For The Win – Farming and Addiction
Gold Farming in For the Win
The book For the Win was mentioned in the comments to an article on the Guardian’s website “China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work”
It is estimated that 80% of all gold farmers are in China and with the largest internet population in the world there are thought to be 100,000* full-time gold farmers in the country. The Guardian
Written by an editor of Boingboing.net , the story of For the Win swings from character to character across the world, all involved in making money from online gaming. (* 100,000 gold farmers seems a very conservative number compared to the 400,000-500,000 farmers proposed by Barry Atkins et al in Videogame, Player, Text a study from Manchester University.)
In the twenty-first century, it’s not just capital that’s globalized: labour is too. Workers in special economic zones are trapped in lives of poverty with no trade unions to represent their rights. But a group of teenagers from across the world are set to fight this injustice using the most surprising of tools – their online video games.
In Industrial South China Matthew and his friends labour day and night as gold-farmers, amassing virtual wealth that’s sold on to rich Western players, while in the slums of Mumbai ‘General Robotwallah’ Mala marshalls her team of online thugs on behalf of the local gang-boss, who in turn works for the game-owners. They’re all being exploited, as their friend Wei-Dong, all the way over in LA, knows, but can do little about.
Until they begin to realize that their similarities outweigh their differences, and agree to work together to claim their rights to fair working conditions. Under the noses of the ruling elites in China and the rest of Asia, they fight their bosses, the owners of the games and rich speculators, outsmarting them all with their gaming skills. But soon the battle will spill over from the virtual world to the real one, leaving Mala, Matthew and even Wei-Dong fighting not just for their rights, but for their livesâ€¦
Imagine a world where illegally obtained money, say drugs money, could be smurfed or broken into smaller amounts, used to purchase World of Warcraft gold, the gold resold to a different farmer, and the dirty money is laundered in a place (WoW) with little legal supervision. Or is that world already here, and old news?
If world politics, economics or ethics of gold farming is your thing, grab a copy of the book from my Amazon affiliate link. In Matthew’s words “Okay, it is a game. but it’s also real life. It has consequences.” p276
One alarming idea proposed by one of For the Win’s characters is about intermittent reinforcement, the link between action (killing a boss) and reward (loot), and how adding RNG into the equation creates an addiction.
There’s also some thought-provoking ideas about intermittent reinforcement that are alarming.
Imagine you have a rat who gets some food every time he pushes a lever. How often to you think he pushes the lever? Â As often as he’s hungry I suppose. Now what about a level that gives food out at random? Sometimes one press, sometimes one hundred presses? They press it like crazy all day and all night. … One day you manage to kill a …npc … it drops some epic item and you have to keep going back to that spot, looking for a monster like it, thinking it’ll happen again. Â But it’s random, right? I’m not sure … I sometimes think that the game company deliberately messes up the odds so that when you’re just about to quit, you get another jackpot.”
Variable Ratio Schedule (refered to as VR in this wiki link) is the reason why people lose a lot of money playing lotteries or slot machines.
Do Blizzard mess with the alleged RNG of loot, drops and rewards? Yes. They did it in WOTLK (“Blizzard Details Secret World of Warcraft ‘Progressive Percentage’ Item Drop Mechanic“) and they alluded to it again in undocumented changes to Alchemy Transmute PROCs
Blues said “It wasn’t about reducing the amount … you could get so much as evening it out to be more consistent over all.” which is consistent with my half-assed theory that loot “luck” is inversely dependent on how long you’ve been trying to get the item. Which fits with my DK getting the turtle mount on the third ever fishing cast, and my main never seeing the old ZG mounts drop despite farming them for 5 years.
Talking points: How many gold farmers are there? Should Blizzard be doing more to help or hinder the gold farmers? What money laundering policies would you implement? Do you think that Blizzard have added their own special sauce to RNG in order to cause addiction?