Among Western World of Warcraft players, “gold farming” and other kinds of mining — grinding out in-game resources in MMORPGs and selling those resources to gamers for real money — are often looked on unkindly. Often, and not without good reason, “gold farming” is associated with China, and Youtube is full of videos like “Chinese Gold Farmers Must Die” (warning: contains music by Beck), which showcases vigilante gamers hunting down and killing off gold farmers.
Complaints about their effect on the game world and the in-game economy may be valid, but hatred for these “farmers” and “miners” seems like overkill, especially in the face of revelations that some Chinese prisoners were being forced to farm gold in WoW. Recently, the story of a disabled man who mines ore in WoW to feed his family has been circulating on Chinese BBS forums and trickling into reports in domestic media.
Su Jie — known as Ah Jie to friends and Ah Jie Mining to WoW players — is a twenty seven year old laborer who was injured on the job and is no longer able to walk for any length of time without tremendous pain. His employer is refusing compensation. There’s a legal case in the works, but justice is slow, and in the meantime, Su has a wife and son to feed, not to mention medical bills to pay. Back in early summer, a relative told his wife about ore mining in World of Warcraft. The two of them, playing in shifts, have spent 20-24 hours a day mining ever since, according to Mr. Su.
Su says that after the game’s fees and the electricity they use up keeping the computer on so often, the two of them can earn a total of 30-40 RMB in a full day of gaming. It’s not much, but it’s enough to scratch out a living for him, his wife, and their son.
After this story was posted on BBS forums, many netizens wanted to donate money to Su and his family, but Su refuses to accept donations. “The point of the post wasn’t to ask for donations, it was to get people to pay attention, to get my boss to give us the money so I can have surgery,” said Mr. Su. But Chinese gamers have found other ways to donate, buying ore from Su in the game and then surreptitiously returning the ore to him so he can sell it again.
“I’m very thankful to these friends, but I haven’t had an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to them,” said Mr. Su.
Su Jie’s case will go to court in a few weeks, and he’s hoping for just compensation, but until then, he and his wife will be grinding away in the mines of World of Warcraft, digging up money to support their son.
[Sichuan Online via QQ Games]