The New Sweatshops

By Deane Barker on December 9, 2005

Boring game? Hire a player: Sweatshops in China are hiring people to play MMORPGs at the early levels to earn money and more powerful characters which they can the sell for real money.

That development has spawned hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of online gaming factories in China. By some estimates, there are more than 100,000 young people working in China as full-time gamers, toiling away in dark Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes.

Most of the players make less than 25 cents an hour, but they often get room, board and free computer game play in the “virtual sweatshops.”

“It’s unimaginable how big this is,” said Chen Yu, 27, who employs 20 full-time gamers in Fuzhou. “They say that in some of these popular games, 40 or 50 percent of the players are actually Chinese farmers.”