The three different economies presenting in this week’s readings, based respectively in Sony’s Norrath, World of Warcraft, and SecondLife are all vastly different. Norrath was by far the most interesting to me – gold farming is a phenomenon I think our generation is not unfamiliar with, and familiarity with SecondLife is assured by this class itself. To read about a virtual world and currency already fleshed out this well in 2001 is staggering, but not necessarily when put into context of how far virtual currency has come in the decade since.
Bitcoin, originating in 2009, is what came to mind immediately upon learning of this week’s topics. Though mining, the process by which the currency is initially generated, is little understood by the general public (or myself), Bitcoin represents the new ease in acquiring and trading virtual currency one would expect from today’s technology. This currency has been booming in popularity in the past couple years, and its market volatility makes it an easy place to start in familiarizing oneself with basic investing and market-watching.
Exploitation is a very important consideration when it comes to analyzing the various virtual words and currencies described in this week’s readings. The New York Times article speaks to this unpleasant danger or reality quite plainly: “Indeed, on the surface, there is little to distinguish gold farming from … any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks — all of these are standard practice.”
The standard practice Dibbell describes in this quote would almost definitely fall under exploitation to the average liberal Western reader, and this idea that because these are users “playing games” does not mitigate the unpleasantness of reality. Simply put, while these gold farmers may find the odd sliver of enjoyment in their work, we have a clear picture of the dreariness inherent in this systematized in-game money making. Whether unfortunate or fortunate for those doing the farming, such practices don’t seem to have an end in sight.