intensely fascinating article in ny times magazine about chinese gold farmers in world of warcraft.

Interesting tidbits:

Nick Yee, an M.M.O. scholar based at Stanford, has noted the unsettling parallels (the recurrence of words like “vermin,” “rats” and “extermination”) between contemporary anti-gold-farmer rhetoric and 19th-century U.S. literature on immigrant Chinese laundry workers.

Min’s English is not good enough to grasp in all its richness the hatred aimed his way. But he gets the idea. He feels a little embarrassed around regular players and sometimes says he thinks about how he might explain himself to those who believe he has no place among them, if only he could speak their language. “I have this idea in mind that regular players should understand that people do different things in the game,” he said. “They are playing. And we are making a living.”

I spoke to someone in Chinese once, over a year ago, in Winterspring. He lived in China and had been “playing” for a year. I assume he was a gold farmer, but he didn’t say so explicitly. He did say that he was 22 and was trying to get money because he’d just spent a year in jail.

And last week I killed an orc fury warrior who I’m sure was a bot 10 or more times. It was farming motes of water. It finally hearthed.

Blizzard cracked down on goldfarmers, banning 50,000 accounts belonging to farmers, bringing “the exchange rate rocketing from a low of 6 cents per gold coin last spring to a high of 35 cents in January.” On banning farmers’ accounts rather than the buyers’ accounts:

As Mark Jacobs, vice president at Electronic Arts and creator of the classic M.M.O. Dark Age of Camelot, put it: “Are you going to get more sympathy from busting 50,000 Chinese farmers or from busting 10,000 Americans that are buying? It’s not a racial thing at all. If you bust the buyers, you’re busting the guys who are paying to play your game, who you want to keep as customers and who will then go on the forums and say really nasty things about your company and your game.”

So what do you do, as a player? Mock people who buy gold? Refuse to associate with them? Someone once told me, “All the guild hunters have bought gold at some point.” Sigh.

And the most fascinating part of the article: on page 6, where a farming company trained 40 employees to go through raid dungeons. The business model was to bring paying players on their runs, and sell the loot for real money. It failed due to lack of customers. Reasons for this would be obvious: the raiding elite is just that… elite. Everyone knows each other, knows the guilds that are making endgame progression, knows where everyone stands. If you weren’t in a raiding guild and had a chromatically tempered blade, everyone would know you’d bought it from the chinese farmer raid guild, and everyone would mock you. And there’s no point for raid epics if you’re not skilled or dedicated enough for a raiding guild… you get better gear from raids for the sole purpose of being able to do harder raids. Hahahaha. You do raids for the sole purpose of fun: it’s fun to hang out with these people you’ve befriended over the internet, it’s fun to learn the boss fights, it’s fun to take part in something that was a group effort and achievement.

What a bizarre “play meets work” dynamic. Everybody already says things like “WoW is like a job that you don’t get paid for,” and there are legendary raid leaders from other servers that are cruel, cruel taskmasters. Imagine having a raid leader like that, except he’s also your boss and giving you a wage. How bizarre.


    1. yeah, wtf. and not even to play other games. TO PLAY WARCRAFT.

      i mean i can understand the internet cafe thing. everybody goes to internet cafes in china all the time. they were filled with teenage males smoking and killing each other in warcraft 3. but logging off of your work just to log back on to play… and have it be so transparent an “unpaid r&d” stint for the company you’re slaving away for…

      i’ve seen the beginnings of a documentary on chinese gold farmers in WoW on youtube. you can catch part of a conversation in chinese: one dude leans over to watch another dude play, and says “hey where’d you get that hat? i want that hat.” i remembered this because “hat” is a funny word in chinese. it is “mao4.” that is funny to me. anyway. work and play.

      1. na-ah, admit it, you remembered it because part of you said, “which hat? I may want that hat too! Is it purple?”

        I liked that article much better than that other one. It gave a rounder view.

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