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A Close-Up on Chinese Gold Farming

A reader named Patrick Bateman told us about a work-in-progress documentary on the subject of “Chinese gold farming,” or the practice of harvesting virtual assets in computer games in order to sell them for real money. Produced and directed by Ge Jin, a communications PhD. candidate at U.C. San Diego, the film explores the inner workings of these farms, most of which hire professional gamers to spend up to twelve hours a day accumulating points and avatars which are then auctioned off to other players worldwide.

The New York Times covered the phenomenon back in 2005, estimating that more than 100,000 Chinese youths were employed as full-time gamers, some of them earning as little as $.25 an hour. Based on the fierce competition that Jin describes, it doesn’t sound like the farms have slowed much since then, despite the considerable hurdles to survival: intervention by government officials, crackdowns from game creators and confusion over multi-lingual auction brokers. Still, given the job’s high risk of Internet Addiction (which we’ve blogged about before), these gamers may have all the incentive they need to keep farming.