Sunday, May 29, 2011
Weird News: Chinese prisoners forced to produce virtual gold, real profits for their guards
The virtual goods economy of massively multiplayer online games may be thriving, but it's also stimulating an undesirable side-effect: exploitation. A former detainee at a prison in Heilongjiang province, China, has told the Guardian about how he was habitually forced into playing MMOs like World of Warcraft for the collection of loot, which the prison guards would then resell online for as much as ¥6,000 ($924) per day. Such totals would be the product of up to 300 inmates working 12-hour daily shifts, though predictably they saw none of the profits themselves. The unnamed source was at a "re-education through labor" camp where the usual toil would involve actual, rather than virtual, mining. The profitability of the online market has seemingly inspired prison bosses to move with the times, however, with business being so brisk that the computers "were never turned off." A Chinese government edict from 2009 is supposed to have introduced a requirement that online currencies only be traded by licensed entities, but it's believed that the practice of using prisoners in this fashion continues unabated.