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The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer
June 19, 2007 8:12 AM   Subscribe

The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer.
posted by chunking express (74 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
You know, I have sympathy for the farmers, but I'm still going to kill their characters if/when the opportunity arises.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2007


As anyone who has spent much time among video-gamers knows, the look on a person’s face as he or she plays can be a curiously serious one, reflective of the absorbing rigors of many contemporary games.

I do so love the Times.
posted by damehex at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2007


I'm going to combine two currently popular memes and start a local, organic, sustainable gold farm. People will be will to pay more for a genuine hand crafted ethical product.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:13 AM on June 19, 2007 [8 favorites]


“You know, I have sympathy for the farmers, but I'm still going to kill their characters if/when the opportunity arises.”

That's literally money from their pocket of their thirty cents an hour average commissioned pay. It's not actually helping solve the problem and you're taking out your annoyance on the least guilty person involved by actually reducing the income of an extremely poor person.

I found when I read the article that I got progressively more angry with people who grief farmers. It seems typical of the worst of human nature to be angry about something and then pick the most convenient target for your anger—and that most convenient target far too often is much worse-off than oneself. "Ooh, farmers are so awful, they're ruining my enjoyment of this game by artificially raising prices for good items! I'm going to go mess with this farmer who's working for 30 cents an hour, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and who sleeps on a mat on the floor in a room full of other workers in the building next door! Oh, look: you're DEAD NOW. That's like ten cents you won't earn this hour! Hahaha!"

I've got some people in mind that I'd like to grief given the opportunity.

That one guy's story about how much fun he had doing the guided raids and how rewarding the job was and how much he hated having to go back to the boring stuff just made me very sad.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


KT, check out Anda's Game, you might want to think about the union organizers ;)
posted by pupdog at 9:18 AM on June 19, 2007


The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer.
posted by chunking express . . .

Eponysterical?
posted by The Bellman at 9:26 AM on June 19, 2007


I found that the article didn't touch on many of the problems that most players have with gold farmers. No mention of the constant spam that players have had to deal with for services (PEONS4HIRE PEONS4HIRE PEONS4HIRE PEONS4HIRE PEONS4HIRE) or the rampant use of exploits that many farmers participate in.

Let me torture an analogy:

RMT (Real Money Trade) is a bit like the illegal drug trade. It is a victim less crime that has negative externalities, some arising from the fact that it is illegal and some arising from the inevitable conflict of morales and capitalism.

As for people killing farmers; this is a part of the game. A person on the opposing side can be killed for the color of his shoes, the way they emotes, or because the person killing them had a bad day. As part of the game, players are rewarded for killing other players. Am I supposed to have to figure out, in one way or another, whether a person is a gold farmer, so I won't kill them? And why should it be socially acceptable to kill one person and not another?
posted by zabuni at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2007


Next Ethereal Bligh will no doubt tell us we're being heartless for not actually buying gold as well as actively trying to stop their business (whether by slowing their ingame farming by killing characters or reporting them to the companies running the games).

In-game I want to have the leisure time uninterrupted by annoying spams, unplagued by distorted economies, players who have an unfair advantage over me through using these methods which are breaking the rules I have agreed to play by, and in that context I don't care who is creating those problems - I want them to stop. It's leisure time I've paid for, and part of what I've paid for is a fair gaming environment.

Out of game, I can be worried about the general levels of poverty on this rock and actually support both governments and NGOs in resolving these issues so people don't have to work for a pittance.
posted by edd at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2007


I've noticed that the spams have all but stopped with the new spam reporting feature of the recent update to WoW. And I resent that they're making a living (however paltry) by undermining the very system they're exploiting. Unfortunately, there's no real systematic way to stop the practice.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:10 AM on June 19, 2007


Unfortunately, there's no real systematic way to stop the practice.

Abolish all virtual currency. Turn each MMORPG into a utopian community where everyone works together and is friends and all items are free. And love abounds.

Er, wait. That wouldn't work. Nevermind, just go back to killing farmers.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2007


The problem doesn't exist in City of Heroes/Villains, since there isn't a virtual economy, as you say. Actually, the one way to do it in WoW would be to disallow the easy transfer of gold from one player to another. The result, though, is that the AH would be overrun with worthless items for 1000g price tags.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2007


I have a question, because I don't even think I have ever seen WoW played before - if you kill one of these guys, don't you get their money? Isn't that a good enough reason on its own to kill them?
posted by mckenney at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2007


If can't transfer gold or it is removed from the game, they'll find some common item and use it as the currency. This is what has happened elsewhere. There's a lot of research on this. There's no good way to get rid of RMT unless you start over with a new fame design. The best that can be expected is that the company keeps it in check, or they coopt it by doing it themselves.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:42 AM on June 19, 2007


Nope. It just forces him to either run to his corpse from the nearest graveyard, or to resurrect, and be incredibly weakened for several minutes. And killing them is only possible on about 15 or 20% of the servers (the pvp servers).
posted by Dave Faris at 10:45 AM on June 19, 2007


Oh. Then yeah, just killing them because it make Hulk angry is a really dick thing to do.
posted by mckenney at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2007


OK, I have another question though. If being killed by other players causes the gold farmers so much grief, why are they playing on PvP servers in the first place?
posted by purplemonkie at 11:13 AM on June 19, 2007


Dave Faris: There is now. With I9 CoH has taken its first steps toward the Grind. One reason I just stopped playing after being there since the beta.
posted by The Bellman at 11:24 AM on June 19, 2007


purplemonkie: Because gold can't be transferred across servers and players on the PvP servers will pay top dollar for gold -- so if you want to sell to them you have to farm there.
posted by The Bellman at 11:24 AM on June 19, 2007


Because you can't transfer money from one server to another, so they need to have people farming gold on every server.
posted by Khalad at 11:27 AM on June 19, 2007


Ah, gotcha.
posted by purplemonkie at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2007


Good question. I don't think they do. Aside from PVP servers, there are very very limited times when a player can kill another player. Every time it requires some positive action by the opponent. (They either have to enter into one of the arena forms of play, or they have to manually turn on pvp mode. The only other way is for them to attack the guards of a city for the opposite faction, and there's no reason why they'd do that because they get no treasure by doing that.) The only times I've encountered gold farmers, they're usually much higher in level than the creatures or the area demands, which makes it easier for them to kill the creatures in the zone.

I suspect that the people who say they kill them when they can -- at least on Wow -- are doing it out of bravado.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2007


ah. good point, bellman. I didn't consider that.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:32 AM on June 19, 2007


Because you can't transfer money from one server to another

Yes, you can. Paid character transfers can keep up to 1500 gold with them. It has limitations (certain high pop target servers, PvE -> PvP directionality, etc), but can be very useful if you need an influx of cash.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:35 AM on June 19, 2007


I suspect that the people who say they kill them when they can -- at least on Wow -- are doing it out of bravado.

Or we want to discourage people from being gold farmers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2007


As bad as I feel for these poor Chinese kids, playing a mage for a couple years meant that the regular "you give 200 food ok? ^_^" messages got pretty annoying.

However, there was a period of a month or two, I think possibly late 2005 or early 2006, where the farmers were using a teleport hack in Dire Maul (a relatively high-level dungeon back then) so that hunters could solo the bosses. My guildmates and I were loving the plentiful and dirt-cheap mana potions on the auction house, even though we disapproved of the method by which they were produced. It was interesting to see how the production-consumption relationship of the real, globalized world managed to reproduce itself in a video game about elves and orcs.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2007


Where it can get the most frustrating is when you are playing a low level character (toon) and you need to quest in an area that a farmer is in. They kill everything over and over again leaving you little chance to get in there and get your own XP and items. That is why on my server (PVP) higher lvl people will come in and kill them.
posted by UseyurBrain at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2007


Paid character transfers can keep up to 1500 gold with them.
That's irrelevant to the gold farmers. It costs US$25 to transfer a character across servers and can take a few days. In the period of that time delay and transfer cost, a gold farmer could create a new character on the server and probably earn 5 times that amount of gold.
posted by junesix at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2007


Before I logged in, the ad at the bottom of this page was for a gold selling site. Heh.
posted by liet at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2007


It'd seem to me that the increased real-world value of gold on PVP servers offsets the difficulty caused by getting killed by people who are annoyed by farmers.
posted by Foosnark at 1:45 PM on June 19, 2007


Forgive a non-gamer for asking, but couldn't the companies kill these markets immediately by simply selling in-game currencies themselves? Why are they ignoring this quite profitable revenue stream?
posted by bonehead at 2:45 PM on June 19, 2007


As a counter-example, Kingdom of Loathing, does something which easily enables direct currency conversion. They sell a widget for 10$ which can readily be converted to in-game currency. It was started as a way of thanking donors, but was left tradable as a way of redistributing extra in-game money to other players.

It's an extremely successful model. Widget sales are the only real-world cash revenue KoL has. It's pulled money derived from bug-exploits out of places it shouldn't be. There are sinks for removing both the widgets and extra cash from the game. It's all nicely balanced (more or less). It baffles me that Blizzard can't do something similar.
posted by bonehead at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2007


They already take the players for $15 a month, so they're already glutted on their current, legitimate revenue stream to sully it by undermining the whole point of the game.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2007


Forgive a non-gamer for asking, but couldn't the companies kill these markets immediately by simply selling in-game currencies themselves? Why are they ignoring this quite profitable revenue stream?

Little point in playing to begin with. Might as well just get rid of the money and make everything free. And if everything's free, might as well either make it all the best stuff that looks exactly the same. Or I suppose they could make every single piece of equipment a player-bound quest reward. But then people would just pay someone else to run the quests for them. Either way, I doubt it would be a very fun game, so ultimately no one would pay to play, and thus... well..

People who buy gold seem to me, in my mmo experience, to be the minority. Unfortunately, as long as the majority of players want a game with money and some sort of economic simulation, the problem will always be there. Until every player decides buying gold is against the spirit of the game, there will always be farmers. Always.
posted by dopamine at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2007


It's a minority maybe, the the gaming industry is leaving $1.8 billion on the table every year if the article is to be be believed. Who walks away from that kind of money?
posted by bonehead at 3:03 PM on June 19, 2007


Bonehead: Some companies do I believe, but most don't, because it is a negative trait to most players. After all, do you want to a play a game where the top player is a spoiled kid with mommy's credit card and no amount of effort or skill will dislodge him from that?

Also, this type of game can really fuck you even if you don't play.
(Link goes to SA forums thread about a guy who spends over $7 grand on a korean MMORPG. )
posted by clockworkjoe at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2007


Heh, I'd forgotten how the archives institute the word filters for people without archives accounts.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:07 PM on June 19, 2007


Gold farming is usury, and the punishment for it is death - Hakkar
posted by ogre at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2007


After all, do you want to a play a game where the top player is a spoiled kid with mommy's credit card and no amount of effort or skill will dislodge him from that?

Why not? Apparently millions are quite happy to play a game where the top players are distinguished by nothing but the sheer amount of time they've spent in-game, and where no amount of effort or skill will dislodge them from that.
posted by vorfeed at 4:15 PM on June 19, 2007


vorfeed : "Why not? Apparently millions are quite happy to play a game where the top players are distinguished by nothing but the sheer amount of time they've spent in-game, and where no amount of effort or skill will dislodge them from that."

Perhaps because people feel differently about success due to wealth versus success due to effort?
posted by Bugbread at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2007


It's not actually helping solve the problem and you're taking out your annoyance

Sorry I call uninformed BS on this. Gold farmers cause inflation and turn away casual players like me away from the game because everything in the auction house is much more expensive than it would be if everyone had to, you know, earn their gold. This is the equivalant of handing out money printing machines to poor people so they can sell this money at a huge discount to the already loaded lesuire class. I shouldnt have to play 8 hours to buy a cloak because every asshole with a Visa card decides to buy 500 gold every week to "buff" up their dwarf.

You can't have these fancy player run economies and hand out virtual money printing machines at the same time. Either give everything a fixed price or do something serious about gold/equimpent farmers and those who support them.

Secondly, you dont just farm gold, you join groups, act nice, then ninja loot a hot sellable item, teleport out, and piss off everyone who just invested 2 hours into getting that far into the instance.

Spam, gold farming, etc are not legitimate industries. Theyre crap. Just because a poor person gets some type of compensation from unethical business doesnt suddenly make that business ethical. Hell, most unethical business prey on the poor and powerless for labor.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:52 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I never understood why people don't try and kill the dudes buying the gold. They are clearly the jack-asses in this whole affair. Of course, figuring out who's buying their pimped out level 70 toon is tricky.
posted by chunking express at 9:30 PM on June 19, 2007


As a counter-example, Kingdom of Loathing... sell a widget for 10$ which can readily be converted to in-game currency.

Technically, we don't sell them. We give them away as thank-you gifts to people who donate $10. Much like your local PBS station and their totebags. It's a bit of semantic wrangling that's probably unnecessary really, but since the game pays my student loans, I like to keep the bases covered and the bets hedged.

Widget sales are the only real-world cash revenue KoL has.

We sell shirts, pint glasses, and other assorted merch too, but for pretty close to cost -- so yeah, donations are our only significant source of income.

Interestingly, we've had our share of gold (or rather, meat) farmers too, at least until eBay started killing auctions on virtual goods. I've seen a billion meat go for well over $1000. That's how I knew we'd made it. ;) No telling if they were chinese laborers or just college kids making some extra beer money, though.

It's kind of an interesting economy, actually. The Mr. Accessory (the widget in question) is useful in and of itself (you can equip it to increase your stats a bit), but its real value is as a secondary game currency that can be used to buy the Item of the Month, which is a special item, pet, or skill that is only available for one month (hence the name), and once the month is over and a new Item is released, no more of them are ever generated again.

So, we get a lot of players who donate every month for the new IotM, but we also get a lot of players who donate multiple times every month, in order to resell the extra items several months later when (if) they've gone up in value. We also try to keep the rate at which a player can farm currency balanced against the market price of a Mr. Accessory, so that you can farm enough meat to buy a Mr. A from another player in a little less than a month, so that the players who can't donate can still get the IotM each month. That potential loss of donations is balanced by the people who donate for extra Mr. A's to sell to the people who are farming. And, the extra meat generated by the farmers eventually gets drained off into "meatsinks" like the ingame raffle-house, casino, antique store, and so on.

It's working out pretty well for a silly stick-figure game that's mostly pop-culture references and a simple chat interface. (Though this month's IotM is one-third S. T. Coleridge references, so I guess that doesn't really count as 'pop-culture'.)

p.s. Giant new content update in 5 days! </shamelessplug>
posted by rifflesby at 10:20 PM on June 19, 2007


I think it is really funny that the ad displayed when you are not logged in is for farmed gold.

I stopped playing awhile back, and am enjoying my freetime. If I were playing on a PVP server I would feel no guilt taking the farmers down.
posted by thirteen at 8:51 AM on June 20, 2007


“Sorry I call uninformed BS on this.”

Well, it might be BS, but it's not uninformed. I've been playing WoW since it was released. I've been playing MMORPGs since UO was released. I've been reading Terra Nova, the scholarly blog devoted to virtual worlds and which discusses the issue of RMT quite often, and in depth, and which references the many academic papers written on the subject, for a couple of years.

So who's more "informed", me or you?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2007


Incidentally, another factor in how much of a real problem this is lies in the distribution of players with regard to level. If you look at demographics realm-wide, and on most individual realms—with new realms the exception—you find that approximately 80% of all players are at maximum player leve (70 now in WoW) and are playing the end-game, which RMT doesn't affect.

I don't play the end-game, I play the mid-game, where RMT effects are strongest. It bothers me moderately. RMT seems like cheating. But I don't agree with either taking one's annoyance/anger out on the farmers themselves, or any utilitarian arguments for doing so. On the other hand, I have no problem with the publishers taking action against the farmers or, preferentially, the retailers. Advertising, or spamming, RMT retail offers in-game is a problem, but quite independent of the individual farmers, the other end of the supply-chain. I agree that retail RMT spamming is bad and annoying. But Blizzard has made big inroads in eliminating it.

Also, one thing not mention in this thread that may have puzzled people is that, as mentioned previously, the larger part of farmers "farming gold" is really farming items that they then sell at auction. The NYT writer discusses direct gold farming as if this is the only activity. However, as it seems that the writer is quite familiar with WoW and RMT, I think that he or his editor deliberately elided item farming by farmers to keep the article more immediately comprehensible to its mostly non-gamer audience who will find it confusing enough as it is. Talking about item farming and auctioning would have confused matters for the audience who would then have an even more difficult time seeing the connection between in-game activities and the real-world money result.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2007


What is this a nerd pissing contest? Well I plaeyd D&D and was a hobbyist MUD developer in the mid-90s, yadda yadda. Look its a nerd contest! Someone get me some tape for my glasses!

Calling this just an annoyance is being very generous. Inflation and 'ninja looting' are caused by these gold farmers. Defending it by playing the "poor people" card is pretty low. These people just abuse the system and really should be looking for a real job. Maybe they wouldnt be so "poor" if they would face their WoW compulsion, stop playing, and attempt to get better work.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2007


You don't really think that the gold farmers do what they do because they're addicted to the game, do you? (Or was that an attempt at a little much needed levity?)
posted by Dave Faris at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2007


“What is this a nerd pissing contest?”

No. You were the one who made your response to me essentially a criticism of my incompetence to address these issues.

And what Dave Faris said. If you think that any of the Chinese farmers are farmers because they were WoW addicts who then got jobs as farmers, then you're ironically profoundly ignorant of the topic. These are mostly formerly rural Chinese who've moved to the big cities seeking jobs. These are just as much "real jobs" as any other. These jobs pay relatively well—they're not making only 30 cents an hour because they're working as farmers and could make much more elsewhere. They're doing about as well, or better, than they could do at other jobs.

I mean, geez, that sinlge statement of yours is so ignorant of the reality of this it's astonishing.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:35 PM on June 20, 2007


They are not real jobs because they are fundamentally in conflict with the terms of service. It is a criminal, if fairly harmless, enterprise.
posted by thirteen at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2007


and are playing the end-game, which RMT doesn't affect.

I beg to differ: When one needs 5000g to buy one's flying mount, shelling out a few hundred bucks to make that happen is mighty tempting.
posted by thanotopsis at 2:37 PM on June 20, 2007


They are not real jobs because they are fundamentally in conflict with the terms of service. It is a criminal, if fairly harmless, enterprise.

So people with rude or trademarked toon names are "criminal" now? Guys named "LordBen" and "CaptainBest" and such? How about everybody who uses 3rd party display mods? Come on. It's just a game, and just a violation of TOS for that game -- the S stands for Service, not Sacred.

Besides, If Blizzard really thought they had as much as a single leg to stand on with regards to criminalizing this, they'd be suing people left and right. I would really like to see the American judge who wouldn't throw out a claim against a Chinese citizen living in China, based on no "crime" other than making an honest sale (for dirt cheap!) of a virtual widget. There are people in China who make their living stealing real stuff and real money from real Americans on Ebay, but we're supposed to care about that dude who totally ninja'd you in Molten Core?

"Criminal enterprise" indeed. This is criminal the way eating a couple of Crunchy Granola Raisins out of the bulk bin at Whole Foods is criminal.
posted by vorfeed at 3:11 PM on June 20, 2007


Come on. It's just a game, and just a violation of TOS for that game -- the S stands for Service, not Sacred.

Hey there, Mr. Straw Man. Nice to see you, today.

When you accept the Terms of Service to enter the game, you're legally agreeing to the contract stated in said Terms, and by not abiding to that agreement, you're in breach of contract; hence, criminal activity.

As for Blizzard, they've recently been taking action against the farming companies (as well as a class action suit brought by the users), so the last part of your argument doesn't stand, either.

This is criminal the way eating a couple of Crunchy Granola Raisins out of the bulk bin at Whole Foods is criminal.

Yea, just like the girl who lives down our street was "just a little bit" pregnant for 9 months.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2007


Li, or rather his staff-wielding wizard character, had been slaying the enemy monks since 8 p.m.

THERE ARE NO WIZARDS IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT. Also, no "warrior monk" mobs. You can't be a warrior and a monk at the same time, unless he means paladins. And by wizards, does he mean mages?

This is the only thing that annoyed me about this article. If you're going to write about an MMO, at least learn the basics. I doubt the author of the article has bothered to immerse himself in the world he's writing about, and that discredits his writing. Having said that, I did read the whole article.

When it comes to gold farmers, I dislike them, but not as much as the companies who sell the gold. If some guy wants to run around while at his keyboard (instead of running a bot, that's an entirely different matter) as a way of earning money, that's fine by me. All power to him, I wish I could get a job playing WoW whilst sitting in a room full of Asian men. Dream job, I swear.

What I don't want, however, is in-game advertising when I pay £8 a month in subscription fees. More to that, in-game advertising spamming my screen, interrupting my gameplay with group invitations (new spamming technique, you get invited to a raid group and then spammed in the raid channel), for a company that isn't even affiliated with Blizzard. Especially when they pay their employees peanuts and are more than likely tied up with the people who hack accounts.

I can deal with the farmers because they don't usually mess with my gameplay. Mess with my gameplay, and then we have a problem.
posted by saturnine at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2007


'you're in breach of contract; hence, criminal activity'

Breaches of contracts aren't normally considered criminal activity, are they? I'm pretty sure they aren't where I'm from.
posted by edd at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2007


When you accept the Terms of Service to enter the game, you're legally agreeing to the contract stated in said Terms, and by not abiding to that agreement, you're in breach of contract; hence, criminal activity.

Breach of contract is a civil claim, not a criminal one. Also, I guess you really do think that naming one's cartoon video-game avatar "LordBen" makes one a criminal. Congrats.

As for Blizzard, they've recently been taking action against the farming companies (as well as a class action suit brought by the users), so the last part of your argument doesn't stand, either.

My argument stands right up until damages are actually awarded due to one of these suits. Blizzard's is so weak (ooo, cease-and-desist, scary) that half the people on their own forum don't think it'll do jack squat, and did you read the class action suit you posted a link to? Why, "Mr. Hernandez spent in excess of fifty dollars purchasing World of Warcraft software"! I'm sure that's more than enough to convince a judge that he ought to award a bunch of video gamers real-world monetary damages for their virtual problems with virtual currency. Breach of contract this may be, but whether it's a material breach of contract (i.e. the kind you can get damages for) is very much up in the air. Thus why Blizzard is testing the waters very, very carefully, rather than "suing people left and right" as I said they'd be doing if they had any surety at all.

Yea, just like the girl who lives down our street was "just a little bit" pregnant for 9 months.

Well, I will be sure not to snitch any granola in front of you, CaptainLiteral. oops, I meant, "NotATitleOrCopyrightedTermLiteral", sorry.
posted by vorfeed at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2007


Blizzard's is so weak (ooo, cease-and-desist, scary) that half the people on their own forum don't think it'll do jack squat,

Your argument is suddenly convincing now that you've told me that a pack of rabid 12-14 year old boys have discarded Blizzard's actions as ineffectual. Of course, you'd have to tell them what "ineffectual" means without them cluttering your responses with "OMG FIRST POST", "LRN2FILESUIT", and my all-time favorite: "QQ EMOBOY".
posted by thanotopsis at 4:52 PM on June 20, 2007


Blizzard's is so weak (ooo, cease-and-desist, scary) that half the people on their own forum don't think it'll do jack squat,

I think you need to consider the type of person that frequents the WoW forums before you cite them as a legitimate source for your argument. Not everyone that plays the game has the time to post their positive opinions on the legal proceedings, myself included. It's exhausting enough to deal with negative snarky people ingame, let alone go to the WoW websites, access the forums and deal with them there as well. So they're certainly not representative of the majority opinion.
posted by saturnine at 4:59 PM on June 20, 2007


The TOS is the law within WoW, and violation of that in this manner is what I was referring to. Harvesting within the game for profit is against the rules. Forming a gang to do it with or for you is the enterprise.

The other examples you gave are less serious in how they affect game play, so I am guessing they are weighted differently in their enforcement by moderators. LordBen will probably be asked to change his name at worst. The farmers are gonna get booted.

The only real jobs within the game are those of people pulling a paycheck that says Blizzard on it.

Also, don't stick your hand in the granola raisins. It is wrong and tacky.
posted by thirteen at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2007


Your argument is suddenly convincing now that you've told me that a pack of rabid 12-14 year old boys have discarded Blizzard's actions as ineffectual. Of course, you'd have to tell them what "ineffectual" means without them cluttering your responses with "OMG FIRST POST", "LRN2FILESUIT", and my all-time favorite: "QQ EMOBOY".

A: You're the one who originally posted that thread from the forum, not me. If you meant it to support your argument, you might have chosen something that, I don't know, actually gives some details about the legal proceedings or something. I apologize for taking your link at face value, though, I promise I won't do it again.
B: I don't actually see much of this ilk in the comments there; it's about half-and-half "hurrah for Blizzard" or "I don't see how this is going to change things". It's not representative by any means, but it seems to me that it makes a decent enough straw poll of a large group of WoW players' opinions, especially considering that "a pack of rabid 12-14 year old boys" is one of WoW's main demographics.
C: Weren't you the one accusing me of straw-manning earlier? But by all means, continue with the forum jokes rather than addressing my points.
posted by vorfeed at 6:03 PM on June 20, 2007


“I beg to differ: When one needs 5000g to buy one's flying mount, shelling out a few hundred bucks to make that happen is mighty tempting.”

Yeah, that's true. That's the single exception, though, as the end game is otherwise all about the drops, which aren't tradable.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:22 PM on June 20, 2007


“Besides, If Blizzard really thought they had as much as a single leg to stand on with regards to criminalizing this, they'd be suing people left and right.”

It's not "criminal" unless there's a specific law criminalizing it. Nevertheless, you're wrong in your basic argument because, as another poster pointed out, Blizzard is and has pursued civil suits against RMTers. And there are some landmark cases coming down the pike, such as the Linden Labs one, that are likely to legitimize the idea of virtual property as, in some sense, personal property.

The latter doesn't have much bearing on this, except in some ways to validate the basic underlying acceptability of RMT. (If one's gold is actual one's personal property, then the game publisher will have limited legal ability to control how one uses it, including trading or selling it to others.)

“If you're going to write about an MMO, at least learn the basics. I doubt the author of the article has bothered to immerse himself in the world he's writing about, and that discredits his writing.”

The guy wrote a book about WoW and I think it's clear from even the article that he knows alot about the game. You're not taking into consideration the fact that he's writing for an audience that overwhelmingly has not experience of the game and much of this is very confusing to them. "Wizard" is something the general audience is familiar with as opposed to the magic-wielding classes in WoW. Same with "warrior monks". I'd guess that he was farming some kind of monks and "warrior" was the most understandable way to describe them (because, otherwise, the audience might be puzzled because monks are generally thought to be peaceful).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:31 PM on June 20, 2007


Nevertheless, you're wrong in your basic argument because, as another poster pointed out, Blizzard is and has pursued civil suits against RMTers.

"Is and has pursued civil suits against RMTers" != "suing people left and right". Especially when we're talking about exactly one lawsuit (one that, conveniently, nobody seems to have any actual record of). What Blizzard is doing here is testing the waters -- waters in which the prevailing legal tide may not be on their side, as you yourself point out. They've picked an easy target (Peons4Hire rather than, say, IGE) because they're not sure they can win against a difficult one. Hell, they're not yet legally sure that they even own the virtual property they claim to own. The courts will decide that, and like you said, I don't think that laws limiting these sort of sales are anywhere close to a forgone conclusion. If Blizzard pushes this, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the courts go the other way and strike down the no-sales provisions of these EULAs.

The mere existence of a single lawsuit that hasn't even been ruled upon doesn't invalidate my point, which is that Blizzard would be suing consistently and effectively if they had any legal basis to stand on. Look at what happened with bnetd and the DMCA (where Blizzard did have solid legal precedent) if you don't believe me on that one. Until Blizzard is winning (not just serving) lawsuits, there's no precedence to say that gold farmers are "criminal". They're merely rulebreakers in an online game.

But hey, I could be wrong. If so, I'm sure someone can share the legal details of this lawsuit with me. I mean, a single forum post can't possibly be the only actual evidence of a lawsuit, can it? I thought lawsuits were a matter of public record...
posted by vorfeed at 9:52 PM on June 20, 2007


All that is true. I didn't at all like the "they're criminals so screw em" comment, but I'm not going to agree that there's no significance to the fact that they are violating the TOS. They're in a gray area. But I don't think that means that they don't have "real jobs". That's just silly.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:29 AM on June 21, 2007


A buddy of mine pointed out that 3rd party people are encouraged by Blizzard to create add ons for the game, so I take back the part about the only legitimate income from the game comes from the company.

Some of you don't like the outlaw talk regarding the farmers. They are stealing the rightful game experience from the people who pay their own money to play. Call them what you want, it does not matter, they still suck. I cannot think of any other area of everyday life where someone doing similar things would not attract the attention of the cops.
posted by thirteen at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2007


I think that gold farming is about as legitimate a job as selling American satellites in Canada or modding consoles. Within the bounds of the law, but as Ethereal Bligh says in a grey area.

I don't think that killing farmers because they're farmers is any worse than killing Blood Elves because they annoy you or Gnomes because they're goofy looking, or just running by and one-shotting someone of significantly lower level than you.

Dying might suck for a gold farmer, and it does impact their bottom line, but it's a part of the job similar to the way that getting a shitty tip is a known part of a service person's job. No matter how good a waiter you are, assholes are still assholes.

I also sort of don't understand why farmers aren't all playing warlocks anyway. Instant self-resurrection and the ability to kill multiple mobs at one time.

I am also reasonably convinced that most of the people who brag about killing gold farmers on sight have never crossed path with a gold farmer, would lose a fight with them anyway, and like talking in Barrens Chat.

Farming is a tremendously common activity, especially in Outland (the part of the game added in the latest expansion) where a significant element of gameplay explicitly depends on sitting in an area and killing everything in it to collect particular items (motes) or to gain reputation with the various in-game factions, or to be able to collect crafting materials.
posted by cCranium at 8:02 AM on June 21, 2007


I cannot think of any other area of everyday life where someone doing similar things would not attract the attention of the cops.

What they're doing is working hard (and, yes, bending the rules) to collect things. Then they're selling them. People do this all the time. Picking up cans for the aluminum or scrap metal for the steel, selling e-books and plans on Ebay, grabbing seashells or driftwood and making crafts for sale, selling pinon nuts or firewood on the side of the road, etc. We Americans generally call this sort of thing "enterprise", not "criminality".
posted by vorfeed at 10:22 AM on June 21, 2007


Picking up cans for the aluminum or scrap metal for the steel, selling e-books and plans on Ebay, grabbing seashells or driftwood and making crafts for sale, selling pinon nuts or firewood on the side of the road, etc.

Gold farmers are not collecting discarded items.

I have very little problem with the act or the people, but casting them as noble wage slaves doing what they can to get by in life is somewhat disingenuous.
posted by cCranium at 10:41 AM on June 21, 2007


“I have very little problem with the act or the people, but casting them as noble wage slaves doing what they can to get by in life is somewhat disingenuous.”

Why? That's exactly what they are. Everyone above them in the chain, though, I will agree with you about. But these guys are just like any other Chinese peasant who's moved to the big cities to find a job. This is a job. You think these guys played WoW before they got these jobs? Maybe a handful of them.

It's as if people here are responding to the farmers themselves as if they were Americans or Europeans who decided that it'd be cool to play WoW all day for money. But if you read the article, it's nothing like that at all. This is a job, and not a great job, even for low-wage Chinese worker.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:53 PM on June 21, 2007


V: I called it an enterprise as well. If you don't see the problem with someone harvesting the resources and interfering with a game that people are paying to play, I don't see how I am going to convince you otherwise. I had a killer analogy about an all you can eat fish fry, but I no longer feel like typing it out.


EB: I think we are hung up on the definition of what constitutes a job. Would you consider meth cooker a job? I don't use the word for illegitimate activities. Could you enter an amusement park and declare yourself to be at work, and behave as tho you were if you were not employed by the park?
posted by thirteen at 2:46 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that would hinge on whether or not this activity is illegal in China or not. I think it is not. It's a legal activity and so it's a job like any other job.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:08 AM on June 22, 2007


Could you enter an amusement park and declare yourself to be at work

Yeah, its like going to an amusement park and taking up all the wack-a-mole games because if you keep it for long enough you'll get enough tickets to sell to wealthy players. Now all the whack-a-mole games are tied up. Kids can't play and have to wait around for tables to get clear (err i mean the mobs to respawn.) Sometimes these people invite you to play whack-a-mole together and when all the tickets start pouring out of the machine they grab them all and run away (err i mean ninja loot). The amusement park's management keeps kicking them out and postign signs that doing this is against the rules.

After a while, the people who run the ticket booths who take tickets and exchange them for food or gifts start raising their prices because there are so many people buying these tickets from the whack-a-mole farmers.

Doesnt sound like any job I've heard of. Sounds like a bunch of opportunists ruining the amusement park and getting in the way of everyone's fun.

Actually this analogy isnt that good, as whack-a-mole is a quarter a game while WoW is all you can eat. So its like free whack-a-mole tables.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2007


damn dirty ape : "Doesnt sound like any job I've heard of."

No, but then again doing tech support for networks is like placing monitors at various points along a person's circulatory system, and when an aneurysm is detected, calling the person who is having the aneurysm to let them know, and calling a doctor to go to the person's house and fix the problem. That also doesn't sound like any job I've heard of. That's the magic of goofy examples. You can make anything not sound like any other thing you've heard of, job or otherwise.

So what you described (with the whack-a-mole) does sound like a job to me. Not like any job I've heard of, but a job nonetheless. A job is when you do 1) work, 2) on a regular (daily) basis, 3) for an employer, right? Running a meth lab: not a job. Grinding coca leaves on a plantation in Colombia for a drug baron: a job. Being a hitman: not a job. Being a courier for the mafia: a job.
posted by Bugbread at 3:13 PM on June 22, 2007


Even moresoe if added to Bugbread's criteria is 4) legal, 5) employer/whoever pays taxes, 6) and otherwise regulated by government like other paid work.

Working as a farmer is a regular job by any normal definition. If it were illegal, that'd be different. It's a little grey, but then selling used CDs is, too.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:04 AM on June 23, 2007


Sort of like a regular job, except someone other than your boss can fire you. Prevent you from entering the workplace even. Life is hard for the professional jerk.
posted by thirteen at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2007


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