Leveling up your country

Developing nations are farming MMORPG gold to get ahead

Although the practice of earning in-game money to sell for real cash (gold farming) has been virtually ignored by economists and academics studying business development, real­world gold mining in Ghana employs fewer people than in-game gold farming does. This is one of the many mind-blowing observations delivered in a recent study on gold farming by Richard Heeks of Manchester University in the United Kingdom, covering its development as an industry and its role in developing countries.

Above: Gold farming - it’s where the money is in some developing nations

In his study, Heeks argues that gold farming “does not merely substitute one form of employment for another, but has in places reduced the number of unemployed,” citing research that has found unemployed Chinese gang members were obtaining work at gold farms. Additionally, because gold farming requires broadband-connected PCs, the industry has become an easy, albeit small-scale method for developing nations to promote the growth of their high-tech infrastructure.

It remains a terrible thing for gaming, and violates the terms of service for almost every major MMORPG, but at least now we know it’s doing someone, somewhere, some good. Read the full report here.

Above: This map shows reported locations of gold farming (red represents normal exporting farmers, while lined dots only supply locally)

Nov 12, 2008

We recommend