Chinese Prisoners Forced to Farm WoW Gold

Virtual currencies and micro-payments are making massively multiplayer online gaming a colossal, thriving industry, but not without an undesirable (and probably mostly unknown) side-effect. Like any profitable market, it stands to be exploited.

Recently, Liu Dali, a former detainee at the Chinese Jixi labor camp, told The Guardian of his long days breaking rocks in quarries and digging in coalmine trenches followed by nights of grinding in online games to farm digital credits goods which the prison guards would then resell for real currency. Prison guards at the Jixi labor camp were forcing nearly 300 prisoners to play video games during 12 hour shifts, netting anywhere between ¥5,000 - ¥6,000 ($660 - $800) per day.

With figures of nearly $1,600,000,000 in sales of digital goods being reported by the China Internet Center in 2008 (and online gaming only in the infancy of its popularity rise), news stories similar to that of the aforementioned Chinese prisoners leave the concerned wondering if the lack of regulation by the Chinese government will eschew in a digital crisis with the same stigma as the Blood Diamonds in Africa.