We already addressed the gaming situation in Venezuela but we left a topic up in the air: video game gold farming.
As I mentioned, the video game scene in Venezuela is different from other countries but not that different from the rest of Latin America. A lot of us love to play retro games because – besides the lack of money to buy newer games – we have a special relationship with those games from our childhood. Games like Counter-Strike, Runescape, World of Warcraft, Tibia, Silkroad Online, Rakion, or even Mu Online are games that we usually revisit.
Thanks to the economic instability of recent years, Venezuelan gamers who kept playing the same video games and mastered them saw an opportunity of monetizing their favorite games. This is the story about how video game farming became a full-time job.
Gold farming as a job
Gold farming in video games started in the ’90s. The gaming scene was like a cottage industry; farming was something people did at their homes to min-max the loot in their games. The 2000s came with huge growth in the popularity of the MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Games).
In the past, players used to sell each other gold or items from the first MMORPGs via sites like eBay or Paypal. I’m talking about games like Ultima Online and Lineage. Back then, commercialized gold farming had its roots in South Korea.
Cybercafes – which are still popular in Asian countries to this day – were converted into gold farming operation centers. This helped to satisfy the demand of domestic gamers who didn’t have enough time to farm in their favorite games. Years passed by and more MMOG and MMORPGs entered the scene, which gave more and more options for gold farmers to earn money.
Hyperinflation and gold farmers
More and more gamers from different countries started to see gold farming as extra money. However, due to hyperinflation in Venezuela and the constant devaluation of the Venezuelan currency vis-a-vis the American dollar, Venezuelan gamers saw gold farming as a main job. In my country, $2 is the average monthly minimum wage. Gamers who spend the same time on a common workday farming earn between $20 to $60+ monthly.
Even though at first the info about this remained confidential among a small group of gamers, the amount of the earnings leaked. People started considering starting gaming as a job because they could earn more money than their actual jobs. This increase of the Venezuelan gold farmers caused a destabilization in a couple of games, which caused the desertion of some old and even new gamers.
Some gamers hate Venezuelan gold farmers
Popular MMORPGs like Runescape, Tibia, and World of Warcraft have been subject to this mass gold mining. Venezuelan gold farming gamers perfected and mastered those games. They even closed entire game areas of the maps so that they could use exploits and do a better and faster farming job. This can make gamers who aren’t gold farming angry in these situations. A user on Reddit published a racially abusive guide on “How to Kill Venezuelans in the PVP areas where the gold farming takes place.“
The guide was followed by inappropriate comments that made the moderators of the subreddit take action and remove the post entirely. This led to a bigger issue, causing wars between gamers inside of the games to stop the gold farming. The games suffered from all of these conflicts. Many gamers stopped playing entirely because of the wars and also because the games are getting old.
In 2019, a real-world economic crisis in Venezuela created an in-game economic crisis. The country’s economic instability led to massive blackouts, which in turn meant that games like Runescape suffered a big, in-game economic crash. This was due to the small amount of gold in the game’s market because of the lack of Venezuelan gamers who couldn’t access the game to supply it.
Gold farming in video games is becoming more and more common. Considering that a lot of gold farmers utilize cryptos as their currency, taxation, and regulations aren’t feasible at the moment. Every gamer has farmed, but not all of us monetized it. For many Venezuelans, it is done out of necessity.
Game designers have to consider these issues when they develop games. There isn’t any international law covering video game gold farming and real lives are affected. Gold farming isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Just as with loot boxes, it was something that we as gamers allowed and never did anything to stop.