Trend: 3D virtual games are becoming a global marketplace that transcend culture and language.
GigaOM describes a MTV documentary about virtual gold farms, gray market companies which collect and sell virtual gold (primarily from World of Warcraft) to wealthier gamers in the developed world.
Drawing from an fascinating upcoming documentary5 by UC San Diego grad student Ge Jin (YouTube clip from his film here6), the MTV segment features interviews with workers and managers of several gold farms, which resemble a cross between a 24 hour LAN party and a very shabby college dorm. By the segment’s estimate, an astounding half million Chinese now make a living - about $100 a month - from the acquisition and sale of WoW gold to US and EU gamers. Why is this is the future of work online? Consider the numbers, youth, and low wages of the gold farmers, and the growing interest in outsourcing tasks online.
In Second Life, a Hollywood production company is outsourcing its Second Life projects to its Vietnamese branch8, where highly-skilled workers can create professional 3D environments for a fraction of the cost, were it done here. It’s easy to see how the Chinese farmers of Warcraft might evolve into the blue collar workers of the 3D Internet.
MTV producer Matt Sunbulli put us in touch with Ge Jin, and we asked him about this phenomenon, and sought his own thoughts on its relation to the future of work online.
I think these gold farms indicate that the game platform has the potential to engage more people in Internet-driven economy. The gaming workers in China don’t have skills like English, software or graphic design to participate in other forms of Internet-driven work, but they can communicate and navigate in a 3D game world whose tools and routines they are familiar with… So if more social and economic activities happen in an accessible 3D game world, people who don’t have access to other culture capital but gaming knowledge will be more likely to be included in global interaction.