World of Warcraft is (apparently) a highly addictive massively multiplayer online role playing game, or MMORPG for short. I checked WOW out a while ago and didn’t get massively addicted which I was kind of gutted about. Anyway, when you play WOW you are given gold when you complete missions and kill enemies, the more gold you have the more shit you can do, but it’s actually pretty hard to get gold and can take a lot of time. People know this and are willing to pay real money for virtual gold and when someone is willing to pay for something there is room for some exploitation somewhere along the line. Turns out that prison guards in China have been forcing Chinese prisoners to play 12 hour shifts of WOW with the sole purpose of collecting virtual gold which can then be sold for real dollar, or yuan.
PC World spoke to a former prisoner who speaks about his forced (virtual) labour:
According to Dali, 300 prisoners participated in the virtual chain gang, playing 12-hour shifts: “The computers were never turned off.” Prison guards were reportedly able to sell the virtual currency for up to 6,000 yuan a day, which is about $930 — not a bad sum.
The prisoners, who naturally never saw any of the money, also had quotas to meet. According to Dali, “If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. 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.”
It must suck being stuck in prison, but if you’re a WOW addict who gets locked up and forced to play WOW for hours on end then I think you’ve got a pretty sweet deal.