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December 11, 2005

Rich Gamers Pay Cheap Chinese Labor To Amass Gold and Experience Points For Them

If this wasn't in the New York Times, I'd swear someone just got monkey-fished but good. But it is:

One of China's newest factories operates here in the basement of an old warehouse. Posters of World of Warcraft and Magic Land hang above a corps of young people glued to their computer screens, pounding away at their keyboards in the latest hustle for money.

The people working at this clandestine locale are "gold farmers." Every day, in 12-hour shifts, they "play" computer games by killing onscreen monsters and winning battles, harvesting artificial gold coins and other virtual goods as rewards that, as it turns out, can be transformed into real cash.

That is because, from Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them.

"For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, my colleagues and I are killing monsters," said a 23-year-old gamer who works here in this makeshift factory and goes by the online code name Wandering. "I make about $250 a month, which is pretty good compared with the other jobs I've had...."

Gee, ya think?

Now I've read about very wealthy and very juvenile sheiks and princes and such paying high-level (ahem) video gamers to come to their country and teach them how to master a video game. They pay a lot of money, and of course it costs a lot just to put someone on a plane and pay for hotel and dining, but at least -- as absurd as that is -- the rich, bored princeling ultimately ends up playing the game himself.

But paying someone to play the game for you? What is the point of that?

Can someone pay me to watch porn for them? I mean, in case they'd really like to watch porn but find they just don't have the time?

BTW: "Monkey-fished" means "scammed with a fake story almost too incredible to believe but too interesting not to publish." The term comes from a story the amateur online webzine Slate once run about the controversial sport of "monkey-fishing," where guys in powerboats cast fishing-lines onto the shores of jungle islands, baited with fruit... and fish monkeys right off the beach.

Sound ridiculous? It did to Michael Kinsley too, which is why he ran it. It was too ridiculous to not be true, he must have figured.

Slate got scammed by a freelance writer who needed some bread.

I'd like to get all high and mighty about that, but then, I just ran a story about Der Spiegel suggesting that Israel be moved to a German state.

Context: Several readers say these on-line games have lots of pointless "timesuck" activity, from digging gold out of a mine (and you have to hit the buttons for every swing of the pick) to killing thousands of rats just to earn enough experience points to reach second level. So, they say, it makes sense for someone with a lot of money and less time to just pay someone else to get them up to a reasonable power level in the game.

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posted by Ace at 12:55 AM

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