Like one of the people interviewed in the "Gold Farmers" trailer, I had always imagined that "they're geeks sitting around somewhere and just playing all day," and I once had a conversation with a Chinese gold farmer which reinforced this thinking. He whispered to me something, I can't remember what, and in the whisper he dropped a Chinese word, which I understood from having lived for several years in China already. I took a chance and started talking to him in Chinese, but the conversation got increasingly depressing as it went on.
He told a sad tale of how his girlfriend left him brokenhearted, and since then, he found his new girlfriend in the female human rogue he played on my server. He said that he felt his life didn't have so much meaning, and all he was good for was running around playing this game and gathering up gold. I felt really sorry for him, and nothing I could say would make him change his mind or be a bit more positive. Eventually we lost touch (perhaps he was caught and his account got deleted), but he left me with a strong impression that most Chinese farmers would be like him: sad, confused, and lacking in spirit, as if somehow they couldn't fit in to the competitive society that China has become, and instead just wanted to go on living without having to actually live, in a sense.
But what is available of this documentary so far showed me that this is not always the case. I hadn't realized how the gold farmers see themselves as the good guys, just people trying to do something enjoyable for a living, totally unable to understand why others hate them for what they see as providing a valuable service.
Of course I would never condone gold farming and selling as a fair practice within the game, but reading about this upcoming documentary has helped me to realize even more than before that Chinese farmers are not evil criminal masterminds, or psychotic freaks bent on filling your chat box with spam, so much as misguided people who want to get paid to play. Let's put them out of business for sure, but let's not do it out of hateful anger. Instead let's wish them the best on their journey, and hope it involves something better.
[Thanks reader Alex, for letting us know about this documentary via Boing Boing]