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Report: Inmates 'Gold Farming' In Chinese Prisons
Report: Inmates 'Gold Farming' In Chinese Prisons
May 27, 2011 | By Mike Rose

Prisoners at labor camps in China are made to play popular MMOs in order to build up virtual credits, which are then sold by prison guards for real money, according to online reports.

In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, a former prisoner told of how he was forced to perform manual labor during the day, and then act as a "gold farmer" for virtual in-game currency at night, working 12-hour shifts to earn up to $900 a day.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," said the unnamed prisoner.

"There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb ($770.2-$924.3) a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."

He explained that if a prisoner did not fulfil their quota for a day, they would be severely and brutally punished. "We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said. "Many prisons across the north-east of China also forced inmates to play games. It must still be happening."

According to a report last month, "gold farmers" in Asia who stockpile game currencies to sell to MMO players now make up 85 percent of the $3 billion global "third-party gaming services" industry.

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WoW. I'm at a loss for words. Gaming Labor.

illian Quinn
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I think I'm gonna move to china to become a prison guard.

Daniel Boy
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Julian Kucklich once called modding "playbour", if true, this prison thing is so much stranger.

Jane Castle
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Is there a website offering positions to be a prison guard in China? :) I would just remove the brutal beatings part and institute a profit sharing plan with the prisoners....

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bux system MMO. hmm...

Cordero W
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Well it laughable on this side of the Pacific, but it really a serious matter. I know form personal research that there are all kinds of opportunities to make real cash off of the internet, and black market ways of capitalizing on it. This would seem like something not so serious, but who knows the punishment the prisoners have to endure for not meeting a quota, its probably severe. Imagine what we would say if American Prison guards where doing this.

Bryan Wagstaff
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"Imagine what we would say if American Prison guards where doing this."

American prisons *DO* require work.

In federal prisons all prisoners are required to work unless the are medically unable. Most of it is light work in facilities maintenance, or if the person is qualified the prisons have technical and industrial jobs and training programs. Penalties for refusing to work depend on the circumstances but can range from having privileges revoked up through solitary confinement and isolation. Revenue from the technical and industrial projects funds the program itself, and profits from the program are redirected to various victim support services.

At the federal level, most inmates have an account that accumulates a very low wage each hour worked, depending on the task can range from a few cents per hour to just over a dollar per hour. The prisoner's work funds are automatically deducted to pay fines or alimony or other debts, the remainder is given to the inmate.

Most state prisons have similar mandatory work programs. Many include industrial jobs producing license plates, facilities maintenance, and even white-collar desk jobs. The profit from the programs goes right back to the states for whatever earmarks the state specifies.

In the report it's the Chinese prison guards that are taking the money. In the federal system it's the federal government taking the money. While the penalties for violation may be less severe, don't assume that American prisoners spend their days lounging in luxury.

J Benjamin Hollman
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After being a player of WoW for several years, and having learned how it works, I can see exactly how it's feasible to utilize this game as part of a labor camp program.

And the real kicker is, so can Blizzard.

Lo Pan
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I love China. A country that answers to no one with regards to labor, political, social and civil rights. Ballmer mentioned a 95% pirate rate for their goods. What boggles me is how little China's government and even society is criticized for their aberrant behavior. Talk about a white elephant in the room.

Adam Piotuch
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What a strange world we live in, where playing games is a form of punishment.

Cody Scott
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Another reason why I hate China.