Prison guards at the Jixi labour camp in China forced prisoners to play online games, such as World of Warcraft, in order to build up credits to exchange to gamers for real cash.
Speaking to The Guardian, a former prisoner of the camp, jailed for “illegally petitioning” the government about corruption in his hometown, said inmates were forced to play these games for 12-hour shifts, repeating basic tasks in these games to farm for online credits.
These credits were then sold to other gamers for real money, which they used to progress through the game.
The former prisoner said it could earn the guards up to 5,000-6,000rmb (€540-€650) a day. If prisoners did not complete their quotas, they were beaten with plastic pipes.
He also said that this practice, which happens outside of the control of the games’ makers, was common across prisons in northeast China.
Trading virtual currencies for real money in online games has risen hugely in China. The China Internet Centre said almost €1.4bn worth of virtual currencies was traded from China in 2008. Eighty per cent of all “gold farmers” in online games are located in China and 100,000 of them work at this full time.