Usually, when a person is in prison, playing video games is the last thing they would expect to be doing. Oddly enough, a prisoner at the Jixi labor camp in north-east China says he and his inmates were forced into "farming virtual gold" after a hard day of physical labor.
Recounted by former prisoner 54-year-old Liu Dali, nearly 300 prisoners were forced to play massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) as part of their punishment. For those who don't know, "farming gold" is the "practice of building up credits and online value through the monotonous repetition of basic tasks." For example, you might earn "gold" for slaying a monster — only you'd be doing that over, and over, and over.
Clocking in some time in World of Warcraft might seem like a nice reward, but consider this: the prisoners had to play for nearly 12 hours and they had quotas!
"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things."
The virtual gold that the prisoners earned would then be sold off by prison guards, sometimes netting them nearly $1,000 a day. Unfortunately, the prisoners, who are well, pretty much slaves, never received any share of the money.
This is all pretty insane news because "gold farming" is big business in China. We just didn't know that it was that big that even labor camp guards wanted in on the market too. The next time you consider buying virtual gold or letting some gold farmer in China level up your online avatar, reconsider, because it could be a Chinese prisoner who's going blind for you.