The Economics of Gold Farming

**DISCLAIMER: I have not played a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) before**

So what is gold farming you ask? To explain it, I’ll have to go back a little bit and describe the reality in which it happens.

I’ll use World of Warcraft (WoW), since it is by far the most popular MMORPG. In WoW, players from around the world meet in an online, virtual environment where they can slay monsters, earn gold, and buy special items. One of the objectives of WoW is to make your character more powerful. To do so usually requires special items that cost in-game gold. In order to acquire this gold, players must kill monsters. This can quickly become a tedious business because the most sought-after items cost a lot of gold, and each monster has a pretty slim wallet.

This is where the gold farmer comes in. A gold farmer will play WoW for 10-12 hours a day in order to earn gold. He or she will then sell you this gold for real cash. You, the player, can then use this gold to buy the item you want (and therefore the power), saving you the tedium of spending hours upon hours online.

As this web page says, tens of thousands of gold-farming operations have sprung up in China to serve the huge market in Korea.

I first heard about people exchanging real-world wealth for virtual gold when I played MUDs (multi-user dungeons), back in the days of the BBS. Back then, users who had spent hundreds of hours playing and developing their online characters would sell them to the highest bidder. But this was a relatively unknown practice, and was frowned upon when it did happen.

Now, the practice is much more pervasive, though the stigma still remains. But who is to say that it’s wrong to be a gold farmer, or to buy gold from a gold farmer? The farmers are only there to serve a growing global demand. Sad as it is, it’s the people in a developing country like China that are willing to do whatever it takes in order to get the cash that they need to move up in the world.

Hard-core gamers say that gold farming is a dishonest practice, that it detracts from the enjoyment of people who spend hundreds of hours online earning gold for themselves. But isn’t this all just business and freedom of choice? If I want to pay for my gold, rather than spend hours ‘earning’ it in the game, isn’t that my business? Many people simply find it more fun to explore the game than to spend many hours killing monsters for gold. Buying from a gold farmer allows them to do this more quickly than would normally be possible.

As long as MMORPGs are popular there will be gold farmers, because there are always people looking for shortcuts. Gold farming has spawned a niche sector of the job market that may be an option for people who love gaming and want to make a little cash doing it.


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