Blurring The Lines

I was rather fascinated to stumble across a BBC news article last week, documenting a report by Manchester University into virtual “gold-farming.”  According to their research, a whopping 400,000 people earn on average £77 per month generating and selling in-game currencies.  80% are based in China. 

I must admit, my first thought was complete mystification.  Surely games are purchased to be played, no?  And yet here is a scenario – well, 400,000 of them to be exact – of consumers spending their cash on a title, and then spending MORE cash to get someone ELSE to play the game for them.

No Spandau Ballet lyrics, please…

But then as I began to ponder, it occurred to me that it is not really any different than, say, dog walking.  You buy a dog.  You then pay someone to walk that dog whilst you’re out at work or otherwise occupied.  You get home, and voila!  You are received by a chilled out, contented canine.  No being dragged through a park whilst it’s bucketing down with rain.  No scooping up after Princess FiFi.  Except, in this case, walking is smashing a gazillion trolls over the head with a sledgehammer.  And Princess FiFi is a level 81 Paladin with 30,000 gold.

It must also be said that gold-farming is usually a violation of a game’s terms and agreements.  Players caught doing it can be banned and have their account shut down.  So then why do so many people do it?

It’s the classic phrase of time equals money.  But by splashing our cash to have people acquire us high-powered avatars and the latest virtual gear, are we exploiting them?  Or are they exploiting us?  Has the online virtual world gone mad?  Or perhaps just a little closer to our own reality?






7 responses to “Blurring The Lines”

  1. Michael avatar

    I recently read an article about this in a magazine… I don’t see the point of buying a game, typically with a subscription, and then paying someone to play it for you. Especially if, with a bit of thinking, you’re potentially funding crime/exploitation. The new sweatshops, folks.

  2. Kirsten avatar

    The thing that’s weird about gold farming being such a big issue is in many games it’s simply using a glitch in the game or exploiting a certain area to make money or upset the balance of the economy. Of course some people use bots and stuff but in many cases it’s just people using weaknesses in the game’s design. The devs can simply change the area being farmed to stop it happening. The major problem occurs with in-game currencies that have a real life value.

    I like online MMORPGS well enough but I can’t see me making a career out of them.

  3. CrunchbiteJr (John) avatar
    CrunchbiteJr (John)

    What astounded me about the BBC article was that gamers have been talking about Gold Farming for years!

    Next up will be a stunning expose into anti semitic and homophobic behaviour online no doubt.

  4. Ben avatar

    As a bit of a MMO-addict I despise gold farming and is nice to see devs like Blizzard taking the gold selling companies to court, and achieving good success there.

  5. Skill avatar

    Its def not new. Mexico has a fairly large industry in this.

    But then I remember a news story waaaay back when, about a kid who was charging all his mates to babysit their Tamagotchis. He had like 60 of the damn things, and just kept cycling through feeding, exercising, send them to bed, etc. so the little buggers wouldn’t die when their owners were too lazy to keep them alive.

    Wanna bet that kid is farming gold in a 2nd world sweatshop as we speak?

  6. Emily avatar

    Yeah Michael there was an article about this in Games TM, I think their main focus was Second Life.

    What a game! I downloaded it a while ago and I’ve never “played” anything like it. It’s like walking into terrestrial television and being bombarded with adverts from hundreds of users trying to sell you clothes.

  7. Michael avatar

    Yeah, I know there was, I made a brief appearance in there somewhere. 😉

    Second Life doesn’t sound very appealing…

Leave a Reply