The Gold Rush – Virtual goods and virtual wealth

There are huge changes in the relationship between the online and real worlds (the real world being referred to in cyberspace and in this piece henceforth as “RL” – real life).

Gold farmers have been around for a while, those people who make a career out of performing certain tasks such as mining gold in computer games such as World of Warcraft and then selling it online on exchanges such as eBay and so on.

But little did I know that gold farming as a job was just so popular. It is estimated that in China alone, there are over 100,000 full time gold farmers. 100,000 people who operate in an often organised, hierarchical, productivity based job (which can even be unionised)!

It’s remarkable that these people perform tasks in an online world and then sell the fruits of their labour in RL. There is a multi, multi million dollar economy built around these industries. We will see a lot more of this, as people operate in semi-RL labour environments, existing through media such as Second Life, World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies and then transferring these skills or other outputs to RL.

RL is so behind the times. Universities, for example, could have truly virtual classrooms, with people all over the world attending lectures by famous people, both living and dead. Worried about missing the social element of uni? Don’t be – emergent gaming allowances will mean people can play around as much as they like, just like in RL. And in terms of collaboration, can you imagine that? Your avatar existing in any environment, with any skills, strengths, etc. It could expand education into so many different fields, and seriously cut the cost of education delivery.

It will fundamentally change the way people socialise, work and learn. It’s already changed the way they play.
And has RL a lesson to teach these games? What about doing it the other way? Gaming companies and virtual lifestyles could be placing clues, keys, tasks and quests in RL which could be collected by a mobile phone, PDA or laptop and then transferred into the games.

/lol, it’s a serious business.

On a final note, check out this doco on Gold Farmers for more info. It’s REALLY interesting.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho5Yxe6UVv4]

Constantine Frantzeskos

Comments are closed