A persons real and virtual lives experience levels of both assimilation and differentiation.  This is even true when discussing the nature of economics and work within the two.  At first glance things may seem very similar like this quote from Castranova, “It is a world of grotesque inequality, of incessant warfare and struggling, a world with bitter wants and unmet needs, where rising real wages make people complain” (Castranova, p. 35).  At first glance one might think this quote is talking about the trials and tribulations of a real society when in fact he is discussing the virtual world of Everquest.  The rest of the quote is as follows, “It is much like Earth, except for two elements that are quite utopian and have been impossible to
implement here: freedom to start over, and equality of opportunity. It would seem that Utopia is just Earth with an escape clause and a level playing field” (Castranova p. 35).  Although the 2 lives are similar their are distinct differences as well.  From the first part of the quote one can draw that there is imperfection built into society that can only be fixed by two characteristics:  starting over and equality.  Real life does not give you these abilities which allow a person to fail but come back with the same level of opportunity as everyone else.  Due to realistic social classes and a singular life, real life is far from utopian and further from virtual society.  One thing that is very similar is the fact that virtual worlds allow for exploitation just as the real world does.
It is a widely known, and ignored fact, that the labor that goes into the products we buy is both excruciating and under-appreciated.  When someone buys a new shoe from a popular brand, they are most getting “sweat shop shoes”.  This is similar to the ways Chinese workers are being exploited to mine for goal in the virtual world of WoW.  They spend 12 hours a night, 7 days a week, on the interface trying to collect as much gold as possible because their numbers will directly reflect how they are paid.  Dibbel says, ” daily wages are tied to daily harvests, every minute lost to death is money taken from the farmers’ pocket” (Dibbel p. 4).  Failure to collect enough in the virtual society has strong negative implications for the real world.  A person could be fired from their job or docked pay which is already unreasonably low.  How low you might ask? Dibbel states, “For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25,earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American orEuropean player) for as much as $20 (Dibbel p. 1).  So realistically for working 82 hour weeks at 30 cents an hour, their work is being traded for a little over 66 times the amount they are paid for it.  So just like the sweat shop worker, they are putting in tireless hours for minimal gains, while those who sell their work are making exponentially better profits.  Fair? No.  Care? Maybe.  Change? Never.

Advertisements