The New (Virtual) Lower Class

There’s an excellent post over on Terra Nova (Link) concerning a documentary (in progress) about Chinese “gold farmers”, people who make a living playing videogames by earning virtual loot which is then sold for real money via sites like eBay. The topic isn’t new. I’ve posted about it previously; most extensively in a post over on the SL Future Salon website (Link).

What is new are increasing reports of racial tension in these online worlds; the most recent being a report of South Korean gamers targeting Chinese “opportunists” breaching unspoken rules of game etiquette (Link to article on Joystiq). The Terra Nova entry puts a new light on this issue. From the post:

In watching the video, I am most struck by the intertwined empowerment/disempowerment that is occurring simultaneously for these Chinese workers. Their lives in these virtual worlds are brighter, but yet their interactions with American players (and associated slurs) are a constant reminder of their inferior socio-economic status.

This is a fascinating and important topic imo, so be sure to read the Terra Nova entry as well as the comments. They’re always excellent.

To help put some of this in perspective, you might also want to check out the Subtopia blog entry (Link) discussing Mike Davis’ book, Planet of Slums. The pictures alone tell the story. But having been in some of the worst slums in both South America and Asia, I can honestly say the pictures don’t communicate half of what the reality is.