Chinese prisoners in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) suffer some of the harshest conditions in the world; yet, there are also those who serve their time by farming gold in the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) from Blizzard, World of Warcraft (WoW).
For those not familiar with the practice, gold farming is the process of obtaining gold from creatures in game by killing them repeatedly. It is a mind-numbingly boring and repetitive task that reduces what should be an enjoyable online game into drudgery. As expected, this gold is hard to earn and is in high-demand among those Warcraft players without as much time to devote to the game.
Various websites offering to sell players gold set up shop around the internet and the vast majority of them are based in the People’s Republic of China. Likely within minutes of starting up a character on any server in World of Warcraft the player will be bombarded with advertisements in the General chat for these services offering to sell you gold.
Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” Liu told the Guardian. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000 rmb [£470-570] (~$770-935) a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.”
It is estimated that 80% of all gold farmers are in China and with the largest internet population in the world there are thought to be 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country.