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Third-World Sweatshops Producing Virtual Goods

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the what-the-market-will-bear dept.

Role Playing (Games) 348

prostoalex writes "MSNBC points to the court cases spawned by virtual worlds. Recently, Tom Loftus notes, a virtual island in one of the MMORPGs sold for $30,000, enough to attract commercial attention. Apparently, some businesses create third-world sweatshops, where low-wage laborers are being paid to play and accumulate enough virtual merchandise, so that an eBay sale of it makes the operation profitable. 'One such business, Blacksnow Interactive, actually sued a virtual world's creator in 2002 for attempting to crack down on the practice. The first of its kind to center on virtual goods, the case was eventually dropped,' MSNBC says." Update: 02/06 18:59 GMT by Z : We ran a story about the sale of the virtual island, and Terra Nova has a lot of commentary on the sale of virtual goods. For comparison, the economic impact of this phenomenon is roughly equal to that of Namibia or Macedonia.

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348 comments

meanwhile... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589097)

people in america pay to play these games

Re:meanwhile... - prophetic SciFi (4, Interesting)

aacool (700143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589326)

Cory Doctorow wrote a short story, Anda's Game [salon.com] about this not too long ago - this is quite interesting.

Since Salon is quite restrictive in access, I put a DRM-free txt/html version on my blog along with a review.

The story itself is here(txt) [freewebs.com] and here(html) [freewebs.com].

A review of the story [blogspot.com] is also on my blog

As is par for Cory's work, the topics are cutting edge - dealing with ebay-driven in-game economics, dietary restrictions on kids,anti-globalization criticism, puns on the Bradbury/Moore controversy and female rights a la SuicideGirls(?). In another time, a little girl might play with a golliwog, a Barbie or a teaset. In this post-modern age, she is a skilled character in a game that borrows from Everquest, Ray Bradbury, Quake and Tolkien - more a killer than a wayfarer. Her participation in, and then disavowal of, an in-game conspiracy to terminate characters who produce in-game gold to be sold for real money on ebay, is bracketed with the onset of youthful diabetes, induced perhaps by the sweetshops just outside the 500 m sugar-free zone at her school.

Sweatshop? (4, Interesting)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589099)

Considering relatively affluent people in the US pay money to play these games for hours on end, I don't think you could describe paying third-world citizens money to play the games as a "sweatshop" work environment.

Where's the signup sheet for this "sweatshop"? I'm sure there's plenty of Slashdot readers that would gleefully sign up.

Re:Sweatshop? (5, Insightful)

xami (740208) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589127)

maybe the work itself doesn't seem hard (to you), but the conditions they have to suffer are really sweatshop-like
BBC had a report about it recently, a dozen workers stuffed into a small, dark room with computers and only a sleeping bag may sound LAN party style to us - but we can leave the party anytime, they can't

Re:Sweatshop? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589152)

I love how the definitions of various words have become so watered down over the last few decades making them nearly meaningless. Torture, which used to mean intense physical pain now means keeping someone awake for too long or insulting their cultural sensitivities.

Now, playing a video game in a small dark room for hours on end is a "sweatshop".

Re:Sweatshop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589185)

You're right, it isn't torture. However, if they can't leave it IS slavery.

Re:Sweatshop? (4, Interesting)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589285)

However, if they can't leave it IS slavery.

Of course they can leave, but the "fair trade" people always conveniently forget that in their quest to justify protectionism. The fact is that the people who work in these "sweatshops" (whether they are making sneakers or RPG characters) are there by choice because they decided the alternatives they had were worse. And if the "sweatshop" was to dissapear, what would happen? They would be left with exactly those alternatives.

Of course it sucks that their are people in world who are so poor that working under awful conditions is a step up for them. But denying them this step up does not help their poverty - instead it locks out their societies from the prospect of economic development.

You can point this out to the left as many times as you want, though, and they won't listen. The reason is that their motives for wanting protectionism have nothing to do with concern for foreign workers. Like all other protectionism, it has to with protecting ourselves from the possibility that others are able to do our jobs better and cheaper.

Re:Sweatshop? (1)

EpsCylonB (307640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589358)

Of course it sucks that their are people in world who are so poor that working under awful conditions is a step up for them. But denying them this step up does not help their poverty - instead it locks out their societies from the prospect of economic development.

Good point, the british empire was at its most powerful when 10 year old boys were sent to work in coalmines.

Re:Sweatshop? (2, Insightful)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589216)

Why can't they? Aren't they allowed to quit?

From my memory, I don't recall 'sweatshop' meaning 'forced labor' and the employees were free to go at anytime.

This makes it exactly like a LAN party, except those people get paid.

Re:Sweatshop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589276)

Many sweatshops include terms where the employee cannot leave or they will not recieve their wages.

remember these are not first world countries we're talking about, they have little to no legal recourse, and when you have a family to feed, you do whatever it takes.

Re:Sweatshop? (5, Informative)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589329)

I actually live in Asia, a lot of these 'sweatshops' are bloody nice work environments! Just as nice as anything you'd find in Australia - the difference is the workers are paid a little higher than average wages most times. If the company is foreign owned or 'bankrolled' - then conditions have to be compliant with all health and safety regs. The exact same pair of jeans sold in america for $100 will cost around $5-$10 here, on the street (shopping centers)

Workers get breaks, medical, dental, nobody under 18, the law is enforced pretty well since failure to do so means big government fines.

It all works out in the end.

These offshore 'call centers' are staffed by college graduates mostly, just looking for a good income - problem is a few 'Americans' think they are 'stupid' in many instances, and hate talking to them. (I have a neice working in one, I hear the stories every day) Can really screw up ones day. These people are smart, they just don't speak english fluently.

Just my 2 cents. (Excluding China, I don't know anything about that place - so previous poster might be right)

Re:Sweatshop? (-1, Troll)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589397)

maybe the work itself doesn't seem hard (to you), but the conditions they have to suffer are really sweatshop-like BBC had a report about it recently, a dozen workers stuffed into a small, dark room with computers and only a sleeping bag may sound LAN party style to us - but we can leave the party anytime, they can't

The fact is that most countries, even in the third world have employment laws that require better employment conditions than in the US. They may not always be observed but the fact that a company is in India does not automatically mean that the working conditions are like the black hole of Calcutta. There are sweatshops in New York City, they are not unique to the third world.

As for taking jobs from American workers, most of the lost jobs are in the red states. Sorry, but I would rather send my money abroad. If people can't tell the difference between the Clinton economy and the Dufus economy then they deserve everything they get.

Re:Sweatshop? (5, Interesting)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589189)

Yeah so all the comments here are "oh wow being paid to play games is considered bad"?

Slashdot or the submitter shouldn't have used the word "sweatshop" because it focuses attention on the working conditions away from the fact that there are companies who really game the system in MMO's for profit. It gets to the point that their actions ruin the in-game economy and playability.

Consider Everquest2. There supposedly exists a group of people who work for one "Boss" (that's actually his in-game name). These people run teams of bot-driven characters who farm items, drive up prices, intrude in other's playing space etc. Supposedly a lot of their items end up being sold on online auctions.

Re:Sweatshop? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589261)

if they really broke the ingame economy, they wouldn't be able to exist for years and years.

the real problem is of course that they the mmorpg creators create environments where this is profitable(and then pretend that real world doesn't exist). they create worlds where there are precious items.. that can be sold through the real world.

Re:Sweatshop? (3, Interesting)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589286)

Have you ever seen the EverQuest economy? It cut the 'normal' or casual player out. Prices were so inflated it was darn near impossible to get anything without killing the mob yourself. Not much for a player economy.

Re:Sweatshop? (1)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589463)

This is why I don't play these games. When it stops being fun and becomes work, I'd rather just... well, go to work. }:)

-Z

Re:Sweatshop? (2, Insightful)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589278)

"Where's the signup sheet for this "sweatshop"? I'm sure there's plenty of Slashdot readers that would gleefully sign up."

Would they be willing to do it if they got paid 1 rupee an hour?
I guess the willingness to play for money goes away very quickly when you have to reach a certain target each day , because otherwise you would be risking losing the money that goes towards feeding you/your family.

Just because it's not physical work, doesn't mean you can't exploit people.

Re:Sweatshop? (1)

STrinity (723872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589290)

Not to mention that sweatshops are so named for their lack of suitable venhilation. Try that with computers, and you'll soon be paying more to fix overheated computers than you're saving on labor.

Re:Sweatshop? (1)

Dragoon412 (648209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589353)

I agree with you that using the term sweatshop is probably overstating how harsh the conditions are, but these guys aren't just playing the game. They're grinding and farming. It's more like being a QA tester than playing; it's boring, frustrating, repetative work, usually in games that are boring, frustrating, and repetative to begin with.

"sweat"shops? (1, Redundant)

yelohbird (658476) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589102)

I really don't get how being paid to play MMORPGs constitutes as sweatshop labor. Here in the U.S., people pay money to online services to play MMORPGs. Besides sweating in an unairconditioned room, I don't see how such would violate any human rights laws. In fact, it creates more jobs in a new industry to aid third-world citizens who otherwise might be unemployed. There really is no case there.

Re:"sweat"shops? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589130)

Think carpal tunnel syndrome inflicted upon people who have very little keyboard and mouse experience.

Ok, that's a little silly... what if they beat them while making them play for 16 hours straight or something?

Re:"sweat"shops? (1)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589288)

Err, right.

Most of those poeple would be HAPPY to sit in an office that is likely simple, but air-conditioned, and they likely work reasonable working hours. In fact, they probably even get paid overtime if they choose to work it.

Hiring 3rd world labour is relatively cheap, it doesn't have to be a sweatshop to be profitable.

I feel soooo sorry for them (0, Redundant)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589103)

I mean, playing games all day is such tough labor. There has got to be laws against this! *Gasp*

Those poor guys in the sweatshops playing games all day... It must be very very hard blue-collar work. *sigh*

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (5, Insightful)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589179)

I think it would depend on the labor conditions.

If it's "Work 8-10 hours a day with a couple of breaks and an hour off for lunch, and a wage that a person can afford to live on (assuming third world country costs, this might be $5/day or so)", then yes, your sarcasm is met.

If it's "work eighteen hours with no breaks, no air conditioning and if you get carpel tunnel that's your own damned fault, and if you miss a quote you miss pay for the day (which might be just enough to buy food at $0.25/day) , and we employ the twelve year olds who's other choice is prostitution so the constant threat of 'perform or die' is hanging over their head 24/7" - then your sarcasm might not be met.

It's all in the scale.

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589296)

we employ the twelve year olds who's other choice is prostitution so the constant threat of 'perform or die' is hanging over their head 24/7" - then your sarcasm might not be met.

If they get closed down, then these twelve year olds won't have another choice, so it must be a good thing, right?

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589407)

Amazingly enough, that doesn't mean that either choice is good. Just bad and worse. Obviously something a lot of Slashdotters can't seem to fathom.

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

Eminence (225397) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589305)

Don't you think that sweating building things in a virtual world is anyway a better job than said prostitution or just a Nike factory or some mechanical sweatshop? At least you don't get this dirty and can't get AIDS through that. And having said that these people have a good reason to do it, while many people do this stuff without getting paid, in the so-called developed countries. Wasting their lives and any talents they might posses in something this stupid. It's pure madness.

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

bluFox (612877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589310)

[Quoted [If it's "work eighteen hours with no breaks, no air conditioning and if you get carpel tunnel that's your own damned fault, and if you miss a quote you miss pay for the day (which might be just enough to buy food at $0.25/day) , and we employ the twelve year olds who's other choice is prostitution so the constant threat of 'perform or die' is hanging over their head 24/7" - then your sarcasm might not be met.]]

Could you please specify where you got this information from?
From what I can see in the article, It says nothing about the working conditions of the people involved.
What makes you think that they employ 12 year olds? and what really makes you think that 12 year olds who are good enough to be game players would otherways be sexualy exploited ?
[first of all It needs access to computers which is affordable only in middle class families, and those people do not really have to go into things like prostitution to support themselves.]

What really was your motivation in tying up these two unrelated matters? If it was to grab attention, it seems you got it already, though I think it merrits "-5 really mean".

While wages are generally low in the developing countries, It is not as low as 0.25$'s a day, In fact in almost any place computers are involved, it is enough to lead an affluent life. The jobs like this [game playing] would be especially sought after.

Please do try to check your inferences with the actual world before shooting off something like this, would you?

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589443)

Okay, you conveniently forgot to read 3 out of 4 paragraphs of the grandparent when replying to it! Nicely done. Here's a helpful link [abcteach.com].

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589314)

Work only 18 hours a day? Thats luxury.

We used to work 29 hours a day, and pay the mill owner for permission to come to work...

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589203)

No...you don't understand...they make them play with 5200FX..5200FX!!!!

Re:I feel soooo sorry for them (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589279)

It could be worse. There could be a Daikatana online game and a market for its virtual goods. Luckily no one would want to buy virtual islands or goods in a really crappy game .. right?

Mind you, all that cheap labour could be useful for outsourcing NPCs rather than hiring expensive AI to do the job.

wtf? (1)

st1d (218383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589104)

Damn it, those sweat shop workers aren't supposed to have fun deskjobs. Get them back into the backbreaking and toxic exposure occupations. Geez, this whole world is just falling to peices.

Sweatshops==gameplaying?

Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589106)

OMG, I can't believe that. People are spending real-world money for virtual merchandise?

Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. I swear my roommate's job is World of Warcraft... he plays it enough. I tell him that he should go eat or go to the bathroom, but he insists on leveling his wizard or something. I think its funny (perhaps because it's unfathomably pathetic).

Re:Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (1)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589167)

I agree. I remember back in 2000 I heard that one of my graduate classmates from high school sold his Everquest character for $800 or something. My little brother is selling his Diablo 2 character and last I heard the bidding was over $200 on E-bay. I honestly think it's sickening to imagine people willing to spend this much money on something that isn't real. That's just my opinion though.

On another note, I have been avoiding MMORPGs my entire life. I'm absolutely terrified that my soul will be consumed and my real life will be all but destroyed.

Re:Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589245)

do you thing HBO is "real"? how about "MTV". How about that new flick you just watched?

Re:Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (2, Insightful)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589311)

"What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'? If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain." The depth of philosophy in the Matrix never ceases to amaze me. =D

Re:Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (3, Insightful)

someme2 (670523) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589346)

I honestly think it's sickening to imagine people willing to spend this much money on something that isn't real. That's just my opinion though.
Sorry? The value of the money spent isn't real, either.

People treating imaginary stuff as if it were "real" is a normal thing. Actually, our entire society is based on the fact that people do that.

Consider these simple examples just to get you started:

Laws

Borders

The concept of "owning" things

I can very well imagine a number of reasons why it can be considered sickening to trade everquest characters for that much money. For example you might argue that it is decadent. But the fact that everquest characters are not "real" is nothing special.

Re:Video game addiction is becoming an epidemic. (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589369)


Now I wish I could give you some 'insightful' mods for that post. But then mod points aren't real either ;) Just another consensual fiction we use to organize ourselves.

At least, unlike money, mod points don't devalue through inflation.

Virtual property is virtual theft (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589317)

Just wait until crime catches up. "Mr Anderson, you are charged with virtual theft exceeding 500 gold pieces in value. How do you plead?" Maybe the next round of viruses and trojans won't be about spam or DDoS but to steal virtual goods.

Or maybe phish attacks? "Our records indicate that someone has tried to gain access to your World of Warcraft account. Unless you contact us immediately, we will be forced to suspend your account for security reasons. Please click on this innocent looking link and give us all your logon information."

this is like something out of an SF novel (2, Interesting)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589108)

first, paying for something like this is just strange, in my opinion.

But then the whole thing of having 3rd world sweatshops to produce virtual real estate is like something out of a science fiction novel. But I doubt any SF novel has ever dealt with that subject. SF is really not all that original or truly predictive of our real world, in my opinion.

Thank you capitalism (3, Funny)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589121)

for creating a system where uneducated people in uncivilized countries can stop their endless cycle of backbreaking labor, to play video games, for 3. Profit!

Re:Thank you capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589312)

uneducated people in uncivilized countries

We are not talking of the USA here!

Poor kids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589122)

Apparently, some businesses create third-world sweatshops, where low-wage laborers are being paid to play and accumulate enough virtual merchandise, so that an eBay sale of it makes the operation profitable.

Those poor kids... Being paid to play games... Hey, wait a minute!

Economics Still holds even in virtual reality (1, Insightful)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589128)

The only significant thing about this story is the attidudes it reveals about those writing it. The inherent idea that employers are evil and employing someone is akin to rape. Sweatshop, Hmm how about third worlders now have a chance to earn money and gain computer skills while participating in recreational activities.

Re:Economics Still holds even in virtual reality (1)

hugzz (712021) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589255)

It depends how they are treated if they don't live up to their quota though. If there's some boss laying the smack down on n00bs, then I'm not so sure I support it. Getting beaten up for failure isn't akin to free access to a net café like it may first seem.

However if they're treated fine then it sounds okay to me. But I've never been a big hater of sweatshops anyway

Re:Economics Still holds even in virtual reality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589341)

You honestly don't know what the fuck you're talking about, do you?

These guys pay people in korea and china in sweatshop conditions to do nothing but 'farm' money and items from online games. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that while they are doing this to make a profit they are:

A) Ruining the in-game economies for the players who play for fun.

B) Selling intellectual property that does not belong to them.

C) Hogging resources and areas and depriving real customers of what they paid for.

Most MMO's these days are coming with EULAs that state that it is against the terms of service to sell any ingame items or accounts. I neither buy accounts or ingame goods/money, I believe that these people are breaking the TOS of these games. Accounts should be transferrable, in my opinion, because they're what you pay for when you buy the game. Having said that, when you play the games, you agreed to the terms and conditions expressed by the owners of the games.

The sweatshop farmers work 8-10 hours doing nothing but killing mosters to collect their gold. While others in comments might say they're getting paid to play the game, they most certainly are not. If you want to see what these guys can do to a game, go and look at Lineage 2. Sweatshop farmers ruined that game. And they will ruin any other game where this type of behavior is not combatted pro-actively.

And as to how they ruin a game it goes something like this:

1. Sweat shops farm the gold, stopping players from legitimately adventuring in the areas they occupy.

2. They sell humongous amounts of gold on eBay and websites like IGN.

3. All the gold that is being farmed and not put back into gold sinks starts inflating the cost of items.

4. Something that once cost 1 gold, now sells for 100 because people have too much money.

5. New players can not afford the items they need, forcing them out of the game.

These poor little koreans who need to earn their 3 dollars a week are ruining games people PAY TO PLAY. I find it unacceptable. And so do the other players of MMOs. Whether some third world pissants get paid where they otherwise wouldn't is immaterial.

Re:Economics Still holds even in virtual reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589370)

LOL and Walter Cronkite doesn't wan't windmills to ruin his sightlines because the cost of a Killowatt Hour doesn't matter to him. Its always lovely to see libs and demagogues in action

If you don't like the way these people are acting stop them in game. They are no worse than many guilds.

Re:Economics Still holds even in virtual reality (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589371)

Hmm how about third worlders now have a chance to earn money and gain computer skills while participating in recreational activities.

The only significant thing about this comment is the attidudes it reveals about those writing it.

... what? (2, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589131)

So let me get this right.

1. Create virtual world
2. Buy virtual island with REAL money
3. Pay REAL people REAL money to play in virtual world ...

4. Sell accumulated virtual wealth for REAL cash money on ebay... ... what? Who the fuck would buy with REAL money something in a video game that they could just sign up for and get themselves?

I mean I bought minish cap for 40$ [cdn]. I wouldn't pay someone money for a savegame so I could beat the game quicker. That kinda defeats the purpose doesn't it?

As a side note I see the REAL accumulation of things as kinda pointless as well. I mean I do have cool shit [e.g. 500W 5.1 stereo, 17" LCD, amd64, etc...] but you won't find a shirt in my room worth more than 10$ nor diamond encrusted watches, etc...e.g. I buy practical stuff I can actually use and benefit from...

I hope they sell it for a lot of cash money and I hope whoever buys it gets exposed for the dork they are. ;-)

Tom

Re:... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589142)

I think it has to do with the feelings of power and superiority involved with posessing things that no one else could have unless they invested 3000 hours within 2 weeks. Without having to actually put in an amount of time that would be physically impossible, or any amount of time at all. You can just go around bragging and smiting.

Re:... what? (1)

darkpadden (816759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589174)

This has be going on for along time now http://www.mysupersales.com/ started by buying/selling Eq accounts and virtual stuff. want some plat? how about 1,000 K worth? only $609.99

Re:... what? (5, Insightful)

DreadCthulhu (772304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589182)

Well, in a MMORPG, a good item (like say, the Sword of Pwning) might be really useful for your character, when your clan is fighting someone else. However, it might take a 10 hr quest to get the Sword of Pwning, and this busy first-worlder has a high paying job, so that can't skip that. So you buy the sword for real cash, because you get enjoyment out of the sword, just like you benefit from your 500Watt sterio that was probably built by some other third-worlder.

Re:... what? (2, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589192)

You underestimate the "idiotic-stupid-levelup-factor" of many of those mmporg.

Its nothing about finishing the game quicker, its about not having to spend 20$ per months for ages until after doutzends of wasted hours you charactar is finally strong enough to kill stuff other than rats or rabbits....

Re:... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589213)

http://penny-arcade.com/images/2004/20041231l.jpg

Re:... what? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589259)

If that's how they work, I don't want to play them. Seriously the only reason an rpg was ever fun was because you could become sufficiently good to beat the game in a reasonable amount of time. I don't see the fun in massively multiplayer, where you just keep on getting better weapons and stronger characters for no other reason than bragging rights. And don't even get me started on those Final Fantasy games where every attack you send out goes into a 3 minute eye-candy fest where the Original FF1 guy steps forward, guy shakes sword, would have worked just as well. Especially the 56th time you've seen the stupid video.

Re:... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589201)

"As a side note I see the REAL accumulation of things as kinda pointless as well. I mean I do have cool shit [e.g. 500W 5.1 stereo, 17" LCD, amd64, etc...] but you won't find a shirt in my room worth more than 10$ nor diamond encrusted watches, etc...e.g. I buy practical stuff I can actually use and benefit from..."

Cool? Yes, but you're a NERD!

Re:... what? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589238)

It's all about bragging rights. Also known as "bigger penis" syndrome.

Regardless of what is being bought in an open and free market, if both the seller and purchaser are pleased with the transaction and no ill effects come of it (such in the case with drugs), then I don't see the problem.

And ya, people just love to 1up eachother to boost their own self esteem.

Re:... what? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589266)

Well, the difference is that Minish Cap is a game that's fun to play. MMORPGs are structured too much towards levelling to keep people playing for a long time. You do the same few things over and over again for hours until some numbers increase, then you do that again until the numbers increase again. That's just no fun. MMOs spread the fun thin so you need to pay for as long as possible to experience it all but for many people that fun is below a treshold and not noticeable.
In other words: Because MMOs aren't fun to play these people pay other people to get through the game as fast as possible.

Re:... what? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589327)

.... if the game isn't any fun... WHY PLAY IT?

I mean if I have to spend 8 hours running in a circle killing he exact same creature to get a bit more HP or something... I just take the game, snap it in half and throw it in the garbage...

Being smart I just tend to avoid those sorts of RPG games thus saving the breaking the game I paid money for..

Tom

Re:... what? (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589344)

Do you ever buy ready made food? Why? You can make it yourself, can't you?

Sometimes people don't have the skills, or the time, but would want the benefits of a product anyway, so they pay for it.

I don't see how this is any different from buying any other product.

People have been buying hint books and books with cheat codes for decades, so why are people surprised they now buy objects that will help them with their games just because the objects reside in the game itself?

almost jobless (1)

3arwax (808691) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589140)

From my perspective isn't this almost like being jobless?

I know people who sit around all day doing nothing but playing games and for various reasons don't have a job.

If this we would have people who sit around all day doing nothing but playing games and make a couple bucks literally.

Exploiting people for so you can pretend to be powerful seems like a pretty poor way to live.

Re:almost jobless (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589237)

Time is money.
It's no different then sitting around playing the stock market.

Or sitting around doing ANY activity that has value to someone else and is willing to pay for.

This, in essence, is what capitalism is all about.

Only thing scarier.. (2, Funny)

inturnaround (856837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589158)

The only thing that's scarier to me than the existence of virtual sweatshops is the possibilty, remote though it may be, of the existence of a virtual Kathie Lee Gifford. Yikes!

Seen this before (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589160)

There was already An excellent thread [slashdot.org] about the rational behind this

Virtual Goods? (4, Interesting)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589166)

Let's think about it. What makes these goods more "virtual" (ie not-real) than MP3 music or videos? No, really?

Re:Virtual Goods? (2, Insightful)

inturnaround (856837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589173)

They can't be taken anywhere else but the game. Because it cannot exist in the real world. You can actually burn MP3s to a CD and virtual becomes "real".

Re:Virtual Goods? (2, Insightful)

devillion (831115) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589209)

Work done is also virtual. Music requires real skill s to create. MMRPG admins could create unlimited number of items if they wanted.

Re:Virtual Goods? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589217)

heck if you really think about it. PAPER MONEY is virtual.

Re:Virtual Goods? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589307)

Which is why it is in important that we keep believing in it, else it will literally become worthless

Re:Virtual Goods? (1)

Gubbe (705219) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589431)

How long until MMORPG admins start doing precisely that?

Well, not unlimited, but create some very rare or powerful artifacts and auction them on the game's web site for real money?

Perhaps they could do it for charity at first to not appear too greedy and then some other company would do the same except not for charity anymore.
Animals, transportation, revealing hints for quests, level-up potions. Anything. Perhaps even custom made weapons for those who have the money to spend.

As long as they still keep equal items achievable through hard work by "normal" players, they could make a fortune off of selling these "Virtual Penis Enlargement Pills(TM)" to rich people who don't have much time to spend on acquiring all this stuff inside the game.

They wouldn't even have to employ sweatshops since they could just create everything with a click of a mouse.

Re:Virtual Goods? (2, Insightful)

Dragoon412 (648209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589366)

These goods exist in a virtual world of sorts.

If I download an MP3, and the company that sold it for me tanks, I can still listen to it (in theory, anyways, DRM tries to prevent that), I can burn it to CD, etc.

With these goods, they exists solely as data on a server owned by another company. You can't take them with you, you can't make any use of said items outside their virtual world. If they pull the plug on the server, you're SoL - no more items.

Doctorow wrote about this (4, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589168)

Here's a link (think there might be a commercial to go through, but there it is:)

http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/11/15/andas _game/index.html [salon.com]

A story about what MMRPG's might be like in the future, and the repercussions of that in our lives, including the "sweat shop" idea. The first half made me go "Eh, another story about MMRPG's and the evils of playing all the time", but then when the meat of the story came in it had me thinking.

Seems the future is now.

Good (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589170)

This only goes to show that our world is full of opportunities (as stupid as they might be) to make money...

This is obvious to economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589207)

Time is money
This is a new market.
They should be encouraging this.
I mean what is the difference between going to a casio, exchanging real money for chips and playing games?
video games are the natural means to take this idea to the next stage.

And how is this different from the real world? (4, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589220)

My bank account is represented by a bunch of 1s and 0s in some database in the sky. There's no real paper behind it. It's virtual. Now, if someone wiped out the 1s to 0s, I'd have grounds to sue.

Value and money doesn't exist in the physical world. It's a contrived social concept that we humans have created. It's an illusion. So if it's "virtual" in the real world, seems perfectly logical that it can be virtual in the virtual world, too.

There's a commercial a-coming! (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589233)

On late night TV with Sally Struthers: "This is Juan. He's 14. He works in sweatshop in Thirdo Worlda producing Evercrack virtual goods. For just $2 a day, your contribution could ensure that Juan no longer has to do this to survive. Won't you please help?" (Contribute now and receive a Juan screen saver with RSS feed from Juan's blog. You can make a difference.)

You see where this is going, right? (1)

flopsy mopsalon (635863) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589249)

Not only will people in countries around the world organize demonstrations protesting the effects of globalization, soon the denizens of places like Norrath and the World of Warcraft will be doing it too.

Maybe that's what happened to the Frogloks: they're all locked in factories making soccer balls.

Victim (1)

dominick (550229) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589260)

I am one of the so-called victims in the named lawsuit. I entered the virtual world looking for an outlet to escape reality. I was looking for a peaceful world to make a decent living and to live in harmony. All of a sudden some hot shot business executive promised our virtual world companies increased revenues by outsourcing. I was then forced out of my job and then forced to work in a sweatshop for 2 virtual cents an hour. I was treatly poorly and sometimes pinged to increase my network latency. I was exposed to virtual fumes which has caused me life-long problems. I am seeking 4,000,000 virtual dollars for compensation for pain and suffering. I hope others will join me in a virtual class-action lawsuit.

So, why bother playing this shit? (2, Interesting)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589268)

I know this is going to come off as flame-bait; so I'll apologize in advance. But given the cheating, the internet fucktard factor and every other shitty factor (people who are working irl will take over your area according to one post here [slashdot.org]? wtf is that all about?) ... why bother playing online?

Between that, and the people who are out in the FPS games who deliberately spoil people's games ... there are not anywhere close to enough measures in place to be able to insure a fair and pleasent gaming experience for the casual gamer (read: someone who actually has to work for a living)... ...is online gaming just some jackass "omg we're so hardcore" avocation or am I missing something that makes the cheaters and invaders and general assholes worth paying cash money to put up with? Because from where I sit (outside, looking in) it looks really, really crappy -- and i certainly wouldn't be willing to pony up any cash to join the crapfest which is online gaming, that's for sure.

Re:So, why bother playing this shit? (4, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589347)

I really just can't understand the morons in online FPSs who go around TKing etc. I've tried talking to them sometimes, asking "why do you do this?" in as nice a way as possible, but of course never got an answer. The idea of playing an MMORPG, where the potential number of morons available to piss me off is so much higher, doesn't appeal to me much.

I have sat and watched someone spend half an hour stacking planes on an aircraft carrier deck so no one could take off (Coral sea,BF1942) before an admin joined and kicked him. What kind of mentality must a person have to waste half an hour doing something incredibly dull and repetitive (enter plane, taxi forwards, exit plane, wait for new plane to spawn, repeat) purely to piss off people he doesn't know who are trying to have fun?

It basically means only servers with admins are worth playing on. I have about five servers in my favourites list that I know have good admins and decent auto-kick settings. I occasionally play on other servers, but I always regret it.

Re:So, why bother playing this shit? (1)

skeptictank (841287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589448)

These are not games like CounterStrike or BF1942. Common cheats like speedhack don't work on most of them. Cheating is much harder on an MMOG because the game mechanics reside on a remote server. The client software is just an interface to the game. Cheating by other players generally doesn't have much impact, especially on the casual player. It's more likely to impact the other hardcore players. The interactions between players are much more complex than just shooting the other guy. They are so complex in fact, that these games evolve their own economies and social structures.

from an mmo player (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589282)

I play the mmo's...

We call them chinese farmers. They will get on and create macros that will let their characters run around and kill all day long. This farms gold for them to sell on ebay. It ruins the game economy which takes away from the overall experience that we pay for.

The best example of how it ruins the game is Lineage 2. Everyone quit the game due to the farming. It was also a player vs player game and the farmers would swarm you if you came into their area. They would open up trade windows over and over or try to invite you to group with them 100 times a minute (this will cause you to not be able to fight back).

We are seeing the problem in World of Warcraft now as well(the farmers).

Re:from an mmo player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589292)

Sounds like the end of the mmo, then. I mean, with crap like that, why fucking bother?

Loftus Notes? (1)

RichardX (457979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589295)

Getting dangerously close to some trademarks there, boyo. you don't want to end up like Lindows, do you?

What's a sweatshop and what's not? (3, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589303)

I think it depends on a variety of factors. While it might seem like a dream come true to work at such a place doing such a thing, I can only imagine what it would be like for it to become an occupation. And that factor alone does not make it a dream job.

For example, if for some reason, you were 'forced' to do this for less pay than is needed to survive -- it's no less slavery than if they were out picking cotton as a sharecropper. The situations exist and while this might certainly be a preferable occupation to one that might require bending one's back, I can see where even this could cause hazzards if, for example, they were forced (required) to do this for far too many hours under uncomfortable conditions. Hasn't any of you gamers ever played ridiculously long hours and then paid for it in fatigue the next day? Consider if it were required of you to do that EVERY day.

Now I'm merely stretching my imagination here and not assuming these ideas are facts, but when someone says "sweatshop labor" and attempts to tie it in with game play, I don't automatically call bullshit and I don't think anyone else should simply because they think it might be fun to earn a living this way.

Now on to the poor bastards who would actually PAY all this money for virtual crap... those people need some serious psychological assistance. I mean really. All that to gain dominance in a virtual world? It seems very ridiculous to me.

I think the game company supporting games that this could potentially should include a license agreement that says "your account can be erased for any reason including suspicion that you are not the original owner of a given character." When they spend an assload of money only to have their character erased, I think a LOT of that market would suddenly disappear.

Get a real virtual job (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589357)

How about if the gaming companies hired those cheap workers to run their NPCs? Rather than shopkeeper bots and such, they could give the roles a human touch. (If they don't speak English so well, hey, welcome to the real fantasy world!) If they do well, they could be promoted to more important virtual jobs, like Lord British's secret service bodyguards or something. Or perhaps sell their services on the open market, like in Diamond Age.

buying virtual items isn't all that strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589308)

It is really a matter of time value of money.

If bob works 60 hours a week and gets to play his mmo as a hobby on the weekends. Paying 10 bucks for 100 gold is not a big deal to him. It would be no different than going to the movies, and buying popcorn and a drink.

Virtual items are tangible and have value.

online shopping sucks (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589332)

It's a "sweatshop" because the working conditions are really bad, and the pay is really low. The work itself is not as arduous as, say, sewing raincoats for 30 hours at a stretch, or soldering 5 thousand LEDs into Christmas light cables before being allowed to clock out. And they can quit, with many people dying to take their jobs when they do. But the physically demanding nature of traditional sweatshops isn't their defining characteristic, or steelmills would all be sweatshops in more than just a colorful description of their atmosphere.

Sweatshop labor is more of a commentary on the rest of the local economy. People don't quit, though they are "free" to, because there's no alternative labor available. That's almost always because there's no capital available to entrepreneurs, no competition among labor buyers, no real value applied to their labor. All of which is usually due to some political repression, a command economy, company towns - all the conditions we had in the US before labor organized in the 20th Century do protect our rights to work in human conditions. Which is why it sounds familiar to Slashdotters slaving away in cubefarms, wishing we could get paid to play games instead of write Java DB reporting systems.

In Russia (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11589337)

We all mine veldaspar. RUS corp 2003-2005 (c)

Jeez, capitalism sure is exploitative (-1)

tjic (530860) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589368)

Because of the evil forces of capitalism, people who once would have worked in mines or rice paddies are being paid to slave away, indoors, playing video games. Is there no end to the greed of capitalists, and the damage that they cause?!?!?!? Something Must Be Done(tm)!!!

Time has a value (4, Insightful)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 9 years ago | (#11589381)

To those of you who have posted "OMGWTFBBQ why would people pay for virtual goods?", I can only say that time has a value that varies from person to person. So a network admin, for example, who makes $50 per hour, and wants an item that would take him four hours to pop, might put a $200 value on that item. Even $200 seems a bit excessive, but that admin might say "fuck it" and spring for the $20, especially if that item allows him to access content that he would rather spend his time enjoying. In the same way, people who like MMORPGs but have limited time to play them might pay real money for in-game money because that money will help them get through the "clear the rat den levels." If their time is worth $50 per hour, and they spend $30 on gold that saves them 10 in-game hours of leveling boredom, that's a cost effective purchase. As long as this remains true, a market for MMORPG items will exist.

Let me also pre-empt the replies that will say playing a game should be about enjoying the experience and the ride, not a power-trip toward getting an uber character and the ultimate foozle power: I agree. I'd never buy something in an MMORPG. That doesn't mean time doesn't have value and that buyers are necessarily evil.

Some MMORPGs recognize that this is bad for their game and take steps to prevent it. World of Warcraft, as far as I know, will "bind" some items to whoever picks them up. Technical solutions do exist, but as long as the economic conditions described in my first paragraph exist, I expect people will have a power incentive to get around the restrictions.

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