Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chinese Virtual Chain Gangs

When I first heard this, I thought it was a joke: Chinese prisoners are being forced to farm gold in online games.

If you're not familiar, "gold farming" is acquiring lots of money in an online game such as World of Warcraft, usually by performing tedious repetitive tasks, and then selling the online gold to other players for real-world cash.

In some Chinese prison camps, they have turned gold farming into an industry:
 "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp....The computers were never turned off." (via The Guardian)
As far as forced labor goes, that doesn't sound so bad. Then I read a little further:
"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said.
Jesus Christ. And that's sometimes on top of a full day of real rock-breaking labor.

I guess this is a sign of how popular online gaming has become. Not only does such a thing as gold farming exist, but an unscrupulous government is actually using slave labor to profit from it.

Think about that the next time you're tempted to take an offline shortcut in World of Warcraft.

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