To heavily involved gamers this is not news, but to the outside world it is another among the twists and turns of digital life that never ceases to amaze. While many play games for the challenge and entertainment value, some just want to get to the higher levels by paying but not by paying their dues. This is the case in the World of Warcraft where moneyed gamers, mostly from the Western Hemisphere are paying real money to gamers in China to get the virtual gold for them.
“Playborers,” as they are called, are people in China who play the game and collect the gold coins needed to purchase items. The borers then sell the virtual gold for real money to Westerners who want to get to the top levels without actually going through the motions. For working twelve hours a day, every day, the Chinese gamers can make as much or more than factory workers making other goods. Reports suggest gamers make around $100 or $250 monthly, a living wage in some countries.
But all is not well on the virtual to real gold front. While the Chinese gamers get to have a rather easy task of slaying dragons and waging war on medieval kingdoms, reports are that they are doing so under a level of duress equivalent to sweatshop conditions. Sitting behind screens in dark, filthy rooms they are assigned quotas. Meanwhile, gaming companies are upset about this practice because they believe it is linked to hackers who steal beloved characters and strip them of all their gold. Plus it’s just not legal to outsource game playing to China. The World of Warcraft people have issued directives saying that, “Purchased gold comes at every player’s expense.” It’s a little bit like shop lifting without the shop and any lifting going on. Not easy to stop.