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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 15, 2005

Written by C.N.

Outsourcing Video Game Playing to China

First, Americans outsourced manufacturing and factory jobs overseas to countries like Mexico and China. Then in recent years, Americans have increasingly outsourced white-collar professional jobs like customer service, computer programming, and engineering to China, Indian, the Philippines, etc. Now here’s the latest trend: the New York Times reports that affluent Americans who are also video game enthusiasts but who don’t have the time are now outsourcing video game playing to the Chinese:

The people working at this clandestine locale are “gold farmers.” They “play” computer games by killing onscreen monsters and winning battles, harvesting artificial gold coins and other virtual goods as rewards that can be transformed into real cash. From Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them. . . . .

Many online gaming factories have come to resemble the thousands of textile mills and toy factories that have moved here from Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of the world to take advantage of China’s vast pool of cheap labor.

But gold farming is controversial. Many hard-core gamers say the factories are distorting the games. What is more, the big gaming companies say the factories are violating the terms of use of the games, which forbid players to sell their virtual goods for real money. They have vowed to crack down on those suspected of being small businesses rather than individual gamers. . . .

On eBay, for example, 100 grams of World of Warcraft gold is available for $9.99 or two ├╝ber characters from EverQuest for $35.50. It costs $269 to be transported to Level 60 in Warcraft, and it typically takes 15 days to get the account back at the higher level. In fact, the trading of virtual property is so lucrative that some big online gaming companies have jumped into the business, creating their own online marketplaces.

Capitalism’s relentless march goes on and on. Not only are Americans willing to outsource their work, but now they’re apparently willing to outsource their leisure as well by paying foreigners to play video games for them. I wonder if Jay Leno would use one of his “How fat and lazy are we getting in America when we have to outsource your video game playing overseas?” jokes here, since it certainly applies.

It just makes me wonder what’s next in line to be outsourced — playing online poker? Skiing? Bungee jumping? Life???

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Outsourcing Video Game Playing to China" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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