source? Given the enormous markup, it might even lower prices. And here's the kicker: A community center could have kids playing for free in exchange for donating "gold" to pay the bills. Along the way, maybe they take attend a class on HTML programming, and start thinking more like IT professionals than farmers. Suddenly buying "gold" starts feeling a lot less exploitive.

    So have at it:
    1) We need a web portal to connect buyers and sellers directly. Can ebay do it? If not, how?
    2) We need to explore a certification model, such as TransFair USA's fair trade certified produce.
    3) We need a start-up information kit with instruction on how to open a community technology center (such as Room to Read's), but financed by gold farming.
    4) We need a micro-credit source to pay for hardware and software.
    5) We need a marketing movement within the gaming community.

     
    • eBay no longer handles gold game trading (see earlier discussion [slashdot.org] on this topic). But there are several peer-to-peer exchanges [virtualeconomies.net] for games, including the venture-backed Sparter [sparter.com] and a more modest effort called Iron Prairie [virtualeconomies.net]. These services allow buyers and sellers to trade directly with one another, providing the opportunity to cut out middlemen like IGE. In the early going, it looks like a lot of the inventory in these exchanges is supplied by IGE resellers and other aggregators, but there's some individual sel
  • Inaccurate (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WapoStyle (639758)
    I stopped reading at "Night-Elf Wizards" Anyone who plays knows that Night Elves cannot be wizards. I don't care of the focus of the article is somewhere else, if they over looked that detail, how many other details did the reporter overlook? I despise inaccurate information.
  • by traycerb (728174) on Monday June 18, 2007 @02:51PM (#19554693)
    ...that people pay to avoid it? It's interesting; skill in other games in non-transferable. You can't sell people your muscle memory from playing an FPS or fighting game. I don't see anything wrong w/ gold farming, and I don't see it subverting a 'meritocracy.' It's just circumventing time spent, to which we should be asking: why are we making/playing such laborious games?
  • So it would seem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the_tsi (19767) on Monday June 18, 2007 @04:11PM (#19556039)
    ...that I'm getting ripped off in my purchases, mostly by the various middle-men. Even accounting for the cost of a computer, the WOW account, the electricity to power the computer, and the space in which the computer and the farmer sit... it seems like a lot of people are making money for just connecting two people.

    This article makes me want to, more than any other solution, reach an open-ended agreement with a single farmer to provide me with full-time farming services in exchange for a much-closer-to-retail rate. Figure a target of eight-hour workdays, flextime (since I don't care when they farm up cloth, leather, ores, gold, signets, etc. for me), for 2-3 times what they're making. I'll even pay for the account. Just a steady stream of all the treadmill shit that is in the way of the actual fun part of the game. They get a closer-to-living-wage, IGE goes out of business, I get pretty purples. Everyone wins.

    So... anyone speak cantonese or mandarin? Or failing that, any off-duty farmers (of any nationality) speak english and read slashdot comments?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2007 @05:40PM (#19557207)
    Unfortunately, people farming gold leads to gold-selling operations, and that leads to people buying gold, and that leads to competition, which leads to a pressure to bring the price down.

    Let's put that in cold perspective.

    "For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20."
    $20 for 100 gold? Which planet are you living on? IGE is the biggest and arguably the most expensive, because they tend to shy away from affiliates which use excessive numbers of bots and account hacking. Even there, however, $20 would get you about 200 gold. Go to the shadier sites, however, and you'll find $20 would get you almost 400 gold; in one case, nearly 1000 gold.

    Odd, that, isn't it? You couldn't possibly hire even a Chinese gold farmer for that kind of wage. So what's going on?

    Simple. Someone used a handier and much cheaper way of obtaining gold than by hiring Chinese people; steal it from another player.

    All those keyloggers on the WoW forums and buried in advertisements to some sites, with web browser exploits attached? Yup, that's right.

    To a black-hat, right now, a stolen login and password to a World of Warcraft account is worth more than a stolen credit card number, and it's a lot easier to sell on to an affiliate.

    That's where we're at now - people buying gold are directly funding the creation of malware... Still feeling good about it? Thought not.
  • by CharAznable (702598) on Monday June 18, 2007 @06:58PM (#19558077)
    I support any consensual transaction between two people, as long as it doesn't hurt any third party. Some dude in China is making a living and allowing some lazy rich dude in the USA save himself some boring grinding. I don't see anything wrong with that. If anything, it only means that the game is so poorly made that in order to succeed you need to waste your time doing mindnumbing, soulcrushing repetitive tasks that people are willing to pay not to do. And if you are a MMO player and you think that your enjoyment of a broken, poorly designed game is so important that you want to deny someone the chance to earn a living, then you need to blame the designers for making such a system possible, and yourself for totally buying into it. Myself, I made the choice to not play anymore.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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