Outsource to China… your video game playing?

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Gold farming is being outsourced to China. Not the 24 karat variety, but the virtual kind:

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…

"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. And I can play games all day."

Who pays them? Rich gamers who lack the time and patience to develop their own players (and hence reach the better levels), or private firms who employ teams of miners to convert the virtual ore into US dollars. In some of these virtual worlds 40-50 percent of the players are Chinese ‘farmers’. The worlds and currencies might be synthetic, but the economics and dollars figures behind them are very real. Entrepreneurial yes, but also apparently illegal.

Update 1: For more on synthetic worlds, Terra Nova is the place. Also see Lance Koonce on virtual sweat shops.

Update 2: NYTimes virtual slideshow also available.

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