The German website taz reports that prisoners in the Chinese Jixi labor camp are forced to play computer games to earn money for the “People’s Republic” of China. Players who earn money are rewarded, those who do not measure up are tortured.
Prisoners must play World of Warcraft (WoW) to fulfill certain orders like “kill the emerald dragon” or “collect ten bearskins.” The game rewards players with (virtual) gold pieces or hard-to-obtain weapons. These can then be sold for real money on the Internet. In Germany, for instance, 50,000 gold pieces can be bought on E-bay for about 30 euros.
According to the Chinese Internet Centre, the PRC has earned about 1.4 billion euros this way in 2008, and the profits are reportedly on the rise. The former prisoner Liu DaLi told the Guardian that, in his experience, Jixi prisoners had to work in the mines or in chopstick manufacture during the day, but the evening and night were devoted to WoW, with prisoners playing in 12-hour shifts. Anyone not measuring up in this “gold farming” would be beaten with plastic hoses. “We played until we could barely see out of our eyes,” Liu DaLi reported. Forced WoW play reportedly earned the Jixi camp about 600 euros per day.
Even though the PRC government had outlawed the practice of exchanging virtual currency for real currency, Liu DaLi believes the practice remains widespread in China.
A more extensive treatment of this topic is available at International Business Times, which also reports that 80% of all gold farming is done in China.
Just another delightful aspect of building socialism…