Ge Jin, a Ph.D candidate in communications at UC San Diego, whose video clips on Chinese gold farmers and farm owners you might have seen on Youtube, has a full length documentary on the topic, called Gold Farmers. Check out the film’s website. It sounds amazing. Gold farmers, for those readers who don’t follow online gaming super closely, are players who work inside certain kinds of online games to earn virtual money for themselves or their bosses, which is then converted into real money. It’s controversial for many reasons (see this conversation on Terra Nova, for starters, in which Ge Jin writes: Chinese gold farmers don’t just play for money, many of them said this
job gives them pleasure and a sense of achievement too. In their work,
productivity interwines with pleasure, and that pleasure partly comes
from accumulating virtual wealth that dramatically contrasts their
poverty in real lives. Maybe they can be do more “useful” jobs, but
will those jobs be as “fulfilling” as gold farming?), and gold farmers are not always well-treated by fellow gamers in-game.
Among other encounters, the film tells the following story:
A Chinese gold farmer and an America gamer might kill a monster together. But language and social barriers prevent them from communicating with each other. They are a mystery to each other. What will happen when they actually meet in real life? Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money,has been trying to uncover the operation of gold farms in the past 3 years. He even tried to establish a gold farm himself just to understand how it works. From March 2003 to March 2004, he earned more from being a gold broker than he have ever earned as a professional writer. Julian will finally arrange a visit to the gold farm of Xiaobai. All the pieces of gold farming this global phenomenon will come together as Julian and the Chinese gold farmers discuss over what the game world means to them, how gold farming impacts their real and virtual lives, why China became the world factory of virtual goods, whether it signifies the beginning of a new new economy and our collective evolution into science fiction, or the inevitable reproduction of global capitalism in the virtual world…