Chinese Prisoners Forced to Play Online Games
Prisoners earn credits that guards flip for cash
By Tim Karan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2011 10:37 AM CDT
Prisoners in China are forced to farm virtual gold in games like World Of Warcraft.   (AP Photo/Blizzard Entertainment, file)

(Newser) – Welcome to chain gangs 2.0. Prisoners in Chinese labor camps toil away by day, digging ditches and breaking rocks—and by night, they're forced to play online games like World Of Warcraft, where they mine virtual gold that prison guards sell for actual cash, the Guardian reports. According to a former prison guard who was later incarcerated at the Jixi labor camp in northeast China, the racket generates more money than physical labor does.

"Gold farming" is the practice of repeating basic tasks over and over in online games like WOW in order to gain valuable credits that are sold to players looking for a shortcut to progressing in the game. It's estimated that 80% of the gold farmers in the world are in China, and guards could pocket more than $900 a day from the routine. "If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically," says the ex-con. "They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory, they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things."