Prisoners at the labour camps in China are going high-tech – breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines through days but playing online games at night. These prisoners worked 12-hour shifts in the camp earning 5,000 – 6,000 renminbi (US$770 – US$920) a day playing addicted games such as World of Warcraft. But the money earned are not theirs to keep, it goes to prison bosses’ pockets.
Welcome to China, where you can’t possibly beat them competitively as far as making money business is concerned. They would go as far as profiting from slave labour illegally. At least a prisoner from Jixi labour camp revealed how prison guards forced prisoners to play online games to build up credits which would then trade for real money. Prison bosses were making roaring business from 300 prisoners who were forced to play until they could barely see things.
Prison bosses in China made more money forcing inmates to play online games than they do forcing people to do manual labour. The prisoners would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells to complete their quota. Not only were the prisoners tortured mentally playing online games on 12-hour shifts, they were also risk the physical torture of being beaten with plastic pipes if they didn’t make the quota set by prison bosses.
The repetition of basic tasks or “gold farming” in building online credits was the real reason the prisoners were being made the slaves in the technology-age. Online credits is the virtual money which you can use to buy anything in the game. Millions of (lazy or rich) gamers around the world are prepared to pay real money for such online credits, which they can use to progress in the online games. The business of trading virtual money with real money is so massive that according to China Internet Center the amount of currencies traded in 2008 was at mind-boggling US$2 billion.
China has an estimated 80% of all gold farmers and about 100,000 full-time gold farmers, virtually earns the country the factory of virtual goods. However to claim that only prisoners in China were subject to such online slaves is an understatement. Heck, the reward of gold-farming is far greater than a job in factories so logically there could be many more thousands of Chinese who are willing to spend 12-hour glued to the computer screen slaying demons and goblins.
You may argue that it’s cruel but what difference is exporting virtual goods from cheap labours from China to Europe or U.S. than to exporting physical manufacturing goods from the same pool of cheap labours from China to elsewhere. Of course in the case of prisoners made to perform the “gold farming”, obviously the Chinese authorities can solve it once and for all, if they wanted to. How about bullets in the head for prison guards caught with such activities?
On the other hand, maybe some governments can leverage on the demand for such online credits. Countries that experience high unemployment could encourage their people to farm-gold to ease the current temporary economic problems. Country such as Malaysia that could not fight the war of Mat-Rempit may want to think about getting those motorcyclist daredevils to earn their own money instead of risking other innocent lives. Learn from the Chinese’s creativity, literally.
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