ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Apocalypse is Nigh

H/T to Cafe Hayek

From Today's New York Times

Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese

FUZHOU, China - 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.
This virtual economy is blurring the line between fantasy and reality. A few years ago, online subscribers started competing with other players from around the world. And before long, many casual gamers started asking other people to baby-sit for their accounts, or play while they were away.

That has spawned the creation of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of online gaming factories here in China. By some estimates, there are well over 100,000 young people working in China as full-time gamers, toiling away in dark Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes.

Most of the players here actually make less than a quarter an hour, but they often get room, board and free computer game play in these "virtual sweatshops."

"It's unimaginable how big this is," says Chen Yu, 27, who employs 20 full-time gamers here in Fuzhou. "They say that in some of these popular games, 40 or 50 percent of the players are actually Chinese farmers."

For many online gamers, the point is no longer simply to play. Instead they hunt for the fanciest sword or the most potent charm, or seek a shortcut to the thrill of sparring at the highest level. And all of that is available - for a price.

and of course, there's always someone seeking to control a market...

But gold farming is controversial. Many hard-core gamers say the factories are distorting the games. What is more, the big gaming companies say the factories are violating the terms of use of the games, which forbid players to sell their virtual goods for real money. They have vowed to crack down on those suspected of being small businesses rather than individual gamers.

"We know that such business exists, and we are against it," says Guolong Jin, a spokesman for N-Sina, a Chinese joint venture with NC Soft, the Korean creator of Lineage, one of the most popular online games. "Playing games should be fun and entertaining. It's not a way to trade and make money."

Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Vivendi Universal and the creator of World of Warcraft, one of the world's most popular games with more than 4.5 million online subscribers, has also called the trading illegal.

But little has been done to halt the mushrooming black market in virtual goods, many available for sale on eBay, Yahoo and other online sites.

On eBay, for example, 100 grams of World of Warcraft gold is available for $9.99 or two ├╝ber characters from EverQuest for $35.50. It costs $269 to be transported to Level 60 in Warcraft, and it typically takes 15 days to get the account back at the higher level.

Now, when I first read this, I had two thoughts:
  1. Wow... isn't it amazing where and how markets will develop?
  2. We are truly witnessin the collapse of Western civilization and the American experience when we are too #@$@% lazy to play video games!!!!

I think this was mentioned in the Book of Revelations?
Remember therefore how thou hast outsourced thy freetime to cheap labor in the East. Hold fast and repent, for thou knowest not how thy should takest measure of thine idle time. Do not pay the peoples to the East to conquer thine ogres for thou. Steel thyself and conquer the beasts with thine own sword

(sorry... couldn't resist.)

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (1)
Monterey John said...

Good grief. My sons have been trying to drag me into F.E.A.R. No wonder I'm always behind the curve.