Chinese Prisoners Forced to play video games and farm MMO Gold

Prisoners at China’s Jixi prison labor camp are tasked with a number of back breaking type jobs, mining rock, carving chopsticks by hand, assembly line work, and thats only when the sun is up. When the sun goes down they are forced to endure grueling video game play, farming for gold in online games. A practice that has been banned since 2009… allegedly.

¬†The lucrative business of gold farming, is where a player (or sometimes automated robot) does the same actions over and over again in an MMO, with the intention to sell the gold earned to players who do not want to spend their days collecting the money. It’s a big business in China, earning nearly $2 billion in 2008, so you can see why they would want prisoners to “work” for their gold.

Dali, a prisoner who was recently released form the work camp said “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp,” he added¬† “We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.” He claimed to have heard the guards talk about the MMO operation and how it was bringing in nearly $1000 on a good day.

“If I couldn’t complete my “gold” 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,” said Dali.

There are companies in china that focus on nothing but “selling gold” to internet players, Wow7Gold is an internet based company and they make 1.2 Million a year selling game advantages to World of Warcraft players, a researcher named Richard Heeks at Manchester University estimated that 400,000 Asian workers are now employed by gold farming companies and they bring in $879 million a year. Their employes make about $100 per month so it’s not that much, but it’s something for doing what they do on the everyday bases.

While those companies are “legitimate” the Chinese government wanted a piece of the pie, instead of opening their own company, why not make the prisoners do it for free? and thats pretty much what’s been happening since they found out that they can sell Americans $2 million MMO Gold for $10 bucks, in large numbers you can start making a very good living off of that.

In 2009 the practice was allegedly stopped in prison camps after the government set regulations on virtual currencies but we can clearly see that it continues to this day. I guess this is a type of torture that no one really wants to endure, imagine having to play Farmville 12 hours at a time… that’s almost 4 harvest of strawberries every day

Via: Current & Kotaku