Runescape players who farm gold so they don’t starve

Venezuela is in the midst of an economic collapse. What once was the richest large economy in Latin America now suffer from shortages of essentials such as food and electricity, as well as spikes in crime and unemployment. To put dinner on the table, many are turning to unconventional jobs. Like the culture of gold. In a 2001 MMO.

If you even remember Runescape, a fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game released by Jagex, it’s probably “that seedy looking game you played a few months ago 10 years ago.” But it works great on hardware that hasn’t been called cutting edge in over a decade, which means it’s accessible to many cash-strapped Venezuelans, and its gold is going still in a fairly real world. penny. Gold mining, generally, is the practice of grinding in a game specifically for the purpose of generating in-game currency or other content to be exchanged for real world money. While it is forbidden by Runescapethe rules ofit is also relatively safe and comfortable work in a place where its safety is by no means guaranteed.

“I farm gold primarily for the raw benefits of it,” a player who goes through the Fhynal handle via DM told me. “I don’t need to go out. It may sound strange, but we live with a lot of crime. If you want to go out you have to use a bus, [which increases your] propensity to be robbed.

Fhynal said he earns about 200,000 to 250,000 Venezuelan bolivares, or about $ 15 to $ 20 per week. This amounts to “doubling, sometimes tripling” the average monthly salary in Venezuela, he said, even factoring in the occasional week he takes off to keep a “low profile” and avoid getting caught.

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Image credit: Jagex.

For Fhynal, that’s just enough to make ends meet for himself and his mother, as long as inflation doesn’t push up food prices in the stratosphere.

“The truth is that there are people who, if they didn’t play, couldn’t eat and would starve,” said a former Runescape farmer who wished to remain anonymous told me on Facebook. “I have friends who play every day, and if they don’t play, they don’t eat that day.”

More and more Venezuelans are increasingly aware of the benefits of growing gold. Earlier this year, a local newspaper published an article about the process. Runescape gamers, meanwhile, continually report seeing dozens of gold producers crammed into places like the Blast mine and East Dragons. This resulted in growing tensions, with players doing everything from regularly demanding that the developer Jagex prohibits all gold producers from publish a guide that helps other players hunt, kill, and curse farmers more effectively.

The author of the guide, who received 1,613 upvotes and 769 old school comments Runescape subreddit, claimed they did it with jokes, but he still split part of Runic Landscape 2007of community along very sharp lines.

“I never thought I would see a guide on how to effectively kill the poor” read an answer. “Literal humanitarian crisis underway there. People who are starving. [The guide’s author] think it is a good plan not only to kill them but to taunt them in their own language and [teabag] them on the way back… That’s a pretty asshole shit there, ” read another.

Image credit: Jagex.

Image credit: Jagex.

Others, however, have argued that since gold producers are breaking the rules and damaging the economics of the game, they deserve whatever comes their way and don’t seem to have much sympathy for their situation. “It messes up the economy of the game and breaks the rules,” said one player responding to the guide. “I understand Venezuela is fucked up, but damn man, there are better things to do with your fucking time than farming gold. Things like learning something new or anything that can help your country out of a bad situation. “

There was also a third variety of responses: People said they took the guide’s advice and went looking for “Pablos”, while some took to calling the Venezuelan players. “They actually get annoyed if you keep killing and cursing them in Spanish,” [and] they will try to gang up on you, ”said one person who claimed they had been there for a few hours. “Free loot + fun. “

The guide was not the first time Runescape the players had expressed anti-Venezuelan sentiment, but this was by far the most vicious example.

“I expected people to empathize and realize for once that games just might be a way to change people’s lives,” said Yasser, a former Runescape farmer who moved to the United States a year ago, in a DM. Instead, he said, “It all made you feel rage. It is not your usual rage for “political debate”, but something more personal, especially because my family is still [in Venezuela], and I know what it’s like to starve. Seeing these guys who were lucky to be born on the right soil dehumanize Venezuelans, man, it tore me apart.

Image credit: Jagex.

Image credit: Jagex.

Venezuelan gold producers are not like massive armies of unleashed robots Runescape and other games, sometimes by gold farming companies. Instead, they often spend entire days and weeks cultivating manually, and they typically work alone, rather than as part of a business. The way a lot of them play – to the point where they sell gold – doesn’t break the rules as directly as, say, using a bot.

Runescape has always dealt with huge gold mining companies in China and other parts of the world, ”a Venezuelan player called Glow_Party said in a DM,“ so [what] I can extrapolate from this is that the community has seized the moment to blame [one] set of individuals [even though] they know that these people will not make a difference in the market for Runescape gold.”

What’s more, Runescape is a game that has always been aimed at a younger audience, and young people tend to have trouble with things like empathy and perspective. “The kids play this game and the kids love to troll,” Glow_Party said. “I wouldn’t take some of the things these users say seriously because I can tell some of them are kids with little life experience.”

Yasser thinks there is also a cognitive disconnection at play. “I’m sure if you [told] people that in one way or another you can help those affected by [hurricanes] Harvey and Irma just playing Runescape, they would, ”he said. “But if you tell them that by killing a player they will hurt a family in a small country that nobody cares about, they won’t mind killing that player.”

Image credit: Jagex.

Image credit: Jagex.

The situation puts Runescape developer Jagex in a sticky situation, but at the end of the day he has to be careful about the health of his game. , they can destroy it, ”Mathew Kemp, senior product manager, told me in an email. “It’s very difficult to give a definitive number on their impact, but we can see changes in the price of items for players in the game when gold producers focus on specific content.”

He pointed out an item called “Wine of Zamorak”, which allows players to gain experience faster. Not only, he explained, the average price of the item has dropped from nearly 3,000 gold to 1,500 gold during this year, but there is also an effect of Practice: The sudden increase in the availability of Wine of Zamorak makes the game considerably easier. “The old school challenge Runescape is something very important for our players, ”added Kemp. He said Jagex banned “about 10,000” accounts related to gold farming on a daily basis.

The Venezuelan gold producers I have spoken to are well aware that they are in a precarious line of work, and they don’t expect people to play the knight in shimmering armor when players decide to take them on. to spill. This is an occupational risk, and given the alternative, they are willing to take a chance.

“I know I don’t do well with those who work hard for their game,” said Fhynal. “When you don’t know what the future promises you and you fear for your life and that of those you [care about], you don’t care what people think.

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