Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Farming for Gold in China

Quote from the piece:

It was an hour before midnight, three hours into the night shift with nine more to go. At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him. The screen showed a lightly wooded mountain terrain, studded with castle ruins and grazing deer, in which warrior monks milled about. Li, or rather his staff-wielding wizard character, had been slaying the enemy monks since 8 p.m., mouse-clicking on one corpse after another, each time gathering a few dozen virtual coins — and maybe a magic weapon or two — into an increasingly laden backpack.

Twelve hours a night, seven nights a week, with only two or three nights off per month, this is what Li does — for a living. On this summer night in 2006, the game on his screen was, as always, World of Warcraft, an online fantasy title in which players, in the guise of self-created avatars — night-elf wizards, warrior orcs and other Tolkienesque characters — battle their way through the mythical realm of Azeroth, earning points for every monster slain and rising, over many months, from the game’s lowest level of death-dealing power (1) to the highest (70). More than eight million people around the world play World of Warcraft — approximately one in every thousand on the planet — and whenever Li is logged on, thousands of other players are, too. They share the game’s vast, virtual world with him, converging in its towns to trade their loot or turning up from time to time in Li’s own wooded corner of it, looking for enemies to kill and coins to gather. Every World of Warcraft player needs those coins, and mostly for one reason: to pay for the virtual gear to fight the monsters to earn the points to reach the next level. And there are only two ways players can get as much of this virtual money as the game requires: they can spend hours collecting it or they can pay someone real money to do it for them.

At the end of each shift, Li reports the night’s haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20.

Video Games - China - Money - Online Games - New York Times

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Twenty-First Century Urban Man

Interesting clutch of articles at Forbes.com on patterns of urbanisation in the next century.
Twenty-First Century Cities - Forbes.com

Friday, 8 June 2007

Derren Brown Messed with my Melon

So, there we were in the New Theatre in Oxford and, having caught a frisbee Derren had whanged out into the audience (no remarks please from my cricketing brethren) I found myself on stage with five other blokes playing 20 Questions. We all saw each other write down an object – I chose a cricket bat – and then Derren guessed what it was with phenomenal speed.

Except he didn’t with me. First I got shuffled from number 4 to number 6 then he came to me and said “I’m not sure I can do this with you. What do you do?”

“I’m a journalist,” I replied.

(Someone in the audience booed – thanks for that)

“No, I can’t use you, hope you don’t mind.”

And off I toddled to sit down again enjoying a brief 30 seconds of notoriety which at least got me a space at the urinals during the interval.

That wasn’t the end of it though. First, we pieced together that I might have been a distraction for something going on on the other side of the stage at the same time (a man in a gorilla suit stealing a banana if you must know), and then there was the finale.

Here, Derren unveiled a banner of his predictions for the show that had been kept in a sealed box in full view suspended from the ceiling. “Then we did 20 questions,” he said as the banner was unfurled, “and I got it wrong as there was a football but I’d written down ‘cricket’. Hang on, I sent that journalist back...”

At which point I shouted out that yes, I had written down cricket bat and Lo!, a little bit more unfurling, and there the exact words were on the banner.

No idea how he did that or indeed any of the other stuff in a fairly spectacular two hours. As Stephen Fry says, the man is indeed a witch. A bloody entertaining one though. Go see if you get the chance.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Steam Punk Star Trek

Some genuinely funny moments as the crew run out of coal for their ship...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Killer Wi-Fi panics London's chattering classes | The Register

"Recent revelations that Wi-Fi may provoke spontaneous abortions in cattle, raise storms and tempests, curdle milk and fry children's brains have had the desired effect among London's chattering classes, with panicked parents mobilising to contain the wireless menace."

You can normally rely on El Reg to have a suitably sarcastic take on things, and it doesn't disappoint.

Killer Wi-Fi panics London's chattering classes | The Register: