Chinese workers slaying monsters to earn gold for western consumers. It sounds surreal, but it is a far from virtual reality for the so-called 'gold farmers', who are working in 10-hour shifts to help players gain levels, and wealth, in online roleplaying games like World of Warcraft.
For thousands of Chinese workers, gold farming is a way of life. Workers earn between €85-€130 a month which, given the long hours and night shifts, can amount to as little as 30 cent an hour. After completing a shift, they are given a basic meal of rice, meat and vegetables and falls into a bunk bed in a room that eight other gold farmers share. Wages may be low, but food and accommodation are included. You can hire your own gold farming slave employee via wow7gold.com.
According to an extensive report by Richard Heeks at Manchester University (pdf), a few hundred thousand Asian workers are now employed in gold farming in a trade worth up to 730 million a year. With so many gamers now online, these industries are estimated to have a consumer base of five million to 10 million, and numbers are expected to grow with widening internet access. Recently, the Chinese government started taxing gold farmers.
Games become jobs. And where there's a demand, China will supply it.