Let’s talk about gold farming.
Last week I made my usual run through the British newspaper The Guardian and came across an article with this title: “China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work.” The more I read the more I thought – hang on, I’ve already read this.
I had already read it – just not in a newspaper.
Cory Doctorow’s novel For the Win covers gold farming intensively and from several angles. Reading it, we follow Matthew Fong and his guildies in China, Wei-Dong Goldberg in Los Angeles, and Mala – who goes on to become General Robotwallah – in Dharavi, India.
FTW is an in-depth economics lesson, a call to arms, and a testament to what people can do if they get involved. It starts with gamers and gold farming.
As the book opens, Matthew is working alone – that’s not approved. He has eight screens hooked up so that he can multitask between different games, and he shortly finds out just how un-approved his work is. When they come for him, not only do they beat him – they also smash all of his computers. There’s nothing left, so he has to rebuild.
Wei-Dong Goldberg is a seventeen year old Californian who is obsessed with gaming and with China. The obsession translates into him staying up a lot later than he needs to, according to his overbearing parents, playing games online with Matthew’s group.
Mala is a young girl who goes to a café to play games more often than her mother realizes. She’s an excellent player, and she comes to the attention of Mr. Banerjee. Her transformation to General Robotwallah begins.
Big Sister Nor provides the glue that begins to bring this crew together. All of these people are gold farming. They are in no way protected, and when they finish playing they are no better off than when they started. Big Sister Nor has a radical idea. She wants them to organize in-game. She wants to see a player’s union.
Can it work? I won’t give you the spoilers…
Tell me about gold farming. What do you know about it?
Soapbox Minute: For the Win is the kind of book that should be read in high school classes. The current required reading is destroying interest in reading, and leads to people saying as they leave high school, “I’ll never pick up a book if I can help it.” This book would be perfect in a civics class, a government class, an economics class…and maybe we could get people interested in reading again.