Several years ago, Gamespy’s Daily Victim column spun a colourful yarn about a company that did nothing but play online RPGs all day and then sold their loot on eBay. Apparently, a cottage industry has sprung up in Asia where peasants and university students are paid to do just that. And it’s a million dollar enterprise.
These “farmers” are paid peanuts, but they spend their days in chairs in air-conditioned comfort, so it’s not so bad. Macros control the actions of the ingame characters for the most part; the workers’ duties mostly consist of keeping an eye out for the fuzz, since bots are illegal.
For those of you who are scratching your heads and wondering who on earth would pay real money for a virtual sword or a digital suit of armour, consider this: _most of what you do in online RPGs is damn boring_. A casual gamer may spend days tromping around slewing rabbits or something before they can obtain that powerful new sword. So if you can buy that same sword for, say, $30, and go straight to the fun stuff, why not? Everything has its price, including time.
The existence of this industry does raise another issue – MMORPG economic systems may also be used to hide money in laundering schemes.