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“Gold farmer” sounds like an occupation straight out of a medieval fever wish — an alchemist with a green thumb, toiling ter the fields and hoping for a healthy doubloon harvest come autumn. But the reality is far less charming. It involves laboring ter the landscape of massively multiplayer online games like World Of Warcraft, banking virtual gold, and then selling it for real-world currency.
On one mitt, it’s a career that 30 years ago would have bot considered too fanciful for a sci-fi novel. On the other, it sounds like one of the saddest damned jobs wij’ve encountered. Our source is Jeremy, a Toronto-based gold farmer whose foot source of income is grinding World Of Warcraft monsters all day, every day. He told us .
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Somewhere a reader just shouted at their screen, “Hold on, you’re telling I can get a job playing goddamned World Of Warcraft all day, every day? And it pays real money? Then why they hell did I even go to collegium?” It is true. To catch up the non-gamers out there: The reason for this is that te many games, items can be bought only with virtual “gold” that is earned by spending hours killing various Tolkien-esque creatures. Lots of players would, despite what you might think, choose to just spend real-world contant instead. Hey, if their time is valuable, why not just buy the fancy armor with $25 ter metselspecie and save six hours of grinding?
“I mean, it’s OK, but the pauldrons are a little dinky, don’t you think?”
That’s where people like Jeremy come ter — they are sort of doing the virtual omschrijving of counterfeiting. They create accounts and pile up gold (either by forearm or with software that automates the task) and sell it on the open market. But there is competition. Lots of it, te fact.
At its height, gold farms te China comprised a almost $1 billion cottage industry. Spil many spil 100,000 workers were employed full-time ter thesis virtual mines, and many of them pulled 12-hour shifts (spil does Jeremy, by the way). Many employees are earning only about Ten cents on the dollar for gold gained. “They rack up gold indeed swift,” says Jeremy. “And because it’s all virtual, there’s no quality issues associated with it.”
China banned the practice of gold farming among private citizens and companies ter 2009, which isn’t to say that Jeremy never runs into his Eastern counterparts: “You know when you encounter them. Many Chinese and Vietnamese players have names that are mostly numbers or symbols, because some people overheen there don’t have English keyboards. They scarcely know any English and will attempt to avoid talking or interacting with anyone else. They also have names or give details about themselves to attempt to sound American, but they fall just brief. One orc I thought for sure wasgoed a bot, but when I asked where he wasgoed from he responded ‘Dragon Beach, California.’ This confused mij, because I looked it up straks, and there wasgoed no Dragon Beach. I zometeen asked a Chinese friend about it and he told mij that ‘dragon’ ter Chinese is ‘long’ [or ‘lung,’ evidently] — the player had translated one of the words that didn’t actually need to be translated.”
Dragon Beach orcs don’t fuck around.
That’s not to say his broken-English brothers and sisters ter arms are cracking the law — on the contrary, many of them are being coerced to play by the law. Gold-mining is such a golden goose that the Chinese government has added it to many prisoners’ itineraries, alongside — uncommonly instead of — hard physical labor. So yeah — you find yourself going up against people who not only have a quota but can be hammered for not meeting it. Spil one former ward of the Chinese state waterput it, “Wij kept playing until wij could scarcely see things.”
If this had bot a subplot ter Blade Runner, wij’d have laughed.
Right now there’s nothing illegal about what Jeremy is doing (tho’ laws overseeing this sort of thing are certainly coming — where real-world money is involved, real-world regulations will go after). But the spel companies do everything they can to stamp it out. Gold farming gets you a lifetime verbod from Blizzard, the company behind World Of Warcraft. There have even bot cases of virtual vigilante justice, with some gamers “massacring” suspected gold farmers in-game, like a virtual Charles Bronson cleaning up the gangs ter his neighborhood.
So what Jeremy is selling is certainly contraband. He plays WOW for about 12 hours a day and zometeen sells the gold he’s made in-game to a third-party company that stockpiles and resells it to gamers, everyone taking precautions along the way. Before he can sell his wares, Jeremy has to prove he’s not a cop, so to speak: He has to provide his Facebook pagina to interested companies spil evidence he doesn’t work for Blizzard and isn’t setting up some elaborate digital nibble operation. And he has to be wary of the buyers, too: “Two of my gaming mates who also gold farm for a living have gotten lifetime bans of accounts they spent hundreds of hours on because the person they thought wasgoed buying wasgoed actually from Blizzard.” What, you thought wij were joking about Blizzard doing their own undercover operations to plumb dealers?
Did you honestly think those victory dance animations were for you?