Hearthglen - A Short Story
My goal here wasn't to justify gold farming. It is true that some gold farmers employ a range of cutthroat and deplorable tactics to drive normal players from certain areas in MMOs. On the other hand, the typical racialized story that is told about pestilence and extermination is quite chilling and leaves out important aspects of what's going on. The racialized story is a very comfortable one for us to tell because it frames us as the victims, as the arbitrators of justice, and as the unquestioned owners of the land. It is a story that sustains our privileged status. But gold farming isn't simply about foreign workers who harass Western players and deserve to be killed. My goal here was to show that it's a little more complicated than that.
Let me end with a story of my own. Recently in WoW, I ran into an Undead Mage in Hearthglen who frost-AE farmed the non-elites (literally 10-12 at a time). As a frost mage myself (on the Alliance side), I attempted the same trick. The first time I tried, the Undead Mage pulled elites into my Blizzard range in an attempt to kill me. I escaped. The second time I tried, a stealthed Undead Rogue turned his PvP flag on as he walked into my Blizzard, thus setting off my PvP flag. Another Undead Rogue then backstabbed me. Using a variety of ice blocks, blinks, and ice barriers, I somehow managed to survive that as well.
As I recovered and pondered how to exact revenge against these 3 gold farmers, I realized that in my mind I had instinctively cast them as Chinese gold farmers. And in return, they had probably instinctively cast me as the white leisure player. And in this mesh of historical and contemporary racial narratives where we all suddenly seemed to be playing out our expected racial roles, I found myself pondering what it really meant to be Chinese-American … because somehow, in this land of Elves and Orcs, I suddenly felt more Chinese than I usually do in the real world.
Here are some interesting external links I've found that bring up new points or discuss the points made here.
Are farmers necessary? An intelligent and surpringly flame-free post on the WoW forums.
Tags: boundary tensions (8) , gold farmers (1) , RMT (3) , stereotypes (2)
Posted on January 2, 2006 | Comments (119) | TrackBack (0)
Wow Nick, gotta play the race card eh? Anything to keep up the "oh I'm so offended" schtick... ok.
You say that "It is true that some gold farmers employ a range of cutthroat and deplorable tactics to drive normal players from certain areas in MMOs", but you fail to point out that in fact, the vast majority of recognizable 'farmers' (the ones we see every day, day in and day out) do not speak English, and when spoken to harshly, the vast majority will usually respond with well-known Chinese insults ("cao ni ma" and the like).
If they're not Chinese, they're certainly trying hard to make you *think* they're Chinese! Do you think we're psychic? Do you think we somehow *know* anything about them?
There are lots of farmers in WoW. Most of the 'hardcore' ones, the ones you see on everyday in the same area, are:
1) Cutthroat (training mobs on you, etc)
It's where they're from (China), and it's what they do (Farmers).
Posted by: Dennis on January 3, 2006 11:43 AM
I like how we're supposed to feel guilty and to blame for people who get paid to ruin games. So sorry the country the farmers are from sucks, and their government doesn't care. But I suppose this whole situation is all my fault cause im a white guy from the States.
By all means, by now I feel so guilty for being white I'll dare not say a word about people who ruin games.
Posted by: rokel on January 3, 2006 12:31 PM
From my experience in playing a game called EVE Online, the vast majority of farmers in that game are from China.
I assume they're from China as the many I've encountered only reply to prompts in Chinese :/ Having a "conversation" with one in broken English I learned this guys group where working for eBay stores based in Canada. I was told he could farm me 1 billion credits in 12 hours using his numerous accounts and he gave me a link to a store where I could "purchase" the credits.
It seems CCP, Eve Online's developers, sadly don't seem to do anything to discourage farming. Eve is infested with macroers, and its a shame another great game will go the way of many others that have also been ruined by those parasites.
Posted by: josh on January 3, 2006 12:34 PM
Dennis: Whether most (or all) gold farmers are Chinese or not is not something I actually argue about in this article. In fact, I concede this point on page 11 using the news articles available. The bulk of the article actually uses this assumption as the starting point. In other words, I'm not arguing that they're not mostly Chinese.
Rokel: What if the bulk of the profit from gold farming actually goes to westerners instead of asians? (page 9)
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 3, 2006 1:02 PM
Most of the famers I have talked to respond in noticible chiness phrases. Based the people I have run into I would so most of them liklly are. I have nothings against what they do except for 2 things:
Other than that, I have grouped with gold farmers and farmed right next to them without issue.
Posted by: Derek on January 3, 2006 1:12 PM
In EvE Online it is not difficult to spot a Pharmer.
It's the series of names that are different only by a number (blake01, 02, 03...), or a name that is little more than a random slap at the keyboard (klajhsd) and you see three or ten of them in a system with many belts.
A trip to the belts shows several miners and one transporter that do not respond at all to convos, or to ramming their miners out of place. Stealing their ore to instil combat flagging only prompts them to pick up and move to another belt. If you ever do get a response (typically from the hauler, the lone live flesh&blood individual running 10+ accounts) the language is simply idiotic. To say they don't use good english is an understatment, they tend to use canned insults ('You pass wind!' was one I got recently) while running away.
German, french, or most european people respond in their native language which I can't understand but at least they're responding and I can use a translation program to make something of it. Asian pharmers don't, can't, and probably don't know anything about a keyboard - Mouse only.
Posted by: Unored Miner on January 3, 2006 1:12 PM
Been to a casino lately? It's not uncommon for there to be a one language only rule at any particular gaming table. How can you know the players you are with aren't cheating unless you all speak the same language? It never causes any bitching either. It's just expected and accepted.
Why aren't there one language only servers for these games. Speaking any other language would be a bannable offence. Then this part of the problem goes away (along with several other problems). While they're at it, get rid of any quick-text macros. Learn to type.
Posted by: Ivan256 on January 3, 2006 1:20 PM
I also play Eve-Online, and my biggest problem with them is that they strip mine the belts to the point where you can't get any of the decent minerals in the high-sec space! My corp has a pretty good mining capacity, but we only mine in high-sec space, and we mine both to make isk for buying equipment/ships, and for getting mins to build our own ships or ships to sell on the market. It's annoying when we're trying to do something constructive with those minerals and we go into system after system and it's been strip mined to death.
Add to that the fact that us in the West are at a time disadvantage as well. The servers reboot at around 8am EST, and that's when the belts are replenished. So, while I'm sitting stuck at work all day long, the "Eastern Contingent" is doing their nightly strip mining operation. I log on as soon as I get home to find system after system EMPTY.
THAT'S why I hate the so-called "Chinese Gold Farmers" (and no, I don't assume they're all chinese, but I DO find them ALL to be leaches.)
GET A REAL JOB!
Posted by: Rukkus on January 3, 2006 1:22 PM
I have first hand experience with this dark art. I met up with a yes Chinese farmer who actually told me he was Chinese, and farming for gold on the WoW Staghelm server in the Western Plague Lands. Actually he was pretty cool and we split spawns but the issue is that he shares the account with numerous other people who are not so nice. They tried the "Drag a group onto me" tactic several times. After complaining to a GM I was told by the GM that that he was not breaking any rules. I assert from this situation that the developers are just as responsible for this situation. They see no reason to stop these actions and portray a feined attempt at concern when they see fit to do so. I have come to the realization that this problem will not be resolved as long as there is a tangible digital loot mechanisim and a way to sell it to possible customers. I am however concerned with this article and its portrayal that all Westerners are white males. This seems no better a portrayal than assuming that all farmers are Chinese.
Posted by: Bill on January 3, 2006 1:24 PM
It seems to me the big problem is with the game itself. If a game requires so much dreary work that people would rather buy gold, etc., from farmers than get it by playing the game, I would say the game itself is creating this market. Why is such drudgery necessary? It is supposed to be a game, after all, not work. Of course, I don't play MMOs for this reason, so perhaps I shouldn't be one to ask this question.
Posted by: Matthew X. Economou on January 3, 2006 1:29 PM
I play EVE Online, and the currency farmers there are stripmining the high security space asteroid belts under the protection of invulnerable NPC police. This has caused a massive influx of bottom-end minerals into the already low-priced market. The game environment itself encourages this - the farmers are invulnerable to anyone not wishing to suicide-gank them and become an outlaw.
I have spoken to some, but care little for their situation - they are just office workers. I play the game for FANTASY politics, to escape the real thing. In-game, their spacecraft are a von Neumann machine, devouring everything and replicating faster than the GMs can deal with them. Thus I treat them as a game enemy.
Economically it affects me little, as I make most of my money killing NPCs, and kill players as a diversion. But it affects people trying to make their living peacefully, through mining and industry. We can't see the buyers and the sellers, we can only see the farmers, so right or wrong naturally they become the target, because it is the only one we have. I look forward to a game mechanics change which will squeeze their habitat or remove their police protection.
Now does talking of draining the swamp make me a cultural imperialist? I consider their nationality and situation irrelevant. It is only a game, where I am a combat pilot and they are playing Borg. They are just another thing to kill, and the fact that they ruin many people's game experience while making a profit, only makes killing them sweeter.
Posted by: EVE Vigilante on January 3, 2006 1:49 PM
"Dennis: Whether most (or all) gold farmers are Chinese or not is not something I actually argue about in this article. In fact, I concede this point on page 11 using the news articles available. The bulk of the article actually uses this assumption as the starting point. In other words, I'm not arguing that they're not mostly Chinese."
Then why the tirade about 'racism' and the spelunking into the depths of 19th century American westward expansion, and those effects on the Chinese and how they are viewed? There is no connection except that the two events happened to (apparently) include Chinese people. It's like bringing up the inexcusable racism and exploitation by the Western world (including the US) of people of African descent when discussion 419 scams! Their nationality is not why we hate them. The language they speak (and thus we derive their apparent nationality) is the thing most common amongst the vast majority of the group causing us problems by their activity.
There is a group of people doing something I don't like. They're called farmers. The vast majority of these people are apparently Chinese.
Thus, Chinese Farmers.
Also you failed to notice something else. There *are* non-Chinese farmers, and they *do* act differently. I have not encountered someone in one of the 'farmer-rich' areas who spoke English when spoken to who acted AT ALL like a "Chinese Farmer". They shared spawns, they didn't attempt to get me killed, they typically acted like a regular human being. This is another reason for a 'moniker' of sorts.
It's simple linguistics. You have a common subset of a population. You describe that subset using whatever shortened common description you can use which conveys the underlying commonalities and imparts the information you are trying to tell the listener.
It's *not* racism. I could care less where they come from. I hate WHAT THEY DO, not WHO THEY ARE or WHAT LANGUAGE THEY SPEAK.
Posted by: Dennis on January 3, 2006 1:56 PM
What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
What do you call someone who speaks one language?
Gold farmers aren't the problem. They're simply an element that springs up around the possibility of actual profit doing work no one else wants, just like any other culture. Farmers exploit the fact that somewhere, there's a lazy player, typically American, willing to simply shell out some cash in order not to have to do something tedious. It's an extension of the same culture that feeds and clothes undocumented immigrant works all across America, and it stems from the simple fact that many Americans are arrogant, lazy, and think certain tasks are beneath them.
This mentality hasn't changed in hundreds, if not thousands of years. If anything, it's gotten worse in recent years. Valet parking at shopping malls is a prime example. American culture has made certain jobs and roles glamorous, diminishing the rest as a net effect. In a culture where image is everything, no one wants to have a crap job doing crap work because it diminishes them in the eyes of their peers. The work is still there, if someone wants to do it, so some people do, and they sell it to the people who won't.
Gold farmers aren't the problem. They're the symptom.
Posted by: billn on January 3, 2006 2:07 PM
Dennis - I note that there are documented gold farmers in other countries on page 2. And I note non-hostile gold farmers on page 14.
Race isn't a neutral label. Race labels carry historical and cultural weight. Once we label a group as Chinese, it becomes possible to assign other assumptions to them and it becomes possible to talk about them in a certain way. This is why I bring up the historical parallel. The way we think about the Chinese now is tied to how the Chinese were thought about historically.
Also, I don't make the argument that it's "racist". I think what's happening is more complicated than just simple racism.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 3, 2006 2:09 PM
Let's make it simple, shall we? I won't put the word "almost" in front of these statements, but assume they're there - because I know these statements are not actually absolutes. However, ask most experienced players in any MMO, especially WoW, and they'll probably agree.
Not all farmers are bad - players have to farm as part of the game
So you end up with a few groups, whose name conveys more than just the sum of their words:
If I don't describe someone as a farmer, they're assumed to be a player. If I describe them as a farmer, they may very well be assumed to be Chinese due to the majority status. However, if I describe them as Chinese Farmers, I am describing not only the virtual character, but the actions I have either witnessed or others have told me about.
Where did the "Chinese" come from? The fact that they spoke Chinese. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no 'historical' information included in this, there is no 'other assumption', and there certainly is no desire or purpose to talk about them in any 'certain way' other than describing their behavior in this virutal society.
Your parallel is meaningless, in that the historical and cultural differences you refer to have ABSOLUTELY NO MEANING IN THE CONTEXT OF THE GAME, AND THUS THE USE OF THE PHRASE! Stop looking for racism, simple racism, not-so-simple racism and the like where none is intended or needed. I don't think about the poor Chinese slaving away on the railroads in the old west" when I think of a Chinese Farmer. (FYI: You give the American public too much credit - most of us are actually very historically ignorant thanks to a lack of caring, a lack of understanding, and a piss-poor public education system whose members care more about politics than teaching, but I digress...)
We call them Chinese Farmers because it is an accurate description which instantly tells the educated listener all about the person being called a "Chinese Farmer". I know exactly what to expect from this person's *actions* - which is all I care about.
And actually yes, race in this context is a neutral label. I know you can't conceive of a situation in which it *can* be neutral, but calling them Chinese farmers (because the vast majority seem to be) would be no different than calling them green farmers (if they were all wearing green) or night-owl farmers (if they all happened to only log on from 2am to 6am).
It is the common element which describes the group. It is nothing more than that.
Posted by: Dennis on January 3, 2006 2:41 PM
Dennis: You're on crack. Race is absolutely NOT a neutral label.
The basis for this entire thread/concept/conversation is very easily some abstract fork of Godwin's Law, in that player's will apply an external race marker to a player, player caste, or activity in and effort to lend an emotional weight to their complaint to their peers about the activity, which is itself a basic trigger for mob mentality: Fear and revile that which is not understood, attack that which is different, even if only perceived or poorly or incorrectly informed.
Posted by: billn on January 3, 2006 3:30 PM
What 'label' would you use for someone whose primary distinguishing characteristic is that they speak Chinese?
Posted by: Dennis on January 3, 2006 4:50 PM
Primary from your point of view, perhaps. If the only characteristic *exhibited* is that they speak Chinese, and they're competing with you for resources, does that automatically make them a Chinese Farmer? What if it's a Chinese, or perhaps Cantonese speaking Malaysian grinding Felcloth for one of the Warlock robes? What if it's any Asian who's amused by the fact that they can provoke an American into action simply by being from somewhere else?
My point: By simple law of averages, American players are stupid, and racist, to boot.
Posted by: billn on January 3, 2006 4:56 PM
Very interesting article and very well researched it seems. Bravo!
Posted by: Nex on January 3, 2006 5:05 PM
one MMORPG destroyed is one group of pissed off westerner, its a happy ending :)
I find it interesting that those who speak "perfect english" are speaking terms such as "they the suxk" or "omg wtf **** sucxor!!!111", yeah perfect english for you.
Wonder why they dont make a macro so they can make money by doing nothing, make runing games for pathedic western kids easier :)
Posted by: joe on January 3, 2006 6:50 PM
It was a nice article; well thought out and interesting in places, but I think you missed a couple of key points.
First off, there is incredible resentment against those who buy accounts/items/cash in these games. I've played most of them and in every last one, "ebayer" or some variation is a term of derision.
Those players with long hours to devote to a game tend to be dedicated, reasonably skilled and rather low on real-world resources. Progress, possessions and such in game are regarded as measures of status and worth. Tolerating the acquisition of the perks by those who haven't invested the time threatens their entire worldview.
Secondly, you researched the real world aspects of the farmers a lot; but that real-worldliness is in part what makes them so objectionable! In real life, I know how bad things are in some parts of the world - a lot of the reason I am playing an escapist game in the first place is to FORGET about that real world.
Lastly, ultimately the game companies themselves are responsible for a lot of the problem - there are ways and means of completely eliminating the issue open to any game developer. (Blocks, bans, more GM-enforcement, lawsuits against the middlemen, even selling currency themselves - after all they control the market)
Posted by: Graycloak on January 3, 2006 9:43 PM
A good read, very interesting article.
The one thing that irked me about gold farmers is the fact that some of them are indeed very rude about killing things in an area and being the only ones there. However, I've seen farmers that aren't rude at all, but very nice and willing to help you if you help them.
My step brother was out doing a quest, and he ran into a person that was believed to be a farmer, as so labeled by his guild. He paid the farmer no mind for awhile, trying to keep a bit of distance between himself and the farmer. However, the area wasn't all that large, and after only about a half hour, the two of them completely cleared it out. My step bro wasn't finished with his quest, and the other person wasn't finished doing whatever he was doing, either, as they both stuck around the area, trying to kill whatever they could find before someone else did.
Now, when my step bro realized that the person couldn't speak english, he tried using emotes to communicate, and almost immediately was met with replies in the form of emotes. For the next two hours, they both traded kills, the farmer taking one, then my step bro, then the farmer, and so forth. They parted ways with a bow and a show of thanks, and then a wave farewell.
Then the next day, when my step bro was traveling through that area again, he stumbled upon that same person, killing the same mobs, and waved to him. He waved back and pointed at the mobs and then at himself and then to my step bro. He wanted some help again, trading kills and getting more done faster as a team then alone. My step bro grinded with him for the rest of the night and tried to have a conversation with him through babblefishing the languages, and it was kind of like what was described in the article. The guy just wanted to make money enough for him and his wife to live on, however, he wasn't able to do much in the way of physical labor, so had to resort to other means of earning income, and this was something he enjoyed, so he did it.
The farmer is still farming, and my step bro grinds with him whenever he passes through the area, getting easy xp and helping someone else somewhere else survive another day.
Posted by: Caedyn on January 4, 2006 5:49 AM
i found this article very insightful. i'm ashamed to say that i have taken part in similar actions against farmers in the past on my mmo of choice (lineage 2). reading this article has definitely changed my view of the average farmer. i had no idea that the 'middlemen' were taking so much of the proceeds from the sales, or that many of the farmers were just trying to make a living wage. i don't like to think of myself as racist, and i think from now on i will stick to a live and let live policy while online.
thank you for taking the time to write such a well detailed and thought out article.
Posted by: g00ch on January 4, 2006 6:06 AM
I am very glad you stated that supply side is not the way to stop this activity. It is all about the demand.
Posted by: sayntfuu on January 4, 2006 12:43 PM
Very good article. I'm kind of surprised at the comments here that seemed to have misunderstood the entire point of the article.
Are they all Americans?
Seriously, though, it was a very interesting read.
Posted by: Brinstar on January 4, 2006 12:46 PM
I thought the article was very interesting. It made me stop and think about what I was actually objecting to when I object to farming. The historical perspectives were too heavy-handed, but did make a point by analogy.
As for the comments preceding, billn's comments are just as ridiculous as Dennis'. Lumping "Americans" as a label into the "fat white and lazy" category is just as shallow as lumping WoW farmers into the "poor, unethical, and Chinese" category. The statement "By the law of averages" could just as easily be applied to the label "Chinese farmers", yet that's what billn was objecting to. Can't anybody make an argument without resorting to sweeping, insulting generalizations anymore?
Stop and think about what we object to by opposing aggressive farmers. We pay the company that makes these games in return for permission to use their servers. In return, we expect an escapist reality that is fun to explore and live and die in. I pay extra money to eat at a nice restaurant (in part) so I don't _have_ to be surrounded by screaming brats at McDonalds. Similarly, I play WoW so I don't _have_ to think about the real world. American/Westerner-haters would say that's elitist, but economics is about scarcity, not fairness. We object to farmers because they disturb the services we expect, vapid though they may be. Are the -farmers- responsible for this, really? They work because they have to or want to. Not because they're hell-bent on ruining our gaming experience. If you've got an ego problem, there are much more satisfying ways to let that out than sitting in front of a box for hours on end.
So who is actually to blame? Blaming someone who has the fortitude to do something as boring as play a game for 12 hours a day just to feed their family is asinine. I agree that there are only two groups to blame: 1) people who buy these items, and 2) the game makers for their indifference to maintaining a fun game experience.
This is a perfect example of a market emerging where one is demanded. When you try to mimic reality, guess what? Reality emerges. Supressing undesireable behavior is the _game company's responsibility_ just as much as it is their responsibility to fix faulty code. If it ruins the game or provides a game experience other than what was advertised, they are responsible. Similarly, if you purchase a game that requires tedious collection of resources, you should be expected to play by those rules.
If you stop to think about it, the idea of paying MORE money to make the game be over faster is pretty laughable. As MMORPG players we are all laboring under the a false assumption that our efforts will ultimately be rewarded. They will not. The ingenuity of the game makers is that these worlds are so vast and the possibilities so endless, that our foolishness is veiled. The intrusion of farmers is a peek under the curtain. It reminds us that we are engaged in a futile effort and that we are really mildly delusional. Don't get me wrong: I love playing WoW. But if I find farmers, I move to another area. There's so much to do and see in these worlds that it's not worth losing sleep over.
Posted by: Tony on January 4, 2006 1:17 PM
Personally I've had good experiances with farmers. Anywho, instead of cut and pasting massive spam, linkie http://www.mmodig.com/?p=200
Posted by: unbeliever on January 4, 2006 3:14 PM
> "ebayer" or some variation is a term of derision.
This reminded me of something: On the MMO I play, "PLer" (one who gets powerleveled) is a term of derision.
But I can distinctly recall guildmates ridiculing others as being PLers -- while later, asking for PL themselves. But nooo, they're not PLers, they're players who simply detest having to grind for xp.
Interesting double standard, and probably applies to gold farming, "ebayers", etc.
Posted by: Ann Non on January 4, 2006 3:31 PM
How touching that people have had good experiences with currency farmers. Impossible in EVE, I'm afraid.
The thing is, in EVE, the "farming" they perform is not just a handy descriptive term. It is literally farming. Mining common ore in high security space is the lowest rung of the economic ladder, for some akin to peasantry, and the farmers are locked into it because the time-based skill levelling system closes all other career paths unless the player invests serious time in training, interacting with the environment, and for low security space, politics.
Thus players have nothing to gain by lending a hand to the farmers, because the activity is boring and the rewards are trivial. The NPC spawns in high security space are worthless, and accepting any form of mineral/cash payment only implicates you and places your account at risk.
One may well ask why we cannot simply accept that market forces have outsourced high sec mining to currency farmers. The answer is overproduction. However low the rewards, the ice and minerals are a vital component of industry, but people used to take care of their own needs by placing buy orders, signing contracts with industrial corporations, or holding occasional group mining ops. The economy ran more or less smoothly while real players met their own needs. Mindless overproduction is increasingly causing distortions. Yes, they have taken over a necessary service. Yes, they have rendered player competition in that profession uncompetitive. But we do not control their output! Whatever demand for currency is driving them, is invisible.
I have made attempts at contact. The only successful attempt revealed that the player was in China, using 6 computers to run around two dozen accounts, and was making more money than he did in his previous career farming WOW, for a fraction of the effort. I can only dream of a connection like that and such computing power.
The absurd thing is, the von Neumann Machine analogy is holding up. The asteroids respawn at a certain rate, but the farmers' available mining capacity has exceeded it. They are actually hitting natural resource limits as they spread! In an MMO of all places. Resource limits set far higher than any conceivable natural demand.
By the way, EVE is one shard. 100,000 subscribers, 22,000 players active simultaneously, in one world. You can't just switch server.
Games re-create real-world issues, market economics, stratified societies, but it is a fantasy. Is it really a form of cultural imperialism to wish to completely decouple it from the real thing?
Should the farmers enter low security space as the safe resources dwindle, I will be waiting for them. Unlike in other MMOs, time-based skill levelling means there will be no defence.
I hope you can see how the dynamic in EVE is different to how it is in WOW. I take your essay as an attempt to start a debate and spread understanding of the issues. But given the mechanics of a game such as EVE, when there is no benefit in cooperating with the farmers, is there a compelling reason to understand that which you must destroy? What is the value of this? Only so that we feel real-world pity as we fire?
Posted by: EVE Vigilante on January 4, 2006 5:33 PM
I haven't bothered to read all the comments as they seemed, the first few anyway, to be all race related. So I skipped straight to the bottom to offer my view.
My heart felt opinion is anything that is connected to a real world business should have no place in a game, other than of course the game development company itself.
Sure, there are facts I should consider before getting my back-up and harrassing suspected farmers .... but this in no way changes the fact that they just should not be there.
I am both sorry that some people decide to earn real world money in this way. But I regret even more that this practice has intruded on my leasure activity, for which I pay my hard earned, real life, money ...
Posted by: Jason on January 4, 2006 6:48 PM
Been following your work for a while. Very nicely done here.
I've playing EVE again and can confirm the impressions others have reported, though I do think they exaggerate the impact so far. That is not to say their concerns are not valid and the situation could not become more severe. But that possibility is a sort of self-throttle in the EVE system also. If the resource limits imposed by the system are the "wall" on farming efforts, that may impose an external control.
The real control, though, as has been stated, is on the demand side. As long as people demand this service (that of supplying game currency or resources) and the "normal players" are unwilling or unable to meet the demand, there will be a place for these "guest workers."
The racism you mention IS real. I observed a significant amount today on the EVEN chat channels. When the chat goes from calling them "Chinese macrominers" to "slant-eyed bastards," as I saw on one occasion, or similar clear racial slurs... well... what more is there to say?
I sympathize with these hardworking people, but I also sort of enjoy having them as a counterforce. I admit to having less desire to scream about their EULA/TOS violations than most, but those violations are real (as are plenty of others by non-farmers, including those BUYING their product) and thus they can indeed be painted as "legitimate" foes for those choosing to play lawful sorts. Montitoring the channel devoted to hunting them is an education in hatred, however.
The passions aroused are pretty extreme. Tonight one self-righteous sort was crowing about having used the Paypal scam to take a seller for $25. He was advocating what is pretty clearly fraud, telling the channel they should do the same. When challenged, he saw no issue with breaking the TOS (he DID buy ISK, even if he then manipulated the PayPal system to avoid payment) and perpetrating electronic fraud, justifying it by saying Paypal does not guarantee sales involving virtual goods (which isn't exactly an inarguable statement, as Terra Nova regulars will know... it's more of SOME virtual goods, not all).
It's ugly, and getting uglier. The game companies are the primary responsible bodies in my opinion. They own the turf, as they insist on reminding us about every time we log in. The secondary responsibility falls on those of us who make use of the services. I admit that I have at times. But then I have also worked on the other side in the past. It prolonged my interest in some games I would otherwise have quit much sooner.
There is some small utility in demonizing farmers in that in PvP environment they can become "bad guys" which others can band against. They are in effect intelligent "npcs." Instead of this ad hoc role, it would make a lot more sense for game companies to tap this resource, having these same players actually play high level NPCs for pay. Make the games more competitive, and do away with the grind that creates the existing farmer role. Let the game companies add a bit to their revenue streams (and use the revenue to pay these intelligent "monsters") by offering game currencies for a fee. Such might not be required for play, but cauld be there as an accellerator for those who have less time than disposable income since they actually work for a living too.
Keep up the great work.
Posted by: Dan S on January 4, 2006 7:12 PM
Where you come from matters not one iota.
That the practice of "farming for cash" is allowed to grow, and indeed profited from by an MMO provider (Helloo station exchange) is the problem.
'grats to the bowel worms trying to dream up new revenue streams.
That said, I would gladly pay an additional 10 dollars a month if I got a once weekly "inflict migraine" ability on the wanker that thought it up.
[edited out inappropriate metaphor - Nick]
Posted by: Alex on January 4, 2006 7:15 PM
Posted by: CortalUX on January 5, 2006 7:04 AM
i like the parallel between the gold rush and the online gold rush. i believe it's very apropos. chinese gold farmers, chinese railway workers, chinese miners ("how i mine for fish?"^^), it's same difference: immigrants supplying a lower-class service most domestics would rather not perform.
i have had mostly good experiences with CGF's (in Lineage 2, and WoW). however, I encounter more racism from the north american players than anything. most people weakly hide their racism behind their holy "it's cheating/ruining the economy" velvet glove.
one case in point against the CGF stereotype. i was a direct "gold farmer," in everquest, before SOE asked eBay to ban sales. i made a comfortable living from home that let me be a stay-at-home dad. my american customers would regularly spend $300 a paycheck for some money and whatever i recommended. i am not chinese, i do not speak mandarin or cantonese, and i am american. (and for some of the above posters, i have studied six languages in school, though i would say i speak three.)
i now work for a major game publisher. every gamer i know plays MMORPGs. and all of them have at one time or another purchased platinum/gold/adena/etc.
Posted by: hikaru on January 5, 2006 12:38 PM
Fascinating article. A couple of thoughts:
1) While it's true that Western gold buyers and middlemen such as IGE are partly to blame for this phenomenon, that does not exonerate the gold farmers themselves from moral culpability for their actions. These people are moral agents with free will who have chosen to make a living by violating the Terms of Service of an online community. The fact that gold buyers and middlemen are also violating the TOS does not make the gold sellers' violation any less unethical.
2) Similarly, if it's true that the middlemen (who may be Westerners) are receiving the majority of the profits, that still does not mean that the gold farmers themselves are not morally culpable for their actions. Without the farmers, there would be no profits to divide up in the first place.
There's plenty of blame to go around, and the unethical behavior of one group does not in any way lessen or justify the unethical behavior of another group. All of these agents, from the gold farmers to the gold buyers to the middlemen, are acting illegally by explicitly violating a contract (the TOS). They are also acting unethically by causing grief to the legitimate users of a product.
It's not a question who are the "unquestioned owners of the land" (a politically-charged red herring from the article's conclusion) but rather a question of who are the legitimate users of the product. WoW is a product with a clear purpose -- it's a game, designed to be a fun, immersive, entertaining diversion from reality -- and those who are using it for that purpose, in accordance with the TOS, are the legitimate users. Other users of the product that are in direct conflict with its purpose and its TOS are illegitimate, and as such they are worthy of the legitimate users' derision -- comparisons to 19th century sweatshop workers notwithstanding. This goes for the gold buyers and middlemen as well as the gold sellers. It's just that the gold farmers are far more visible.
While I agree that players often get carried away with their anti-gold-farmer rhetoric (and I have witnessed plenty of racist remarks in this regard), I think that racism is a separate issue entirely. People who react to Chinese (or other) gold farmers with racial slurs were clearly racists to begin with. The fact that racists are using the gold farming phenomenon as an opportunity to hurl racial epithets does not affect the gold farmers' moral culpability one way or the other. It's just a convenient way of muddying the waters, and using political correctness to excuse clearly unethical behavior by justifying it with other clearly unethical behavior.
Posted by: Verruckt on January 6, 2006 12:04 AM
Hey Veruckt - Glad you liked it. It definitely wasn't my goal to justify gold farming, and I make this explicit at the beginning and end of the article. It is indeed a story that has many actors with complex motivations.
And while I agree that race and gold farming are separate concepts, I would argue that you have to understand the racial dynamics of what's going on to understand gold farming in MMOs. When people are categorizing certain players as gold farmers based on assumptions and stereotypes of nationality and linguistic abilities, gold farmers in a sense are being created from these racial dynamics.
To me, it's less the racism per se that is interesting, but how assumptions of race and nationality help socially construct the group of people known as gold farmers, and the activity known as gold farming.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 6, 2006 12:25 AM
True enough, you state in the article that your goal is not to justify gold farming, but the overarching metaphor of your article suggests otherwise. You are comparing an illicit and unethical profession (gold farming) to a perfectly licit and ethical profession (clothes laundering). What do these professions have in common? Not much, except for the racial identity of their majority workers.
Example (from Page 5):
"The contemporary narrative starts to feel too much like the historical one - Chinese immigrant workers being harassed and murdered by Westerners who feel they alone can arbitrate what constitutes acceptable labor."
In the world of MMORPGs, this concept of "what constitutes acceptable labor" is not some arbitrary notion asserted by Western murderers. It's defined and enunciated for all to see by the game developers in the Terms of Service, to which everyone has to click "I Agree" in order to play the game.
If anyone is being "harrassed and murdered" in this case, it's usually the innocent player who is just trying to play the game as intended -- i.e. just trying to have fun. But the implication of your article is that the gold farmers are the true victims. That reads like an implicit justification to me.
Posted by: Verruckt on January 6, 2006 3:49 AM
I stopped playing after 5 years, has nothing to do with farming.
Posted by: Jerry on January 6, 2006 6:19 AM
I find it interesting that that about 90% of the farmers are foreign, but 90% of the buyers are American or European.
The fascinating part to me is that - just like the very similar Cocaine trade - it is not the end users/buyers that is getting all the flack.
Neither gold farming nor the drug cartels could survive without buyers, yet the buyers seem to get (or accept) very little of the blame.
Posted by: Kimi on January 6, 2006 6:45 AM
How can one blame something one cannot see? One can see the farmers, but one cannot see the buyers, and one certainly cannot see the managers and middlemen who generally do not even play the games. It is only natural that the visible parts of the problem are attacked, and the invisible ones ignored.
Posted by: EVE Vigilante on January 6, 2006 9:21 AM
Verruckt wrote: "True enough, you state in the article that your goal is not to justify gold farming, but the overarching metaphor of your article suggests otherwise. You are comparing an illicit and unethical profession (gold farming) to a perfectly licit and ethical profession (clothes laundering). What do these professions have in common? Not much, except for the racial identity of their majority workers."
Around the turn of the 19th century, laws were passed that specifically criminalized how Chinese laundry workers lived and worked. For example, Chinese laundry workers were accustomed to carry their loads on long bamboo sticks balanced on one shoulder. In an attempt to drive the laundry workers out of business, laws were passed that banned this form of transportation.
Chinese workers were also more likely to share housing arrangements and maybe 5-6 would live in quite a small space to save money. A law was passed that created restrictions on how many people could reside in one location based on square footage.
So, in a sense, aspects of Chinese work and living in the late 1800s were made illegal in the US because the Chinese were seen as a threat (economically and culturally). In other words, the acceptability of this form of labor was being questioned.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 6, 2006 10:42 AM
One thing to consider also is the design of the game itself; why is the game designed in a way such that there is repetitive un-fun "work" in the first place in order to advance your character's power?
One of the better recent games to come out recently is Guild Wars; there is no continual item progression after you hit max level (which you can do in about a week). PvP characters all have access to all the best equipment. The only difference between the cheap armor and the super-expensive armor is the looks, not the stats (which are identical to the cheap armor's).
Therefore, even if someone does buy gold (and many people, including myself, do) all they get out of it is nicer looking armor -- they are at no other game advantage over other players.
Posted by: Gigashadow on January 6, 2006 11:57 AM
One point that seems to get ignored when the topic of farming comes up, is the game developer initially setting the prices high. In WoW an Epic mount costs 900-1000g depending. That is a lot of gold to raise, especially if you are not a regular/everyday player.
However, I can work an hour of overtime, and pay for 1000g through one of the numerous gold sites. I have not purchased gold, and will not do so, however I can't blame the average player who does. In the grand scheme of things, most people do not have the time to dedicate to a game. Especially if they have a family who requires almost all of their time and attention.
Why should they spend hours and hours playing/dying trying to raise funds, when they can just click on a webpage and be done with it, and enjoy the game they paid for?
I am not saying that everything should be affordable and cheap. However Blizzard constantly claims to be targeting the "average/casual" gamer, yet the in-game prices do not reflect that attitude at all.
If prices were slightly less expensive, and gold a little easier to obtain, then there really wouldn't be a market for farmers & sellers!
However when virtual economies mirror real world economies, then law of supply and demand reigns.
And as long as there is a demand, there will always be people supplying whatever it is, to meet that demand.
Posted by: Kind Herb on January 6, 2006 3:59 PM
Nick wrote: "So, in a sense, aspects of Chinese work and living in the late 1800s were made illegal in the US because the Chinese were seen as a threat (economically and culturally). In other words, the acceptability of this form of labor was being questioned."
It sounds to me like the acceptability of the form of labor itself (clothes laundering) was not being questioned, but rather the legitimacy of the people doing the work (Chinese immigrants) was being questioned -- both because of narrow economic self-interest and also cultural elitism. That's a fundamental difference from what's going on with gold farming. With gold farming it's the activity itself that is illicit, and has been so from the beginning. It's not like Blizzard was fine with gold farming until Chinese workers started doing it, and then made rules ex-post-facto to force the Chinese out of the market. The activity itself is damaging to the game economy, no matter who is actually performing it. That's why I don't think the metaphor is particularly apt, and why I think it does tend to suggest the somewhat Marxist point of view that gold farmers are not morally culpable for their actions because they are oppressed.
I think the strongest parts of the article are the informative sections about the gold farming industry, and I was intrigued by the details of what actually goes on. I just think it's a mistake to take it a step further and suggest that these people are not doing something unethical -- or that their behavior is somehow excused by the conditions in which they live, or by the racist reaction of a small minority of players.
Posted by: Verruckt on January 6, 2006 4:15 PM
Neat, thought provoking article. I've picked up a little Mandarin from previous experience, and I'll often throw out a tentative "ni hao" if I'm playing with or near someone that I suspect of being a non-leisure player. Most of the time, I get back something I can't understand and then I'll have to try to explain that I don't actually speak much Chinese. Still, I feel like the "ni hao" demonstrates a friendliness.
I have run across a player that was spending a lot of time in Ironforge at one point and was fond of cursing in Chinese. (I happened to recognize one of the words.) I eventually decided for myself that he wasn't actually the "Chinese gold farmer" he declared himself to be (if so, would he be spending hours on end in a zone where he could gain neither gold nor experience?), but he certainly was providing bad PR for the category. It was as if he was role playing a known outlaw category to get a response -- a different sort of the trolling behavior seen on the forums.
The one time I did group with a couple of Chinese players (we discussed our real lives), I was astounded by the efficiency with which they were gaining experience. They weren't gold farmers, but they were leveling up their characters as fast as possible. When we grouped, they were level 24; a week later, they'd topped out at level 60.
I personally disapprove of the gold market -- I think it interferes with play and breaks the EULA that all players must agree to -- but I have no problems with the players I've run into that do the farming.
Posted by: Trigger on January 6, 2006 5:20 PM
First of all, I apologize for my English, I'm not a native speaker.
I don't think that Chinese farmers are not as poor as you're trying to portray them. Each one of them owns a 500+ dollar PC ( half a year salary of an average Chinaman ) and can afford unlimited internet connection and $15 a month subscription.
The impact of farmers on game economy is diverse and difficult to estimate. What people mostly don't like is that farmers create imbalance between "regular" players and gold buyers.
At least in WoW, there are different kinds of items that people can obtain and trade. There are basic farmable materials ( cloth, basic herbs & minerals ); and there is good gear and good materials that can be obtained by skilled and well equipped people playing in groups ( e.g. bind-on-equip epic gear, core leather, etc. ) Due to farmers, prices of items from the first category are driven down ( supply goes way up while demand is relatively constant ). Prices of items from the second category go up ( supply is the same because farmers can't raid Molten Core, etc.; demand is up because potential buyers have more money ).
Many regular players wouldn't mind to farm/grind once in a while to earn some money, but it becomes impossible in farmer-infested economy, because good farming spots are overpopulated with Chinese farmers and prices on farmable materials are way down. Even if they do, they can't buy much with their money ( except for those same farmable materials ), because gold buyers with huge amounts of money drive prices on everything worthwile through the roof. In a way, farmer-infested economy forces people to become gold buyers, and the process becomes self-sustainable.
Also, regarding your comment on page 6:
Ask yourself a simple question: what would a Chinese person, who does not even speak English ( maybe beyond a couple of phrases ), be doing on an American MMORPG server? Don't they have their own servers, presumably with much less lag and lower access rates? Don't they like to play with other Chinese people? I can understand Russians and Romanians because they don't have local servers in their countries, but Chinese?
Posted by: Nameless on January 6, 2006 6:12 PM
I wonder what percentage of your little narratives are actually true?
A distinction needs to be made. In China, most gold farming is a well organized business with gold 'factories' with employees and etc.
In South Korea, gold farming also occurs but it is more on a individual level. Young boys you play 24/7 farm gold so they can feed their addiction. Very different situations.
Also, I think farming is a fad. Simply put, eventually, and the time is here I think, any individual game/server's market will be saturated with currency. Prices will fall to a level where farming factory owners can no longer sell and pay overhead.
The discussion also seems to avoid other specific groups. For example, players from Turkey also engage in farming behavior.
In short, while this is all a very intersting discussion I think next year we will be debating buying 'pre-leveled' characters rather than farmed gold.
Posted by: dave on January 6, 2006 6:54 PM
Nameless said, "Ask yourself a simple question: what would a Chinese person, who does not even speak English ( maybe beyond a couple of phrases ), be doing on an American MMORPG server? Don't they have their own servers, presumably with much less lag and lower access rates? Don't they like to play with other Chinese people? I can understand Russians and Romanians because they don't have local servers in their countries, but Chinese?"
They play on American servers because the U.S. dollar is strong against the RMB. A Chinese farmer can collect enough game currency and SELL it to a U.S. player. You must be on the same server to do that.
Posted by: dave on January 6, 2006 6:56 PM
The comments are out and out scary. You all did read it? /Shudder
Posted by: Fred on January 6, 2006 7:00 PM
I just want to say I'm a bit disusted with some comments made here. Some seems racist, some seem egostic and some just don't really get why poor people try to make a living. Hope this does not reflect the common gamer.
Posted by: Peter on January 6, 2006 8:04 PM
I find it kind of interesting that some of the response to this article is so very sarcasticly and angrily defensive in tone. I think people intentionally fail to get the point that it doesn't matter WHAT country gold farmers come from but that the MARKET is white and middle class. I almost feel that the intensity of the anger is an indication of guilt.
Picking a racial group on which to focus one's frustrations and problems on isn't anything new. Covering it with a thin veil of legitimacy/righteous indignation isn't anything new either. The only thing new about this is the vehicle -- putting the same, lame, tired racism and scapegoating into an online gaming context doesn't make it any different. People can rationalize the behavior all they like with the "it's not real life" arguement all they like, and it's clear that this is a strong unspoken sentiment, but in the end it's just a rationalization for something people know, but won't admit is wrong.
If goldfarming was so universally despised and unwanted as people might have you believe, there would be no market. THAT is the reality. If many people were not only willing, but EAGER to hand over real life currency for ingame cash then there would be no farmers because there would be no profit. Period.
What *I* see is a lot of people whining because they, or someone they know, or someone's sister's cousin's boyfriend got inconvenienced when he was trying to farm a spot or spawn himself and got outdamaged or outplayed by someone he THOUGHT was a chinese farmer. I've been better treated by chinese farmers in games than I have by the normal uber-Joe. The people who killsteal, train and harrass ME are typically anglo boys under 30 who think their wants outwiegh anyone elses and don't care how they get what they want.
The REAL issue here is how a large part of the online gaming community thinks it can treat a segment of players with such complete and utter hostility and rationalize open racism this way. I don't think it's too far of an exxageration to say that SOME of the comments made by players in the article sounded eerily similar to justifications used to ghettoise the Jews in Nazi Germany. I know this comparison is going to raise some hackles, but it's there and it's so in the open that it's hard to ignore.
Posted by: Azhrarn on January 6, 2006 11:31 PM
Godwin's Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
We have a winner!
Posted by: Verruckt on January 7, 2006 12:15 AM
Nameless said: "I don't think that Chinese farmers are not as poor as you're trying to portray them. Each one of them owns a 500+ dollar PC ( half a year salary of an average Chinaman ) and can afford unlimited internet connection and $15 a month subscription."
From what we know about gold farming operations (pg. 11), the actual gold farmers are working for bosses who own the machines. While it's not clear how common this setup is, it is not the case that all gold farmers own their machines and pay for their own subscriptions.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 7, 2006 1:37 PM
Nick, love your work and the suggestion you made on page 15.
I quoted you in the nogold forums and it got picked up as news on the front page. I hope game developers pick up your idea and run with it in a positive and supportive manner.
I would like people to see that what is really going on here is the buying and selling of time. Game currency should not be the focus of this argument. What is really being brought and sold is human time.
Someone is fed up with spending time in the game, so they think spending real money will make the game better. Someone else knows the most efficient way to spend game time and sells it for real money.
Just because one is more visible to the community dose not mean the other is less accountable.
Posted by: Twyla on January 7, 2006 3:33 PM
I play on the SOE games, and occasionally on Guild Wars but not often.
The only "Chinese Farmers" I know are all American. Every single one. Some of them pay their subscriptions with the money. Some are out of work and do it to pay their rent. Some just make a bit of extra pocket money at it. None of them have ever harrassed me. I have never seen them harrass anyone else.
I personally have never bought or sold anything in-game for out-of-game money. I have thought about putting some items up on the SOE Exchange, but haven't done it yet.
Frankly, the only things that wreck my experience in the game are kill-stealers, ninja-looters, and /shout or /ooc channel spammers. Get rid of that, and all I'll have to whine about is the endless rounds of nerfing.
Posted by: Forvalaka on January 8, 2006 1:53 PM
Great, thought-provoking article.
In response to commenters blaming the game publisher for creating "un-fun work" in their games: what a false complaint! It is a game, if it isn't fun, then quit playing it! That is oversimplifying a bit but is my basic belief on the subject.
Why do players feel they are "forced" to farm? I'm not sure what makes so many think there is "another way" to make a game to avoid that. Players want to advance. Advancement takes work. If the work is eliminated, then the advancement is cheapened and becomes worthless. If you don't believe me, go play ProgressQuest, an "automated" RPG where you do absolutely nothing while your character adventures, gaining wealth and power. Not exactly exciting when your guy reaches level 10, 20, 30, etc. and get's better and better gear.
Again, if you don't like the "work" that is required to advance, why keep playing the game? The game publisher is not going to suddenly change the entire basis on which the game is designed and magically eliminate the "work" required to advance. A cursory search through any public forum for a game and/or playing a free trial period should quickly let one figure out if a game contains "work" or not, before you invest a lot of time and money into it.
Or do you play for some other reason? Perhaps you enjoy the graphical presentation of the world? Seeing new places and objects and creatures? Maybe you like the setting? So, you are playing because you enjoy other aspects of the game. At some point, though, the "work" to advance each increment increases and whatever got you playing in the first place no longer has enough appeal?
Again, I say to you, why keep playing it? Move on to another game where you can enjoy whatever it is that gets you into games in the first place, until the "work" becomes too much. The time you've already invested in this leisure activity is a sunk cost, there is nothing to be gained by remaining if your continued play is too much "work" any more.
Anyway, great article and sorry to post such a lengthy tangential comment, Nick. I don't keep up with your articles, actually, have you already done a study on this perception of "work" versus "fun" in MMOGs? I'd be interested in reading that, heh.
Posted by: SiddGames on January 8, 2006 6:36 PM
I don't believe in racism against asian players and I don't respect those that do.
Posted by: Sumanye on January 8, 2006 10:42 PM
Siddgames - The "Labor of Fun" article touches on the work-fun issue, although perhaps on a different angle than you describe here: http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/001500.php
Sumanye - "No better in life" is economically and culturally relative. While gold farming seems like a "pitiful" job in the US, it does make decent wages in China for a certain class of people. And while people do choose their jobs, it's also true that different people have very different choices to choose from (race and country aside). Some people have far fewer choices to begin with. To say that we should be mad at tele-marketers because they could have chosen a different job misses the point that for some that job could be a temporary optimum. And this has nothing to do with their race or nationality. Personally, I feel bad for tele-marketers regardless of their race.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 9, 2006 1:36 AM
As Nick has said, gold farming is a good job in China and other countries that have "lower" standards of living than the US. What I do notice is that many people living in North America have no idea of life outside that continent. A typical Chinese worker making $300-500US/month is about middle class everywhere except Beijing. I mean their 3M/512k internet connection is less that $20US a month. Eating a typical take-out meal is less that $1.50US. This isn't to sterotype that all farmers are Chinese, I have met some that are North American and European. If I asked all the gamers in the US, if they could play the game and get paid for it, who wouldn't jump at the chance if it paid $35k a year?
Posted by: Rtech on January 9, 2006 11:33 AM
Nick is hitting on some good points here. First and foremost thinking someone is a "farmer" and "Chinese" if they do not respond in English is both foolish and presumptuous. Second, is to consider the the value of a free-market game economy versus more rigid structures like those seen in 1 player console games you'll realize that it adds a great deal of value to the game. Second to grinding players spend most of their time "farming" money themselves. "Farmers" as we have learned to call them are players who dedicate all their time to generating in-game revenue as a service for players who wish to buy their time. People need to stop thinking of game economies as being part of a "game" and realize that its a real economy that thrives in a virtual world. Any economy that exists where an exploit is possible will be exploited.
Lets consider the case of Wow. Farmers do not decrease the amount of in-game money so they are a supply side entity. Since they primarily increase supply by harvesting items the quantity of items available increases. This would decrease demand since more assets are available by increasing competition, based on the assumption that farmers only sell and do not use items themselves in any significant quantity. Also, since all players potentially can enter the market we can assume no one owns a monopoly. This means price fixing is in theory not realistic since items sold manually are not subject to auction house vulnerabilities. With or without farmers prices will naturally set themselves at a commonly accepted price. Though without farmers supply would go down and prices would rise. This means that farmers increase production that lowers the overall value of all items when other factors are not considered.
Its pretty obvious that most people who are angry about farmers are not mad about people who sell game-money for real-money, but rather people who exploit flaws in the ability to loot, aka the "ninja". Its sad that people make so many bad assumptions about other and their motives. If people understood game mechanics and free market economies they would realize that not only are almost all players farmers during their gaming experience lifetime (for example farming for a mount in WoW), but that farming is not the problem but in game thieves. Moreover, what kills me is that people complain about "people on American servers should speak English". First off, the servers are be time zone. The ones in the US are North American not American. So that includes Mexico and Canada. Some people in those places speak French or Spanish.
That's my view. Thanks Nickyee for posting some good info.
Posted by: Direfie (Medivh) on January 9, 2006 11:50 AM
"Gold Farmers are pretty much from China
I really don't know how gold farmers impact the economy of MMoRPGs
Be nice to gold farmers they are people too."
There, post that. It says the same thing and will waste less of people's time.
Posted by: Cildar on January 10, 2006 2:55 AM
I find it infinitely amusing you're comparing the "harsh" treatment of gold-farmers in (a) video game(s), to the massacre/murder of Chinese in 19th century America.
I completely understand, and sympathize with the Chinese using MMO Currency as a means to support themselves, or their family, but in the end, they are breaking the rules, and negatively impacting more people than they are benefiting.
Would you sympathize with a thief, because he can't find any other way to support his family?
Posted by: Thezdin on January 10, 2006 12:40 PM
Thezdin said: " ... they are breaking the rules, and negatively impacting more people than they are benefiting."
If 20% of players buy gold, if most players are too low-level to encounter gold farmers, and if gold farming may stabilize some game economies, is it really the case that gold farmers do more harm than good? Or is this part of the foreigner-pest-extermination story? Do we assume that they do more harm than good simply because of their foreigner status?
To me, that's where the historical story is interesting. What stories have we traditionally told about foreigners and do we see parallels here?
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 10, 2006 1:03 PM
Several comments on the article, and no I didn't read through all the responses:
The comparison to immigrant workers doing laundry in the previous century (or two?) leaves out one little detail - The laundry service was legal, selling gold is not. Yes the racism and abuse imparted to the laundry workers was inhumane, stupid & spiteful, but abuse imparted to goldfarmers has a legal precedent (even if it is spiteful). Not a legal precedent such as 'no blacks in the front of the bus'; The legal precedent is sale of game material for real money is illegal.
On the consideration of the arguement about where they can play; The comparision to immigrants trying to work in the US, and the US trying to limit immigration to keep chinese (or others) out. The US has one thing that make the comparison meaningless - Opportunity for a better existence, or the reputation therof. In MMORPGs, the world is exactly the same whether they play on a foreign server or a US server. there is no incentive to migrate away from the home server. In actuality, the home server has more participants who know the same language, and so the support & participation of other players should be more significant and produce a better environment than moving to a foreign(US) server.
The article tries to put a human face to the farmers. That's not really needed; instead of Gold-Farmer, use Drug dealer throughout the article. You know, another profession that has the farmers & the middle men. Am I supposed to feel sorry for the farmer manufacturing cocaine in columbia? When you know a friend is doing drugs, do they stop? The article feels that there is an assumption of legality of the farming industry.
Why would someone stop buying gold when thier friends know? If they have bought more than once, the potential for friends to suspect and condemn them is already a potential, so they may not stop. Short of all-out harassment, they may consider non-involvment as acceptance.
The only significant insight I gained from this article is one of the economic quotes. They mentioned that the gold farmers are really item farmers. Vendor trash is still sold for gold, but items go up in the auction house. The ratio of incoming gold vs incoming items in WoW is fairly balanced, in that after a year of playing prices are still generally reasonable. Enough items come into the system that demand vs supply is producing minimal inflation. If the stuff that farmers could aquire was great stuff (instance stuff like class set items), then perhaps we would have more inflation. it seems however that for world drops that would apply to the individual farmer, demand vs. supply is pretty balanced.
Posted by: Thomas on January 11, 2006 7:28 AM
Thomas - I guess I'm a little frustrated with the argument that something is wrong simply because it is against a written rule. For example, nothing that IGE is does is illegal. They are simply connecting sellers and buyers. Does that mean they are doing nothing wrong? And given that many of us in the US are currently struggling with the legality of domestic wire-tapping, same-sex marriages, forms of abortion, and so on, are we so willing to concede the entire issue to a matter of what a rule says?
As I mentioned to Thezdin, apart from this rule itself, do we really know whether gold farmers are doing more harm than good? Simply because a rule says something doesn't mean we should stop challenging the underlying assumptions.
WIth regards to the point on visibility and accountability, it has been well-documented that people behave in different (often more pro-social and positive) ways when they know they are being observed:
Also see discussion about this point at nogold.org
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 11, 2006 10:28 AM
Everytime someone says "Chinese Farmer", I shudder a little. It is attaching a racist connotation to a place/activity where there shouldn't be.
People play MMORPG to escape reality. You pay the game companies for a chance to play in a virtual world, to be whom you are not. It blurred the distinctions between races like its predecessors(IRC, MUDs) which in my opinion is a good thing. It puts us all on an equal footing...we're people, regardless of color. An elf played by a white, a black or a chinese makes no difference.
While it is probably true that a majority of currency sellers from China, there are certainly no lack of these in other nations. Even if coining "Chinese farmer" is correct, it is a fact this term is provoking unnecessary racism in games where there shouldn't be.
I don't support RMT and hate their activities as much as anyone can. I also agree that trying to stop the supply will not work. The problem lies in the buyers who both knowingly and unknowingly took advantage of real world currency exchange to progress their characters in-game. It is against the TOS of games but not against the law(as yet). There is nothing wrong in providing goods and service for money(real world or virtual) but buyers and sellers are violating one thing that I hold dear, "Gaming Ethics".
In the end I think it is rather silly to cheat via spending real life money. Buyers should ask themselves these questions:
Does cheating let myself feel any sense of achievement in the game?
(Of course, virtual items are in the end virtual items...they never existed anywhere except in a computer thousands of miles from you. There shouldn't be a real value attached to them.)
-I play on Pandemonium Server in FFXI.
Posted by: YJ on January 11, 2006 2:18 PM
Nick wrote: "I guess I'm a little frustrated with the argument that something is wrong simply because it is against a written rule. For example, nothing that IGE is does is illegal. They are simply connecting sellers and buyers. Does that mean they are doing nothing wrong? And given that many of us in the US are currently struggling with the legality of domestic wire-tapping, same-sex marriages, forms of abortion, and so on, are we so willing to concede the entire issue to a matter of what a rule says?"
Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. I actually agree an action is not necessarily wrong just because it's against a written rule. In fact, I'd take it a step further and say that an action is not necessarily wrong just because it's illegal. U.S. drug laws are one example of how draconian prosecution of victimless crimes often serves no ethical purpose whatsoever.
I think we can agree, however, that an action is wrong if it's unethical -- that statement is actually a tautology (it's true by definition). So the real question becomes: Is gold farming unethical? Is it really against "Gaming Ethics" as YJ writes above?
You imply that gold farming is not unethical by using utilitarian logic. If gold farmers really are doing more good than harm, how can their actions be unethical?
I don't really want to debate your underlying assumptions, such as whether or not gold farmers cause inflation, whether or not 20% of players buying gold is an unrealistically high estimate, etc. Let's just say that those assumptions are not proven and so it is possible to debate the ethics of gold farming on utilitarian grounds.
But I also think it's possible to show that gold farming is unethical in another way -- because it violates the purpose of the game. From an Aristotelian ethical standpoint, everything has a purpose and actions can be judged good or bad insofar as they further or hinder that purpose (cf Nicomachean Ethics). MMORPGs were created to serve many purposes (entertainment, socialization, diversion, and of course generation of revenue for the developer), but I think it can be shown that RMT does nothing to advance those purposes, and in fact in many cases detracts from them. I won't elaborate on that point here because this post is already too long, but I think that would be an interesting direction for this debate to take.
Posted by: Verruckt on January 11, 2006 3:50 PM
RMT should be fought more viciously.
Posted by: Okawango on January 11, 2006 6:40 PM
I read your article, and was interested in merely adding some observations. Then I read the comments, and I was disturbed. I usually don't post on things like this but I am moved to speak.
It is amazing how complicatedly you and your critics are wording the situation. I am often too wordy myself. I will endeavor to break this down:
A. Farming is possible. Game feature. Nuff said.
B. Selling in game money for money in the real world is possible. It is illegal, but this law is uninforced.
Doing A is expected. B is not expected, but occurs.
C. People who do B come from various countries. For the moment, I will leave statistics to the side.
D. People are Human.
E. Among Humanity, some are racists. Statistics, once again, omitted.
F. Some people/humans, upon encountering B, exhibit their participation or lack of participation in E.
G. Your article points this out. Good job, this point is expressed clearly.
H. Your article implies a course of action for people who encounter B. This is excessive. If someone reads your observations and decides to act as you do, they should do so on their own. If someone acts with justice, not because of their own experience and character, but because the haughty air of someone elses words has filled their lungs, then they cannot be expected to follow up this behavior with more justice.
If someone comes across a Chinese speaking PC in game, or a Turkish one, or a French one, who they are as a person will most certainly determine how they deal with the situation. Someone who agrees with you might attempt to be amiable, others might react harshly and xenophobically. This is who they are right now. So that is how they will act.
Despite the fact that I myself would try to speak to the farmer and to be friendly, I refuse to take the upper ground on that argument. I see the superficial connection with United States history, but those events are also quite morally unresolved.
Your observations of individual behavior are very complete, and deserve the title given them by this site: "Psychology."
You digress, however, to preach, and this is why the comments you recieve are often attacks, and not merely further observations. And observation is all you would have recieved had I not realized that you were preaching at me.
Tell a person what you have seen, and he will listen and drink in what you say, because people are curious. Tell a person that you know how he should act and you are spitting in his face. Spit in a person's face, and he will decide whether to spit back or to simply wipe it off. Invariably, people with spines spit back.
As for the skipped racism/economic/nationalistic issues, I repeat that I agree with you. We agree only the way two bettors can put their money on the same horse. That does not mean that we know we have won.
One shouldn't turn one's nose up at anyone. Here's where we get to the punchline: I am turning my nose up at you. Look at how riddiculous I look! Look at how riddiculous the preacher makes himself, and how full of spite he truly is when he has been exosed (or, in my case, exposes himself). Behaving this way brings me down. Similar behavior on your part brings you down, be it implied or explicit. I am just in one of my rare spiteful moods. I hope that you can say the same.
Posted by: Manu on January 13, 2006 5:10 AM
Verruckt: "From an Aristotelian ethical standpoint, everything has a purpose and actions can be judged good or bad insofar as they further or hinder that purpose (cf Nicomachean Ethics). MMORPGs were created to serve many purposes (entertainment, socialization, diversion, and of course generation of revenue for the developer), but I think it can be shown that RMT does nothing to advance those purposes, and in fact in many cases detracts from them."
I think even with this basis, we'd still fall back on the same unresolved issues from the utilitarian analysis. Do we know whether RMT sustains a larger player base (and thus more monthly revenue) because some casual players who would otherwise be frustrated now have sufficient fun to continue paying? If a significant portion of players buy gold and it increases their fun, does RMT not then increase entertainment? And of course this depends on the portion of players who are negatively affected by the gold farmers.
The point is that we don't really know the answers to many of these questions, but these are exactly the questions that the typical narrative brushes aside. I think that once we tell the story one way, it becomes really hard for us to talk about certain things.
To a certain extent, the Aristotelian basis you propose and the way you choose to tell that argument is an extension of the typical narrative, no? That we simply assume RMT is a bad thing by ignoring and not questioning many of the underlying assumptions.
Posted by: Nick Yee on January 13, 2006 9:32 AM
It's unfortunate that many people here don't have an understanding of economics and realize that the actual % of gold that the gold farmers in any server of wow (2k-12k populations, maybe more) is somewhere in the vacinity of 1-5%. Now, if that were a national economy the effect of a 1-5% increase in gold would be alarming to the already in place inflation rate of basic gold influction into the market. But in a game like WoW where the most exspensive item costs no more than 5k gold, 5% is only 50g. That is not a very big difference. From a simply gold amount point of view, the effect of farmers (of any ethnicity) is small and non influential in the overall game economies health. Not to mention 99.999% of all items traded in WoW are common comodities such as runecloth, elemental fire etc, and not those of rare items such as a krol blade. There is one problem though, that you forgot to mention in your study. What is the effect on the price of goods when the farmer community has monopolized a spawn drop or have bought out and control a certain item in the market? It is true that anyone with the gold to spare could corner the market, but a farmer group, who's sole purpose is to make gold, could much more easily corner the market on highly sought for goods.
The bottom line is this though...mmorpg's have a capitalistic economy and if the farmers can produce items/gold at a cheaper price (in time or money) than the average player, the average player will lose out. Its up to the gaming companies to decide if this is ethical or not. But as an American, it is ethical, and anyone else who believes in a capitalistic way of an economy would agree. (not to say all americans are capitalists of course :) ).
P.S. Keep up the great work Mr. Yee, you've made great reports for 3 years, and I hope to see and read them for 3 more!
Posted by: Naytaliak on January 16, 2006 10:00 PM
In my honest opinion, since I have been a gamer who has had his gaming experienced by farming, I can see the very destructive effects of such acts if taken to extremes. I know people who have managed to build businessess, and I mean not just your small time gold farmer for a few dollars, but money that would make you get a real non-online business running. I've even heard of a player who's been able to buy a car out of his farming! What it all comes down to essentially is enforcement. If they get locked down and banned, it COULD, be ruinous to a server's economy by depriving it of liquidity, but it may drive inflation to mad levels. (Try imagining an uber equip selling for 500,000 gold in WoW for example)
Posted by: Nazgul on January 18, 2006 2:21 AM
I think a commonly over-looked factor (don't jump down my throat immediatly on this one) that allows the economy to get out of hand is the lack of a betting (ok gambling) in a game. Most people think that the inflation caused in games is out of hand, and quite bluntly, i think the best way to control that would be to give players willing chances to lose massive sums of money. Lets face it guys, who has never been really bored while playing a game and turned to making and placing bets with other people? Its a natural past time, try your luck against someone else. I think the best way to limit the amount of money travelling through a game would be to add more things into games, such as a simple roulette like game. Make the game playable with just one person at an npc, and let them bet any amount they want to. Most people despite better sense i strongly believe would be likely to use this after generating a large amount of excess money.
What is the point you ask? It would simply let lose the money that many people get from raids, quests, and in a guild wars case, runners. (for those not familiar with what a runner does, they aren't cowards they rush new characters through the game for money, so that the new characters can get max armor at level 2 or 3.) The reason behind this is more strongly tied for a strategy oriented game like guild wars, in that where i've seen a level 2 that had better equipment then the average level 15, you know something is wrong because it disturbes the balance of the game. As opposed to that level 2 slowly upgrading armor and gear like they should, they'll never buy anything else aside from capture signets, and in turn all the money they generate floods the 'greens' market.
because of limited computer ability i have never been able to play games like WoW, but i did play L2 in the beta testing, and what i've been seeing in Guild wars was like when my level 15 elf was attacked by level 5 dark elves packing so much potion into their systems that they start ransacking towns by themselves. Worse yet unlike normal pkers, most high levels didn't want to kill these bottom level menaces for fear of losing levels. The whole thing starts from something small and escalates quickly into something much more.
I'd fully expect someone to disagree with what i've said or to find my idea of putting gambling into a game played by many children as offensive or something, but aside from a game maker bluntly taking money and items, you really can only lure people into losing their money in foolish pursuits (ie gambling)
Posted by: ketogen on January 25, 2006 2:46 PM
in hindsight to my earlier post, if anyone wants to argue this with me one on one in guild wars please feel free to message me by the name ketogen kimura, i'd be glad to argue\agree with anyone who wants to raise a point pertaining specifically with gw
Posted by: ketogen on January 25, 2006 2:51 PM
This article was very well written and brought up many good points. Yet I must say that some of the comments people have made are very disturbing.
Point 1: Some people don't seem to have actually read the arcticle before commenting. Many people seem to be unable to differentiate "race" from "racist". Referring to someone as Chinese is not necessarily racist, but (being a one time WoW player) I can say for certain that a vast majority of people who complain about CGF's do so in a racist and derogatory fashion. There is a line between hating farmers for the act of farming, and catagorizing them all into a class of people who can be freely (and sometimes gleefully) mistreated and abused.
2. Many other people seem to feel just as free to put Americans into the "Fat, lazy, racist and VERY greedy" catagory. My feelings are quite divided on this point. I'm an American and can tell you I am (I hope) none of these things. On the other hand, I'm somewhat ashamed of the behavior of my fellow countryman who are acting in a mannor that keeps other countries thinking this way, especially of late. Anyway, please don't lump us, American or Chinese, into one catagory. There are people of all types, good and bad, all over the world. (P.S. the views and actions of a government do not necessarily reflect the views of the people....in any country).
3. However, there is a good point on language. Sad as it is, I speak only english. I have a hard time communicating with someone who speaks limmited or no english. In small groups, or ones where the goal is straighforward, I don't see much of an issue. In a complicated, high-end group, communication can be the difference between a great time and multiple group wipes. I have no problem (and actually enjoy) grouping up with people from other countires. It's fun to talk to someone from India or Malaysia and learn about their life. But if they are on the English server...well, I hope they can speak enough english to get by if they are a regular gamer. I wouldn't go to the French server and expect to be popular in high-end groups. I realize this doesn't really apply to many farmers, who spend most of their time in solo play, or grouped with co-workers.
I am not rude or pushy when I come across someone who is obviously farming, and so I have received very little rudeness in return. Mostly, it's live and let live. I find that the best policy in this case.
Posted by: Aroura on January 28, 2006 7:57 PM
This is an excellent, well researched article.
I feel the need to step up on a soap box after reading these observations.
My belief, and that's is what it is, not fact, but belief, is that the ability to procure large amounts of on-game currency with ease is directly responsible for the escalation of game economy inflation. Thus, the ability to sell items at high prices as well as purchase game currency from second sources contribute equally to the economic situation.
If I used to pay 10k for a consumable, and someone decides to jack up the price to be able to pay for some more expensive item, in a non-bid economy like FFXI, for instance, I must ante up the additional 2k or whatever. That person can then happily go buy the 12k item they want with their "Profit".
If the item they sold was purchased by them, that's a minimum 2k profit. If it was obtained by game play, thats a direct 12k profit. So, obtaining items for sale leads to the exchange of funds, and no increase of on-game total currency. Inflation, in essence, is the devaluation of currency, typically due to an increase in the total available currency, so an increase in the price for an item is only part of the problem.
The only source of funds on FFXI is cash awards/rewards from the game or sale of items to NPCs (Non Player Characters). These are the only two sources of increase for total on-game funds. Those funds can only be decreased by purchases from NPCs and sales-taxes, I have not yet figured out how to destroy funds otherwise, though I would not wish to do so, it's too hard to "Earn" them. So the total on-game funds tend to go up as more people exchange items to NPCs for currency or perform cash award/reward activities.
The sale of on-game currency online by those who trade to other players through bazar, auction or direct trade, does not increase the total in-game currency, it merely redistributes it, perhaps concentrating it in the hands of a few players.
The problem is with players who do not mind exchanging their real life funds for on-game currency, increasing their total "Buying Power", allowing them to overpay for items, driving up the price by increasing the demand and exchange rates at the same time.
As a result of the steady increase of available on-game currency due to the previously mentioned sale to NPC or cash reward/awards, there is an increased capacity for players to accumulate significant wealth, by exchange of goods or purchase of on-game currency from other players using real money.
This leads to the capability of lazy, self centered players to purchase overpriced items which are beyond the means of players who do not opt to spend their hard earned cash for on-game currency. This disparity of class, which is precisely what it seems, leads to a great deal of animosity on the part of the "Hard Working" lower class/lower level/wealth limited players.
Since it obviously does not occur to the players, that it is the purchasers of on-game currency who are the cause of the problem, they direct their animosity toward those they see as directly responsible for the situation, the currency exchange/gold/gil sellers.
It is always easier to find a scape goat, someone to blame who is "Not Known" or "Foreign/Alien", the shame is upon the players who blame the farmers, who are simply feeding the market for on-game currency, driven by the persons who seem disinclined to work on-game for their funds.
It's normally called "Cheating", when you violate the game rules, and - unfortunately - companies such as Square Enix seem to be more than willing to kick out people who are engaged in normal game play, and completely ignore the actual "Cheaters", in most cases. I have never heard of an instance of a Gil or Gold BUYER being booted from a game. And that says a lot about the attitude of the developers/game owners and their GMs/DMs (game masters, dungeon masters).
If we learn to properly identify the people responsible for the situation, and deal with it appropriately, we will find that we can go back to our normal way of playing games for recreation, rather than dealing with them as if they are actually more than just a way to pass time we could be spending doing something more meaningful, like, for instance, learning about Chinese Culture, History and Language.
I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the Chinese ethnic group makes up nearly one third of the population of this planet? And we "Americans" know nearly nothing about them, in general, while we are experts on such far less important topics as Sports, Computer Games, Music and other forms of "Entertainment".
Posted by: aeolis on January 31, 2006 8:10 AM
Im not sure how much is boting related to farming, but I think that most farmers use bots to increase their income.
And it is a fact of life that for Lineage II, it is nearly impossible to bot on private servers (and not because of GM's, but b/c of various patches and plugins). Also, each farmer usually pays several (even dosen) subscriptions. Why would game companies want to lower the number of subscriptions by taking harder efforts in supresing farming?
Posted by: Shinhan on February 11, 2006 6:23 AM
I'm totally willing to overlook the nationality of the farmer. What matters to me is their activities, and I'm not going to persecute somebody based on how they speak but what they're doing.
I have to agree with your assessment that gold farming became viable the moment people were willing to spend real money on virtual property. Real money is the ultimate incentive, it's how capitalism works, and thus farming was inevitable. The only way to eliminate it entirely is for people to stop buying it, and that's not going to happen so long as the grind exists.
Like a few others on this thread, my gripe with farming is not an economic one but rather a matter of maintaining the emmersive integrity of the game world. To some extent, I play MMORPGs to escape, and seeing real life influences determine how well equipped my fellow players are successfully ruins a great deal of the emmersion of the game for me. I don't expect everybody to feel the same, but so long as I do, it does remain an issue for me.
Posted by: geldonyetich on February 19, 2006 7:07 PM
This is a great essay and one that I enjoyed quite a bit. I enjoyed it because I happen to agree with it and would like to add to it.
I play WoW and I buy gold. I took a few macro economics courses in college so I was confident that my actions would not ruin the gameplay experience of others based off what I knew. I also bought my gold from a site that is directly linked to some Asian country and not some site like IGE. I did this because I was "spammed" by an incredibly polite in-game tell. Here I was, a somewhat hardcore WoW player (it's how I spend my non-athletic leisure time) that needed some extra cash in hand as I leveled to keep abreast with trade skills while having enough to afford my class skills. The simple solution was to purchase a small amount of gold from this Asian (dba Qing Long Kong) site.
Quite frankly, I wish I knew Cantonese so I could chat with gold farmers. I'd hook them up with food and water in hopes of getting a good deal on an item before they have to log off and someone else logs on with that character. Why? It helps me and it helps him. Win-win.
It's almost axiomatic that between two bodies, wealth will always be greater if there exists a state of trade between the two than if there exists a state of war even if one is the victory. Isn't that proof enough to live and let live?
Posted by: Guy Incognito on February 22, 2006 7:04 PM
Im suprised no one has mentioned this, or even drifted near the subject. But I am confident that the reason for the persecution of farmers is two fold- one is that they are better than you. some player thinks he's wicked slick because he noticed that he can get a high value commodity without anyones help, but guess what? someone else figured it out, not only that, they can do it so well that they can handle every last one of those mobs. He is better than you could ever be, thats why he gets to farm that location.
the other is that he is so much better than you at playing videogames, he gets to do it for a living. imagine that, waking up in the morning, knowing that all of your responsibilites include glancing at a few bots and sending some gold to your local reseller.
next is the purist mentality applied by the gaming community, that by having these high level items, the person surely must know what they are doing and those that have purchased items must surely be bad players. the fallacy of this line of thinking is that some content actually teaches players to play BADLY. you dont get good at mc from doing gnomer.
This brings up the real issue, is the game even fun? think about this next time you spam for a group for half an hour, or someone has to leave an hour into a hour and a half instance, and you wait around another half an hour to get another person. or maybe next time someone trains mobs on you. that is the game, thats what you get for playing with people and thats what you paid for.
as far as the effect of farmers on an economy... it is insanely good! why are you grinding for mats on a server where you know that has them for cheap? buy them if you need them then. drop the tunnel vision, if the one most profitable place in the whole game is being camped by a dozen people, then it isnt the most profitable place anymore now is it. yeesh.
and i may as well touch on the chinese issue, it isnt racism, its nationalism. these people arnt working in sweatshops, they are working a dream job. aggression towards people that others feel jealous of is nothing suprising. it isnt your genes, its your culture, which can support gaming as a profession.
Posted by: Jake on March 1, 2006 2:45 PM
This Article was very interesting!
I think one thing that people are speaking a lot about is how using the term "chinese gold farmer" is good or bad. I have used the term myself before, and when I say it I am not saying it because I hate chinese or that they are horrible and the only ones that farm. My best friend happens to be chinese. It just that the people who are doing this "job" tend to be chinese a majority of the time.
After reading everything I have I feel a sympathy for some of these farmers, but at the same time I dislike what they do still. I think that if someone is hogging an area and not letting you play the game how it is supposed to be played, there is a problem.
Another problem that is spoken about is the fact that the farmers don't know english. Although I know that just because they don't know english doesn't meen they shouldn't be playing the game, I also wish that the people on my server could actually communicate wih me. Many times I've been in Ogrimmar and seen something on the trade channel I would like to buy. When I question about the price, and it is too expensive I say something along the lines of " ok nvm then" or "no ty then", and the guy invites me to a group and tries to trade with me. Even after continually saying I don't want it, the person thinks I do. This language gap makes the situation wierd. So that is basically what I have to say about this, but I'm glad to have seen other views on the issues.
Posted by: Kory on March 5, 2006 1:21 PM
Nick, you know that race isn't a neutral label and carries weight of history because you aren't in the group that has the luxury of thinking that way. The people that do have that luxury will never understand unless they are put in a situation where they are the minority.
The whole gold farmer thing merely gives many the justification they need to voice their racism.
Posted by: Anon on April 4, 2006 7:28 PM
to all of those american = lazy / chinese = rude farmers posts...
i can sypathize with the chinese, and i can sympatize with the americans, but i dont really think gold farming is detrimental to WOW's health, although the same cannot be said for some other mmo's
Posted by: Calvin on April 6, 2006 8:39 PM
to all of those american = lazy / chinese = rude farmers posts...
i can sypathize with the chinese, and i can sympatize with the americans, but i dont really think gold farming is detrimental to WOW's health, although the same cannot be said for some other mmo's
Posted by: Calvin on April 6, 2006 8:39 PM
I liked many things about this piece, and learned from it as well. Thanks.
I wanted to add just a few observations from my own playing experience.
First, it's not all that easy to tell whether someone is truly a farmer or not, by which I mean someone who is gathering resources/in-game currency to trade for real-life currency. What is apparent is this: you try to grind or complete a quest in an area, but another player makes the experience difficult and unpleasant by preventing you from having access to what you need there.
It's really easy to assume that such players are "farmers" in the sense mentioned above, and it's common to add the epithet "Chinese" to that, whether either is true or not. You and others here have commented with good effect to that. But we all know that in WoW at least (many of the anecdotes used in the article and in the comments relate to that game), every player has to "farm" for resources at some point, whether to complete quests, get resources for tradeskills, earn gold for in-game items such as mounts, or simply for their own in-game profit.
There's a dynamic here at work that hasn't received much explicit comment, and it's entitlement to the resource in question. That is, I pay money for this game, and gaining access to that resource is what I am entitled to because of that fact. Therefore, if you get in the way of that, you are not a legitimate player, and I may label you as a "farmer." I may further delegitimize your presence on a US server by calling you "Chinese." Now clearly many players do not go that far, and many players are in fact willing to cooperate when there is competition for resources. But it's still very very difficult to tell why the player who is in your way is after what you're after. So "farmer", especially "Chinese farmer," can be a quick and easy way to depersonalize what the other player is doing, simply because they're in your way, and so decreasing the personal enjoyment you are getting in return for your money. The immersive experience the player hopes for from an MMORPG can be ruined by any number of things. That just can't be blamed on "Chinese farmers" alone.
What I've also seen more than a few times is another hierarchy of player types, one that doesn't have as much to do with "farmers" in the sense the article means. Here's an example. On the WoW server I used to play on, it was really common for the fire elementals in Arathi Highlands to be monopolized, for materials needed for certain potions and items. The player monopolizing the mobs would not cooperate with other players and allow them to share the mobs. But warriors also needed to kill these and other elementals for items to complete a class specific quest. More than a few times, the warrior character I played was prevented from getting access to any of these mobs for 30 minutes or more by level 60 players. They were the other faction, so I couldn't communicate with them very easily to ask them to cooperate. So it took quite a long time to complete the quest. Not fun. I went on the forum boards and added to a thread someone else started about rude behavior. I got a response that said, in effect, that level 60 players could dominate by taking all the spawns, and therefore deserved to have them over a lower level player like me, regardless of why I wanted access to the mobs. If I wanted the quest items, I really should just ask them for them. This from a player for the other faction, with whom I couldn't do any trading anyway. From what I've seen in-game and on the forums, this attitude isn't uncommon. So I'm going to add to that a hierarchy of entitlement to various parts of the game that I've observed among a number of players:
What I've listed is imperfect, I admit, but there's no doubt that many players perceive that the society of players is stratified, and that certainly some players on higher tiers see themselves as entitled to more enjoyment, that is, better access to the game, than players on lower tiers.
Have you ever considered studying the in-game community as compared with players who post on the official game forums? I think that would be really interesting.
Posted by: Rosemary on April 17, 2006 9:31 PM
I don't buy gold/levels, so I don't encourage. I feel bad for the farmers, but if one does get in my way in the game(Playing WoW, strictly PVP servers), and they are of the opposing faction, they're toast, but unless I have 10 levels on the person anyway, they would be toast regardless. XP
The Reason I finally stopped playing Diablo 2 a year ago was the leveling services, and insane dupes/hacks.
Posted by: Kable on April 18, 2006 11:41 PM
They have their own region of the game to play in. So they should. It would be just as out of place as if I were to go get a Korean localization of the game and start playing. I wouldn't understand anyone, I wouldn't understand any of the in-game text, and frankly, I couldn't communicate with the other people in the game. And as far as I can tell, communication is the ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING in any MMORPG you ever play. That and moral decency, meaning you play by the book. I haven't bought a single piece of gold, nor have I recieved a single piece of gold from a friend that has purchased it. If you buy gold, you are contributing to the problem, you are paying for MORE recruits to farm for the items that YOU could instead be recieving, and at the same time you are violating the (mostly) mutual fairness everyone expects from the game. Who cares if it gives you an edge, later on you'll end up kicking yourself because the server is overpopulated by foreigners trying to make a quick american buck selling gold.
Posted by: SaxxonPike on April 24, 2006 9:14 PM
As we play on European Servers, we are quite used to people not having English as a first language, in fact most of us enjoy grouping with other nationalities. 'We' couldn’t really care less where you're from or what language you speak, what we do care about is having something we are paying for disrupted. That point 'We' can understand, the whole xenophobic stance 'we' cannot understand or condone.
Posted by: Team Europe on April 29, 2006 4:37 PM
While I really do care less about gold/gil farming, I cant help but to wonder about a few things. First off, I No Longer play WoW but still do play FFXI. The thing i wonder is how do the japanese players view gil farming? I understand that there are ALOT of different views on how the game is played. As so far these views are entirely from an American/Western point of view.
As for the Econmy teacher talking about how Gil/Gold farmers should bring the price down, sadly FFXI in-game Econmy does not work like that. The last time Square-Enix did a massive ban on the Gil Selling Accounts prices droped on all the high gil items due to the fact that gil farmers where no longer in control of the supply. While it is true that they provide a greater amount of materials, they also control the price at which these materials will sell at and will inflate the price over time to raise more gil for the same item. Im Not fualting them for this practice, its good bussiness sense. And after all this is their job.
Posted by: Drake on May 10, 2006 8:54 AM
I play WoW and know a player is a farmer because farmers tend to favor hunters, I guess because they are good at soloing. Also, when I try to talk to them they always ignore me and just keep going to the next mob like a machine. I once thought these farmers had like a little program to "auto-farm." This is because one day I was in badlands doing a quest, I saw the farmer with the typical pet named "Cat", he was killing the dragons and I asked him if he can help me kill blacklash and hematus, he ignored me of course and kept killing. My friend came and we summoned the blacklash and hematus and we got wiped, and when we resurrected and healed up we were thinking of just pulling one dragon, but all of a sudden the level 60 dwarf hunter farmer with the cat named "cat" tried to kill the two elite dragons himself. At first I was like son of a biznatch, but I told my friend he ain't gonna be able to kill it so it's cool. So we waited for him to die and eventually he died in a heartbeat, it was so funny, but we noticed that he didn't release his spirit, so I thought he had a program to "auto-farm" or something. So I came to the conclusion that farmers are hunters with unnamed pets and kill mobs all day.
I don't have a problem with farmers as I see them for a few minutes and when I'm done with my quest I would just leave and go to a different place. Sure, most farmers come from China, but there is no need to call them chinese farmers, that's a racial term. People who say they spoke chinese to them is bs, how can they speak chinese if the language is english. And of course if I see a horde farmer I will kill them because they are the opposing force, not because they are a farmer.
Posted by: Auradin on May 30, 2006 9:49 PM
The article was truly enlightening, and the examples in it were truly illuminating. Not so strange how most people exampled in the article on the 'Con' side were neither well spoken or thought out, striking simliarity to most racist rhetoric historically, but I digress.
Hopefuly to add to the pool of information on this topic, I feel it necessary to add that there are third party programs that will 'bot' a character in various MMORPGs (WoW in particular and I imagine most other games). Consider that it is much cheaper to have one person opperate 10 computers running bots (that cost 25 USD for the key code, and can be used on all ten computers).
Additionally, the ethics can be argued untill the end of time. That it is a truly philosophical issue, by defination, implies exactly that. The core of the issue is that it is good business, arguably for the player -- DEFINATLY for the company who runs the game (free advertising, stimulation of the economy, keeps players longer, etc, etc...).
Anybody who argues with that point need only look at enforcement. Almost every MMORPG end user license agreement clearly states that any transaction of real world currency for practically anything in game is 'strictly' prohibited. The companies even release press reports on how many people they ban for selling their services, but if it is true, the numbers aren't. It simply does nothing but make a relatively small player base (that likely wouldn't cancel their accounts anyway) slightly happier, temporarily. All of this costs the company who runs the servers ANYTHING -- combating the problem on the other hand reduces their profits dramatically. WoW doesn't even police botters anymore.
I personally have bought and sold extensively in MMORPGs in almost every aspect. The fact is, it helps commodity availability, and if it does hurt the 'end game' it is minimal because almost everything that makes your toon better in the end game comes off MoBs that take large groups to take down. How many main tanks get those uber aggro holders from the auction house or bazaar(and those that do... how many are dreaming for UberSword#3 from BigAssRaidMob?
Posted by: milonwasaninja on August 6, 2006 7:20 PM
Me no like farmers.
I buy the game to PLAY a game. I want to enjoy the virtual world.
When farmers who are pushed by real world concerns are in the games, they often resort to underhanded method to secure their "income"
They are like street beggers.
I don't bloody care where they came from, who they are, i don't care even if they have a aging grandparent at home, four wives and 20 kids and need to farm online to keep them alife!
The thing i am most concern with is, THE &$*^# company that sold me a "game" did not take all measures possible to keep what i bought a GAME!
I want to role play, i want to interact with other players (who are real characters in the game world).
Farming to a limited extend is fun, i enjoy farming in Monster Hunter. The satisfaction to slowly gather the resources needed to craft an item i desire is great fun. But to be harass and attacked for going to a good farming ground! That is simply downright wrong.
finally i just like to add that farmers are just one of th eproblems. Imature and rather stupid players does make games sick. Will you walk up to a real person and say "BREAD PLEASE!" "GIVE ME BREAD NOW!" that my friend is very RUDE!
Posted by: Gliblit on August 7, 2006 6:31 AM
A well thought out article, I especially enjoyed the too and fro between yourself and Verruckt, however, I felt that at times you were both too quick to dismiss each others arguments based on a seeming lack of evidence...
There is no real hard and fast evidence for any of these statistics, it is all a matter of point of views, hearsay and conjecture... so for Nick to say:
The point is that we don't really know the answers too many of these questions, but these are exactly the questions that the typical narrative brushes aside. I think that once we tell the story one way, it becomes really hard for us to talk about certain things.
It is basically your way of saying, I told the story which no one else usually tells, and now you can't argue against what I have said as I was putting across a seldom told point of view... Well that's a little immature...
Gold farming, whether by Chinese mafia or by American students or any other group has an impact on a game economy... I don't think that is being disputed, but my point is that one way or another it is having an effect...
Whether positive or negative to one group or another the profiteering nature of a small subset of the community has far reaching consequences for everyone else...
So the price of common commodities may drop... well if my level of game enjoyment was restricted to farming and selling those items which were common commodities... my game has been negatively effected...
If a farmer forces prices to rise, then if I am a casual player saving up to buy my BoE item from the AH and every week the price gets higher because of the influx of gold and the readiness from those with purchased gold from RMT to spend above the average price...
Basically gold farming has an impact, it influences the way that everyone plays their game, it is unsolicited and even if it is seen as being harmless or making a small impact, how much of it should we be forced to put up with?
Gold farming should not be seen as good/moral behavior regardless of who is doing it. Just because you come from a poor Colombian village and the only job you can get is stomping on leaves to make cocaine doesn’t make what you do any less wrong, based solely on your lack of other opportunities. I can feel sorry for the person in another country who is just doing something to earn a living, but when what they are doing is illegal, and lets face it, they know what they are doing is wrong… Well we have a title for that person… they are criminals. Whether Chinese gold farming criminals or Colombian Crack stomping criminals they are doing the dirty work that allows them to eat regardless of the far reaching social costs outside their small sphere of influence. Good luck to them, just don’t expect me to thank them.
Can I understand the subtle racism at work? Of course, I am Jewish... I know all about subtle racism and all too often when I am begged for gold in game and say I can't spare any I am greeted with the typical response "don't be such a Jew!” So the racism card is there. Just like in the merchant of Venice Shylock painted the picture of money hungry Jews who were money lenders there is now the portrayal of Chinese as gold farmers...
In both cases the story grew from certain truths, in the case of the Jews, more often than not they were money lenders as far back as the 14th century... And when money is loaned it must be repaid, so people attached the idea that Jews were greedy as they were chasing money (albeit money that was owed to them). In the case of our farming friends they happen for the most part to have come from areas of Asia, typified culturally outside of Asian regions as being Chinese.
Now comes my interest in all of this... The stereotypical Jewish businessman who is greedy and unwilling to share, as horrible a stereo type that it is, has survived for well over 500 years... How long will the Chinese gold farmer label survive if nothing is done to remove the connotations and worse, as MMORPGS are played by more people and terms from these games become more accepted by the wider community, how long till the first little white boy goes to school and offers to pay his Asian friend to do his homework... or maybe it is already happening?
Regardless, There are a few points which remain, WoW is a game… whilst it has an economy and whilst it is possible to exploit that, it doesn’t make it right regardless of who does it or for what reason, so whilst I am disgusted by the appellation “Chinese gold farmer”, I refuse to allow my distaste for the racism prevent me from hating the people doing it! The developers of computer games are constantly trying to stamp out gold farmers, they are bugs in the game, they are not meant to be there, if we were to ask the developers of WoW or any other MMORPG what they thought would be an acceptable gold farming population in their game if they could stop it they would all say 0%.
Posted by: Lienad on August 11, 2006 11:29 PM
Call me racist if you wish, but there are "overseas" servers for a reason. Not only do people playing from out of the country destroy the economy, they also cause a horrible lag.
Wonder why the US Dollar is worth less than the english pound? Simply due to practices like gold farming and smuggling illegal labor.
If immigrants want to make money in the US, then they must actually travel to the US and live there. They must show respect for the laws set before them and respect the American culture by learning the main language. Finally, they must become true citizens like everyone else through the same process. I personally believe that no immigrant deserves benefits over the hard working citizens of the normal working class.
Why are so many opposed to gold farming? It's destroying the game. You can wave your advanced degrees in economics and anthropology in everyone face to proclaim otherwise, but as a gamer, I find the lack of space to have fun in a game infested with farmers beyond irritating.
Ever have a favorite spot in the local park where you can gaze at the glowing sunset and in your mind ponder things in peace that you could not do at work or in the cramped quarters of your home? Now take that 'happy place', throw in thousands of people who speak a language you don't know and cluster around all the best places to sit and watch that sunset.
The enjoyment is robbed. You find that the next day, you're replaced in your job by two people who work for half your wage and do your work twice as fast (albeit, 1/10th of the quality). Your boss does not care, as it is efficient.
"How is this applied in digital life?" you may ask. I'll use World of Warcraft as an example: you're a level 58 guy walking through the plagulands at 5AM, nobody but mobs in sight. You decide to go to Tyr's Hand because you have a quest there. Lo and behold, hundreds of people just killing mobs for money. You need to kill a few of them, so you ask one or two if they could stop (in your faction, as you see the horde and alliance working together to kill the mobs). None of them answer in english and or even try. Although not understanding what they said, you try to wedge yourself in to get a few kills. Instantly, you're swarmed by the raid of characters in the opposite faction.
Gold farmers don't destroy the game? You may not be affected by this because you're in a pure MC guild. What about games that have no instances? SWG Pre-CU anyone? Farmers destroyed the economy after the JTL expansion, resource prices went throught he roof and many crafters left.
Ever wonder why the CU was implemented, and later the NGE? People were leaving due to a fractured economy, to SOE wanted to add something to make it better... look what happens when things are rushed. Why was the NGE rushed? The release of WoW, and a rapid drop of customers caused by an economy dominated by farmers.
Farmers destroy games. Don't let the NGE happen to your favorite game, stop the farmers before they break your game beyond repair.
I blame SOE for being so stupid as to release such an unfinished patch. I blame farmers for forcing the devs to rush it.
Posted by: Plasuma!!! on August 12, 2006 10:25 AM
I'd just like to say I thought this was a very well written and thought out post. I myself have had that flash of "China!" anger at times, even though I know full well that a lot of what these players are saying isn't at least Mandarin. Over time, I've mellowed my feelings about the whole issue - while I won't buy gold, I certainly do appreciate the abundance of crafting materials that their behavior makes possible for folks like me.
Thanks again for the post.
Posted by: curious.jp on September 3, 2006 6:05 AM
You present this as a racial problem with the "white man" and pararels to US history and whatnot. So you fail.
The dislike people have against them is simply from what they do to the game economy (and yes they do a lot of harm, nevermind what your sites say, they make a genuine player's efforts to gain money infinitely harder), and from the abuse (whispers/spam/mob training etc..) we get.
Posted by: cos on September 13, 2006 3:42 PM
I don't think it's a "racial problem" per se. I think it's an economic scenario that has become deeply interwoven with race. I think there's a lot of blame to go around - for players, farmers, middlemen, and developers.
they make a genuine player's efforts to gain money infinitely harder
I guess I have a hard time not interpreting that to mean "Chinese players should stop farming gold so Western players can farm gold" or perhaps, more bluntly "it's ok for us to farm gold but not them".
And finally, I feel that the stereotype of the "hostile" gold farmer is based on the actions of a visible minority of gold farmers (and mistaken griefers). In WoW, many gold farmers are in fact in instances.
Posted by: Nick Yee on September 13, 2006 4:06 PM
This has been a very interesting read for me and actually makes me think of several things which I have difficulty organizing very well but here's my attempt to do so:
1. The impression here is that the gold provided in RMT (real money trade) in MMORPGs all come from gold farmers who physically farm by manually playing their characters is problematic. There are also those who run bot farms that gain zeny and then sell them, or players who quit and then ebay not just their accounts, but their in-game currency as well. So really, RMT comprises of manual sweat-shop farmers, quitters and botters. To see gold farmers as the chief course of game-currency traders would be, in my opinion, inaccurate.
2. Somewhere in this article, Nick mentioned that some people viewed the root of the existence of the RMT is in the demand. And this really is the problem. If people don't stop buying, someone will always see the money-making opportunity and sell the currency. Though I think people need to recognise that, this makes the game "unfair" in that real-life economic power (i.e. having real cash) will then equate to in-game power/status. You join a game late, use real cash to buy currency, which you in turn, use to buy elite gears that help you level much faster than the average newbie would.
Hmmm.....well, I digressed a little. =_=
Posted by: Piggy on September 14, 2006 12:05 AM
Nick, you constantly come back to this arguement of, "it's fair for you guys to do it so why not them?" or as you put it...
"it's ok for us to farm gold but not them"
I don't think that is what was being said, once again someone has stated that they are effected as a player, not as a gold farmer from an Eastern European country as opposed to an asian country, they are simply stating that their gaming enjoyment is ruined by the existence of farmers.
You know what it comes down to Nick... intent... that's the key!
When you are a player, your intention is to have fun, so when you finish a certain quest chain, or when you have accomplished your set target of grinding, you go back to the pure enjoyment of the game, leave the area and move on... Our grind is for fun... however, the farmers intention is to make as much as possible in as short a time as possible... They are motivated by greed, not fun, these are 2 opposite ends of a spectrum, hence when they meet they clash...
Posted by: Lienad on September 15, 2006 5:28 PM
Lienad - A WoW player sent me this link recently.
Part of what I'm getting at (in the article and that most recent comment) is that "gold farmers" are a socially-constructed category. The link here exemplifies this. The existing stereotypes of "Chinese gold farmer" encourage some players to push these identities on certain kinds of players they encounter. The Australian player who posted that article on his blog was assumed to be a "Chinese gold farmer", treated as such, and inadvertently perpetuated the production of the stereotype that "Chinese gold farmers" are hostile.
So what's interesting is that a group of Western players (most likely Caucasian) interacting with another Western player (mistaken as being Chinese) are producing the social reality of "Chinese gold farmer hostility". You might also have noted cos' somewhat hostile attitudes towards Chinese people as well in his comment. My point is that our current discourse on "gold farming" is inextricably tied to race/ethnicity because our social interactions with other players are based on pervasive stereotypes of racial identities.
Race has a lot to do with gold farming because many players use racial cues to "identify" gold farmers who they then label as hostile.
Posted by: Nick Yee on September 15, 2006 5:55 PM
I don't necesarily like where your heading Nick...
The idea that people are making their racism against asians, specifically chinese, acceptable as they cloak their hatred under the guise of a moral dislike for gold farmers, when in actual fact they are just racists...
That assumes that we aren't talking so much about gold farming as we are about a general dislike for Asians and Asian culture... the fact that people are free to use this particular stereotype in this particular genre is less of an issue.
If we are talking about gold farming, then we need to concentrate specifically on instances of characters in game performing the same repetitive actions over and over... whilst the Australian players story is unfortunate, it had nothing to do with gold farming, other than that he met racist people willing to use the negative stereotype.
However when we look at the people that have met the actual gold farmers, we find that most have a relatively pleasant experience. So then, why the negativity? Is it because the vast majority of people do not think that gold farming is right, and they also believe that the vast majority of this behaviour is coming out of china? Whilst I don't necesarily have the evidence to back it up, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.
Posted by: Lienad on September 16, 2006 9:40 AM
Even farmers in instances can negatively impact the game experience. Of course they are not stealing mobs from me, but too many players in the same instance doing the same thing can lead to instability. For a while, I guess there was an exploit or something that allowed farmers to solo farm a mob in DM for an epic drop (WoW). When I went in with a group to try to finish the epic mount quest for my warlock, the instance kept crashing and we finally gave up. I never managed to complete the quest because we couldn't stay in the instance for more than 5 minutes, and every time it would reset, so all the mobs were back. A /who of Dire Maul later in the day indicated a ridiculous number of solo hunters in the instance.
Posted by: Ramona on September 16, 2006 4:55 PM
Great article, thought provoking and nicely researched.
Personally, whenever I "grind" (which is the socially acceptable term other use) I always respond when queried by other in-game players that I am "farming" felcloth, arcane crystals etc. and offer to help the other player who is trying to gather mats for a quest etc. I do so, because my theory is that the faster they get the required items the quicker they will be to leave the area.
That said my experience with other Farmers in-game on WoW are :
- Some will not co-operate and train mobs etc. on you. I have no clue if they are Chinese or not. Neither do I care. As far as I am concerned they are griefers and I return the favour if I can. At Heathglen I generally can not, as they are all Horde (I am Alliance) and I am outnumbered. More often than not I have to leave the area. I have also observed other Horde toons been forced out of the area as well so it appears to be a matter of strict control of the area.
- Some will co-operate. I regularly get invited to group up with some Chinese Farmers at Tyer's Hand and I do so because, not only does it make things go faster as we rip through the mobs, we generally have a good time doing it (or at least I do, and from the in game "lol" going on so do they)
- Overall, my experience with the Farmers has been a good one and I have certainly had a lot of fun farming with them, in addition to being a lot richer in-game.
My theory is that with enough Farmers the result is an abundance of materials and items which results in lower prices.
A couple of months ago Blizzard banned 60,000 accounts and the results were immediate. Prices for things like backpacks, mana potions etc. skyrocketed through the roof and there were howls of anguish among the general population.
Since then, prices have been slowly dropping but they are no way as low as they were before many of our Farmers disappeared.
The "non Farmers" ie the people who call this "Grinding" that have moved in do not co-operate with each other. There is a lot of cussing and yelling in General chat as they compete with each other for the same mob, call each other names, and intefer with each other. I attribute this to people being fustrated as they are forced into activities they would rather not do, regard as a waste of time, and would much rather pay someone else a reasonable price for the required material than being forced to get same for themselves because of high prices.
Some "Farmers" are still around after the ban but not too many. I still get invites if they are around when I go to Tyer's Hand but generally it is quite lonely now.
I miss my Chinese Farmers and I would love to see them all back.
Posted by: Valoris on September 26, 2006 12:41 PM
So its ok for people to harass me on a game I pay to play with MY low-end job because they are working a low-end job too?
I've seen first hand what happens when large amounts of gold are introduced to game economy. Prices skyrocket and you can be damn sure that just because the AH had 10 of an epic they certainly were NOT in the buying range of a normal player like myself. In fact several farmers bought out the AH to control prices, an easily accomplished feat with their resources and they have all the reason to do it. Why, you ask? Simply because they would go out of business if everything was cheap and their gold wasn't needed. I had to farm EVERYTHING I needed, I simply couldn't afford the outrageous prices on a established server like Stormrage. When I would find a decent spot, I usually had to share with other players and known gold farmers giving me trouble. I have only had one pleasant encounter with a farmer out of about 8 years of MMO's, the rest were cutthroat encounters while they tried to annoy me away. Sadly for them I happened to be a Feral Druid that killed much faster then they did...
Why the stereotype of Chinese Farmers? Because every gold farmer I encountered never spoke a word of english and atleast tried to appear to be chinese. Its impossible to know the truth and with so many farmers appearing to be chinese then people are going to assume that most farmers are in fact chinese.
I'm alittle offended by the comments hinting that I dislike gold farmers because I'm racist. Which is funny because its untrue, and is even more funny because assuming such is in itself racist. White American = Racist is just the same as Chinese Player = Gold Farmer. So please leave your own racisim at the door.
Why do I dislike gold farmers you may ask? I lump them in with griefers and exploiters, they ruin my experience in a game I work for money to pay for. I'm not rich, in fact the average gold farmer (Chinese or otherwise) makes a better living then I do, so tell me again why they should be allowed again? Why should I have to work a crap job and have my enjoyment outside of said crap job ruined by people who took their job to avoid a similar crappy job. White American doesn't equal rich either.
Posted by: Silverwolf on September 29, 2006 12:06 AM
whilst it's not really my place to be defending the article I realise I missed the point, and sadly so did Silverwolf.
Nick is not saying farming is right... he is not arguing it is acceptable, he is saying that it is interesting that we place the negative label of CHINESE gold farmer, on ALL gold farmers.
It isn't that you are intentionally racist, your probably not, and you probably think your very tollerant, but when you see a gold farmer, you assume he is chinese... That's the issue, not that he is a gold farmer, which is bad, but that you assume he is a chinese gold farmer, which makes you bad.
Once again, it isn't that he has a crappy job, it isn't that you have a crappy job, it is the reality that the term chinese gold farmer is becoming socially acceptable, when it is often inaccurate and obviously quite offensive.
Posted by: Lienad on September 29, 2006 5:31 PM
I didn't miss the point, but I rather responded to the comments that basically read White American = Racist. That really offended me, esp since I've never assumed a farmer was Chinese until they proved they were or made alot of effort to make me think they were. Since I don't speak Chinese along with more then a few of my fellow players it is indeed hard for players like us to tell if that real chinese, korean, or somebody jerking our chain. To assume that everyone one of us just blanket assumes "chinese farmer" because of bad apples is like assuming that every male is a violent killer because male killers exist. Thats offensive for us who don't bring race into our dislike of farmers, indeed its as offensive to us as to Chinese Players labeled Chinese Farmers.
You have to face it though, China is indeed the dominant country in this practice and as such your more likely to encounter a chinese farmer then a romanian or american farmer. So naturally people are going to assume when they encounter a likely farmer that this possible farmer is chinese. Is this right or wrong though is the real question. Personally, I would be more offended to be called a farmer then a American Farmer.
Yes there is little doubt racist gamers do exist, but as in real life they are nothing more then a vocal minority. Because a game's forums are loaded with racist filth doesn't mean everyone who dislikes farmers is racist as those posters only represent a very small amount of the actual population. This article, while very well written I think is looking for something that really isn't there.
Posted by: Silverwolf on October 1, 2006 11:10 AM
Interesting statistic for you...
Google search "Chinese gold farmer" = 8740 results.
Try "American gold farmer" you get 81 results
Maybe we can try "Romanian gold farmer"... nope you get 5 results.
What does this say? it says that Chinese gold farmer is a commonly used term... Whether it is just because of articles like this using the term in a discussion or something equally benign, this particular phrase is out there being used...
It may be a vocal minority that started the term, but as it is used more and more, it grows in social acceptability. Whilst we may not be racist, even the term itself could be used by people who aren't racist, the term is racist...
Not to say that all Americans are ignorant... but do a google search for: "ignorant American" wow 78,800... try "Ignorant Chinese" ohh 1,220... Maybe those Romanians are more ignorant... hmm 8 results for "ignorant Romanian".
This doesn't prove anything, but it's an unpleasant stereotype that Americans are faced with all the time, that they don't know or care what’s going on in the rest of the world... the few that do, can be upset about this statistic, the same way that the few Chinese people who are gold farming affect the stigma of their brethren.
Posted by: Lienad on October 2, 2006 10:02 PM
A very interesting article indeed.
Personally I think that it is an issue of game design as to whether farming behaviours are incorporated into the design of the product.
Like the early MUD's the philosophy still seems to be get your character better than everyone else as soon as possible and woe betide anyone who gets in your way.
It dosent supprise me in the least that the inhumane qualities of competitiveness from the old world come out in this type of environment. It is worth noting that all the land stealing murdering racist behaviour in human history usually served a twisted purpose of furthering the dominance of one social group over another any why should the online world be any different?
Posted by: Irish Seán on November 3, 2006 5:21 AM
A very thought provoking article.
Although a neophyte to the world of MMOs, unfortunately I am all too familiar with the outright belligerent and disrespectful attitudes presented by many in the ether of the online world.
It seems to me that the anonymity of being online fosters a general lack of respect that would not be tolerated in the real world, and for the most part, probably would not be offered.
But just like anything else, actions repetitively performed over time become habit and that is what worries me the most. Because there are no consequences for actions taken in virtual worlds, what lessons are learned?
Ignorance is almost never an acceptable answer to any question, yet it seems to be offered up quite often.
Posted by: Llwyd on January 16, 2007 12:51 PM
AS for the article in question, I confess I did not get through all of it but stopped around page 13. I am a little disturbed by the whole article in fact as I did not know how much noise there was around these so called farmers. I am a WoW player, have been palying for quite some time now, have been on several servers, and got sooooo many times messages "if you want to buy gold www.blablabla". That might be the only really disturbing thing I could recall concerning farmers. I am not sure what the point of the other players getting mad with farmers is. Above all the inflation issue which is totally ridiculous. Even if I have no data available on this specific issue I seriously doubt that farming generates inflation. AS far as I am concerned, I rely on the action house (which is the only place in the game one might notice inflation as all the other prices are fixed) just for resources and I did not notice prices rising in the last year or so. The way I see it anywyas, the AH in the logic of the game creates in fact a sort of parallel economy in which ideally prices could rise with inflation, but even if it did, I really doubt it would influence in any way the game, at least as far as my experience with WoW is concerned. One thing I like in WoW is economic stability...
As it has been pointed out, if there are sellers there might be buyers. But most importantly I really have difficulty to get in what way they might interfere with your game. I might be dumn, but for all I`ve seen they might sometimes appear as just umpolite players in some situations.
In my opinion the only reasonable asnwer is in the license agreement with Blizzard. If making money out of a game is your deal, there is a not so entertaining but still interesting game called Second Life.
I do not understand the pity or anger towards farmers and it looks like the game brings players to miss the point. In the end you play to improve this sort of alter ego which is your character, and the environment is designed to let you do so. The influence of the others is somewhat limited and honestly, you can never loose. The game goes on and your improvements as well, unless you stop playing. Thats why in my opinion games are such a huge success. They never let you down.
Sorry for this long comment, and again, congratulations for the site.
Posted by: Bazzool on March 26, 2007 9:14 PM
I never really noticed gold farmers till I started playing on Antonius Bayle. My first experience was of peeps in the group warning about a high level paladin who would steal loot from our kills. Another player was sympathetic to the fact he spoke little or no english and had to earn his living.
He and several other lvl 70 toons were members of a raiding guild. That guild accepted them because the liked having the extra power in their raid force. An example of gold farmers and regular players working together. A toon who is played 24 hours a day in shifts can get uber fairly rapidly in EQ. Peeps in that guild told me this was the situation.
I do not report people for farming gold. I will always report people for kill stealing, ninja looting and other bad game behaviors. Also whenever I receive spam offering to sell me gold I immediately file a report. I dislike spam in any of my game chat channels. Leave me alone and I will leave you alone. Mess up my game play and I will file a report on you in a heartbeat.
I cannot tell the difference between someone who is farming gold to sell, or farming gold to buy stuff in the Bazaar. I have been known to spend 12 hours a day farming rockhopper hides and acrylia to practice tailoring. Possibly peeps have thought I was a gold farmer.
Sony, with the release of TSS, nerfed all the loots in all new player zones except Crescent Reach. This may have been to make playing new players without the expansion harder, or it may have been to limit exploitation of these areas by gold farmers. It seems likely that the second explanation is the accurate one. If players knew Sony had done this it would create outrage and anger. Since most players only play in higher level zones, few realize this happened. So it could not be a marketing ploy, cuz such a ploy requires advertising to make it known and making it known would anger the player base. So this is probably one way in which Sony is attacking gold farming.
I personally would be grateful if gold farmers were to farm the lvl 70 + mage summon equipment spells and sell them in the bazaar on a large enough scale to drive the price down. 350,000 is too much for me to pay at any time in the foreseable future without buying plats online. But farming plats and selling them online drives the prices up, not down. Since you can spend weeks farming them without getting one, a gold farmer cannot make his daily quota farming them.
Some people think that Sony made these spells so rare on purpose to force people to buy plats online.
Game designers included lots of boring time consuming stuff in player progression to keep peeps playing the game longer. The longer it takes for a player to make uber status, the longer they pay for a subscription.
Gold farmers can provide an alternative to that letting peeps buy stuff to progress more rapidly, thus defeating the game design employed by Sony and others. Gold farming is built into the games as an opportunity for the farmers, because the designs created to slow player progression create the opportunity.
I cannot get really excited about gold farmers, any more that I can get really upset about the weather. Their presence is inevitable given the realities of the situation.
If they mess with me they can expect to be reported immediately without hesitation. Otherwise, I could care less.
Posted by: Stephen Huff SSG USA Retired on May 24, 2007 4:35 AM
When people ask me where I'm from in Lineage 2, I tell them I'm Asian and let them assume I'm Japanese (I am fluent in the language and will abuse it if necessary), because admitting to being Chinese in that game has become synonymous with admitting to being a farmer/bot/what-have-you, even though I speak (type?) in more coherent English than 90% of the people I've met.
Many people hunt farmers because it is the "acceptable" thing to do. Because even in a PVP heavy game like Lineage, randomly PKing noobs is frowned upon, or at least not considered a badge of honor, whereas farmers are an acceptable target. I would not be surprised if some of the people joining the crusade are ebayers themselves. At the very least, they seem to ignore the fact that without the farmers the economy would quite literally collapse overnight.
I am not advocating farming, but it is easy to see why it is a much more intrinsic part of a game like Lineage than one like WoW. An average gamer in WoW can play through from 1-70 without ever becoming aware that farmers even exist, because their impact on the economy is minimal. Many people in the other article about buying gold state they did so to pay for repair costs, which are probably the number one money sink in endgame WoW. That is money which is not causing inflation because it is being removed from the economy by the NPCs.
Even gear and equipment is not an issue because all you need for normal progression is easily available through quests and drops. And gold is less important because Blizzard has managed to develop content that is not just "level grind". I can buy 500g to buy myself a world-drop blue, or I can go instance with my friends, get an equivalent or better item, and have fun while doing it. The choice there is pretty obvious.
In Lineage, the majority of random drops you get from mobs are crafting recipes and materials, which deadlock the economy once the farmers monopolize it. It is not possible for non-farmers to skip the middle man because those items are not acquirable any other way and are necessary for progression, and no real crafter can compete with a guy who is farming 24/7, on 10 accounts.
The chance of getting any real usable item drops are abysmal, because the game developers have never put any time into developing endgame content that is engaging, and would lose half their playerbase if said playerbase wasn't spending so much time leveling and acquiring resources. Without the farmers most of the high level items simply would not exist, because real people cannot possibly meet the demand.
Many people who get indignant about farmers in games like Lineage defend the poorly balanced game system by saying that it's hard, it requires hard work. Leaving aside the oxymoron of "hard work" in a "leisure activity", it is not, in any way, "difficult" to acquire resources in a game like that, as it requires no practice, skill, or thought on the part of the player. Pulling the AV general's guards one at a time is hard. Dancing Hydross through 3, 5, 7 transitions is hard. CCing one mob, snaring a second while blowing away a third is hard. Grinding for money to buy your A Grade can be done by a trained monkey, and means nothing except hours spent in front of your keyboard.
In addition, unless you are on a PVP server there are limited options a farmer can employ to harass legitimate players on WoW. Mobs leash, it's easy to run away, and aren't "trainable". I had a farmer try to drive me out of an area by flagging and hoping I'd click on him, and simply give up after I failed to fall for the tactic because there was nothing else he could do, nevermind that I would have blown him away if I had, since I was in instance blues (perfectly easy to get through normal play) and he was in crappy greens (designed to be cheap for farming), and knowing your class meant a little more than just mashing BSpS. A Lineage farmer would just get a botted up 75 nuker to kill you until you went away.
In the end it just comes down to Blizzard having a better idea on how to implement a virtual economy. While goldfarming happens in both games, its impact on any individual player is much lower in WoW. While these games are enjoyable for what they are, unless there are major revamps to the game system, the economies of MMOs like Lineage remain dependent on pro-farming. The next time someone gets all high and mighty about the farmer infestation, I would invite them to consider that that weapon they've been saving up their hard-earned adena for would not even exist were it not for the farmers.
Posted by: Iris on August 30, 2007 3:56 PM
Seems like the unasked question is whats the matter with gold buyers?
Different people react very differently to people who buy their way to top toons/equipment.
If got much of my pleasure from the level of my equipment compared to others I might be more concerned. But it seems to me the fun was in getting the equipment more than comparing it. Skipping a lot of content seems to be their loss. If that content was tedious and uninteresting that might point to a game flaw.
I'd guess that people who buy their gold having different playing goals and many might just want to be able to play along side real life friends who had the time and inclination to do the grind.
I'd also guess that people who buy their toons/gold tend to play less and quit sooner...your likelihood of needing to be in contact with them would be far less than their actual percentage of existing players.
Its no fun to instance with people who don't know how to play their characters (after 70 levels people usually learn that) and while some of that might be due to buying the toons there are plenty of other people that screw up due to cluelessness, talking on the phone, sleep deprivation etc. A PuG with unknowns is always a risk ...grouping with people you know is always preferable.
But I know that lots of fellow players get really irritated by the idea that someone could have the same equipment and stats they had without working for it. They must derive more game pleasure from relative achievement than I do.
Posted by: shander on February 2, 2008 5:40 PM
I have played a lot of different MMO's and in all of them I have taken pride and enjoyement in doing my own cash and crafting farming with the craftsman ability/titles/items that are the reward tied to the accomplishment.
When I see someone getting the same status with no effort in-game, basically bypassing the whole game, I feel cheated, I feel they cheated and have abused the game system through external means.
And that is the spirit of the law laid down in EULA's/ToS's. Gold Farmers, Buyers and Middlemen are not illegal/unethical because they are chinese or not, the whole black gold market is illegal because it bypasses the game mechanics and that in other words, is just plain and simple cheating.
Posted by: Nathaniel on February 27, 2009 10:13 PM
It seems to me that there are only two real ways to deal with the situation: limit the demand for gold through game mechanics, or allow gold buying by making gold worthless yet valuable for cosmetic reasons(as in guild wars).
I will say that, for anyone over the age of 17, who has any sort of real life, playing an mmo is impossible.
If you go to college, you won't have enough time to excel.
If you work, you won't have enough time to excel.
If you do just about anything in the real world, you won't have time to excel.
If anyone has ever taken the Bartle Test, you will recognize the "Killer" and "Achiever" titles as two persona of an mmo gamer. The killer enjoys the thrill of ...well... killing other players. The achiever enjoys likewise enjoys the thrill of leveling up, gaining items, and whatnot. In order to fulfill either of these roles, one has to invest impossible amounts of time into an mmo. And from this reality, gold buying emerges.
I think it's interesting to ponder what would happen if a game publisher just one day decided to ban every account that has bought gold. Apparently, 20% of people buy gold. (which is believable, if it isn't 20%, it's only marginally lower) That 20% is mostly composed of people who, in the event they are banned, will simply walk away. The mindset is: "Well, if I get banned, screw it, since I'm only willing to play the game under the conditions that I can buy gold." From the publisher's standpoint, the action of a total gold buyer ban just ends up in amazing monetary losses.
Whether or not gold buying is unethical, morally wrong, and other such nonsense is irrelevant. The only thing that matters to me, the gold buyer, is whether I can have fun. And for me, the fun is in winning at pvp.
Posted by: Antonio H on August 2, 2009 6:38 AM
I'm chinese. With a north american upbringing.
I gotta say, props to my chinese cousins out there who are making a business out of gold farming.
It is their right and ingenuity to take advantage of capitalism in all its forms to create free enterprise out of it.
If it is creating jobs in China, so they can put food on the table, because the *demand* exists for this service in the north american market. Then so be it. The players are the ones creating the demand, and these enterprises that spring up aim to take advantage of that demand.
I've never bought gold in all my years of MMOs.. but I have nothing against gold farmers trying to make a living. What I do have a concern with is unethical businessmen who milk these farmers out of their hard earned cash. So I hope they unionize :)
Posted by: Arisbot on November 20, 2009 7:07 PM
In FFXI the impact of gold farming was to impoverish the low level starting player. Pretty much all of the valid farming resources were dominated by professional farmers. In FFXI, even at low levels, the game play was strongly dependent on expendables (food) and on basic travel costs, and the price of both of these was set by the more established players in the economy. Prior to the professional farmers, 1 hour of player farming labor could support ~ 3 to 6 hours of "adventuring" if you limited yourself to the lowest quality gear. After farmers, the ratio was more like 1 to 1 at best.
The situation was exacerbated in FFXI because the game play was almost exclusively group oriented. Basically, if a starting player was too poor to get the expendables needed, they were seen as a liability to the group. End result, new players get kicked from groups quickly. This hurt them in two ways, 1st they weren't getting to actually play the game, 2nd they slowly if ever acquired the skilled needed for group coordination.
Were the professional players we ran into in game from mainland China? That's a more difficult question to answer. We were only able to speak to ~ 30% of the people we suspected of being professional farmers. All of these individuals claimed to be from mainland China and their upper management was supposed to be located in Singapore (our guild had a number of players that spoke several of the East Asian languages).
What were they like in game? Well, we only spoke with them when they were playing recreationally. If you could communicate with them, in non-professional play, they were polite, friendly, and helpful. As an aside, the gender demographic appeared to be strongly skewed towards male players, but there were some females.
Did the gold farmers destroy the economy? Well they definitely made it harder in FFXI for a new player to start up. You could make an argument that all they really did was add a $30 to $40 surcharge to the game in the form of an up front RMT currency purchase to get you over the starting hump, but honestly it wasn't really their place to do so. Alternatively, an added $30 to $40 is not a particularly horrific cost either if you are willing to buy in game currency.
**None of the prior discussion includes the in game currency duplication that was uncovered and that did nearly destroy the economy**
Were the gold farmers reprehensible people? For the most part, the ones that would speak with us were pretty nice individuals. Of the 70% that were unwilling to speak with us, a fair number of those engaged in pretty egregiously abusive play. That being said, whether that abusive play qualifies them as reprehensible people is a matter for debate.
Posted by: Hayden on March 6, 2010 8:23 PM
Free info like this is an apple from the tree of kownlegde. Sinful?
Posted by: Dora on January 2, 2012 7:36 PM
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