The more distorted Venezuela’s economy gets, the weirder the arbitrage options are. As real opportunities dwindle, fantasy opportunities start to look better. Some desperate Venezuelans are now taking to Old School Runescape, a retro-themed Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), whose fake currency is worth pretty good money, if your real currency is fake enough.

The trick is that MMORPGs can get pretty repetitive. You start off by killing some lame monsters, do it ninety more times and you get some game money for weapons and armor that will allow you to fight some bigger, less-lame monsters. These monsters give better rewards, so after a while you feel like you’re making progress, which is the fun part. Slowly, you explore vast lands, alone or with friends, while growing stronger.

The process is supposed to be slow, the worlds inside these videogames can be so massive that it can take years to explore them.

The gold you get isnt taken out of any fund, its created the moment the monster is killed. Merentes-style.

Naturally, some players dont want to spend years before they slay the king of dragons, so a real market emerges for the fake in-game currency, catering to first world chamos with a bit of disposable pocket money.

Thats where Venezuelan gold farmers (thats the actual term) come in. In Runescape, there are whole areas crowded with Venezuelans killing the same lame green dragons over and over again. Why? Do the math. You can earn about $0,50 an hour with this. That’s Bs.12,000 on the black market, five times the minimum wage of Bs.2,400 an hour.

Gold farming isnt new – Chinese players have been going at it since at least 2005. It’s against the games rules and is not well received by other gamers; Milton Friedman would have told you why: gold farming inflates Runescape’s money supply causing virtual inflation.

Some players don’t want to spend years before they slay the king of dragons, so a real market emerges for the fake in-game currency.

Every time you kill a monster, it drops gold, but then the monster reappears, and you can kill it as many times as you want. The gold you get isnt taken out of any fund, its created the moment the monster is killed. Merentes-style.

The economies of these MMORPGs aren’t well thought out. Gold farmers create money and transfer it to the new players that spend it in a second, driving the prices up. So yeah, Venezuelans are shielding themselves from real-world inflation by creating inflation in a virtual world.

I first found out about this trend on Runescape by a reddit post, a joke guide (I think) on how to kill Venezuelan gold farmers. The guide recommends what weapons to use, along with suggested insults in Spanish.

The guide wasnt well received and was taken down, as it turned into a xenophobia festival, with players commenting on the infestation of Venezuelans, mocking the crisis the country is living.

Dont read too much into that, thats not the real story; 12-year-old MMORPG players are hateful pricks by nature.

The word infestation” however, while hateful, does give you an idea of how many Venezuelans are prowling the game. I tried to interview some of them and I downloaded the game to see if I could get to the farming part, as some kind of virtual journalist, but I got obliterated by monsters in a blink. That part of the realm is meant for more advanced players.

In I earn money killing dragons, a 20-year old graphic designer, who has a daughter, says he spends 3-hours a day farming in Runescape to make ends meet.

Take a look at the comment section, with Venezuelan farmers pissed at the guy for talking to the press. They apparently think that now that their way of life is out there”, it will get too popular and Jagex, the publishers of Runescape, will do something to stop it.

They’re probably right. The story about Venezuelan Runescape has gotten really big, already featured in major videogame sites, and it looks like it won’t stop growing any time soon.

Because this gold that buys digital items for anyone, can buy real bread in the Revolution.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Why Runescape? I mean, this kind of operation may be more profitable in theory in more current, popular games… but probably also more apt to get noticed and punished?

    Although I’ve been out of MMORPG for years so no idea which ones would be the best targets.

  2. Why Runescape? Because they haven’t taken measures against farmers, once the chinese and north korean get there, the game’s economy will implode undermined by farmers.

    And the first measure they’ll take will be killing the drops’ NPC prices and limit the time allowed to get said drops from enemies, I play another game and saw that happening there, an item that sold for 3000 coins that dropped from many monsters got its price slashed to 1 coin after the game’s currency basically got destroyed by farmers.

  3. “12-year-old MMORPG players are hateful pricks by nature”

    Do 12 yr old play Runescape?, that game is from ages ago.

    I chuckled a bit when i read this because those games, even newer ones, are prowling with very dead serious 30+ yr olds, despite outside appearances and i can´t even imagine the happy life of whoever is being hardcore enough about runescape to pay real money for make believe coin in an almost 2 decades old game.

    “a 20-year old graphic designer”

    Which makes no sense because freelancing in international sites with at least half decent skill with yield better results than farming pennies in a 00s timewaster. Is like having a hammer and using to nail a screw and hitting it with the wooden shaft.

    Que ganas que rebuscarse para no ejercer un oficio.

    • Maybe the guy wasn’t an actual designer, or he simply doesn’t want to practice thinking he can’t profit from it in international sites, which is quite absurd as you said.

      I’m doing some side-job as freelance illustrator and I’m getting a bit of cash for those, which when sold in the black market is netting me much more than my actual job.

      • I though that would be the case as well.

        Is kinda ironic than being vivo and lazy actually takes much more effort than just doing things the more obvious way. I´ve been a part of the gamer demographic, i´ve played online when younger for fun, i know that the true face is less “actual starving people ” and more about geeks thinking they are smart by cheating exploits and thinking that is an intelligent way to avoid their obligations.

        I know several people just doing menial random stuff like cropping videos and translating subtitles or any other thing that only takes a few tutorials to know and they still make more that the scratch money mining would net.

        And lets be real, as bad as Venezuela is, 50-100 bucks a month takes care of the bills. Even if you undercharge and are not doing grandiose projects working online gets you by.

        I can understand it from the younger kids perspective, i mean the underage chamos who are not old enough to even own a bank account and understandably are less likely to have a skill or know how to know better but. But a 20 yr old with a degree in a very easy to market career is just playing hooky y piensa que se la esta comiendo.

        • It’s the same logic that’s behind the bachaqueros, gestores and all the other chavista garbage that thrives on opportunism: “Why should I get an actual job when I can simply sit idle for a couple of hours and earn ten times as much?”

          The catch here is that the farmers in a game are comitting a “victimless crime”, they’re not forcing anything on anyone at the end; on any civilized country the income for this kind of practice would be abysmally small, but since the bolivar is completely destroyed, then more people start considering that “fake job” as a better choice.

  4. I was considering joining this hype honestly, but RuneScape business doesn’t pay that well to be honest. On other new games you can make a full 1$ per hour and that can be increased if you character is on high level or you have a decent AoE multi-hit Wizard. Let’s say you decide 8 hours = 8$, that at current dolartoday price is 184.000 bs.f, but personally I can’t stand playing more than 4 hours since I stopped being a teenager.

      • I have no idea how these games work, but I am curious – how do you actually get paid that $4 USD? Is it an electronic transfer? are they daily, weekly, monthly? How do you convert the $4 to the 92.000 Bs? On a street corner? At a bank? And how can you manage to use the internet all day to do this if there are constant power and/or network outages?

        • @Another Gringo Not everyone in Venezuela is an aborigin wearing a guayuco nor a bachaquero on a street corner. We can manage enough to use the internet and electricity albeit the service may be wonky. (look at me! i even manage to speak a second language, almost like people awww)

          It also depends were you live, in the capital were i live power seldom goes out, even the ares where it does is every now and then. Same with the internet.

          Most of these gamers are kids and college student age adults from middle class families who have seen themselves being impoverished but nonetheless are not idiots or technologically impaired and as much as they can manage to exploit a game for money they can manage to use the internet to sell their currency.

          • Vero, I did not say, and was not trying to imply, that “everyone in Venezuela is an aborigin wearing a guayuco nor a bachaquero on a street corner”
            I’m in my mid-50s. I don’t know how these games work or why someone somewhere would be someone real currency for something that is fictional. They are not part of my life experience, and they never will be. My kids are in their 20s, and they dont bother with this stuff (shooting games – of course …).
            I was simply asking how the mechanics work. My understanding is that VE does not actually have an official Fx rate of 25.000K B’s to the dollar. So, I am wondering how does one located in VE use the internet to obtain the actual 92.000 K Bs? If its a painfully stupid question for me to ask – my apologies.

          • The game works like this, the player pilots a customized character and performs quests in the game, as the game progresses, the player receives rewards that allow him to improve his character, the first rewards come quite fast as the player gets familiar with the game.

            So in later levels, the rewards are more scarce and difficult to obtain, which usually means they take more time to acquire, some of those limits can be circumvented by spending small amounts of money in the game (Which is originally free to play) to advance faster, which works for the company because some people simply can’t or don’t want to wait and have some spare money.

            The point of the game is that as the player empowers his charater, he can then hang out with more advanced players and take part in more complicated quests, missions and raids and so on, which is generally fun.

            This is where farmers come in, which are players that are dedicated to kill monsters over and over again in the game to collect the rewards they drop and sell said rewards to other players, the farmers which the article is talking about sell that stuff for actual money, which is usually sent to paypal accounts or by any electronic means, then the player goes and sells those dollars and makes some “quick money”

            About the Fx Rate, yes, Venezuela has an atrociously devalued currency, so the 1$=25kBs is pretty accurate, as it’s the number forced down by the chavista monopoly because they don’t let people buy currency in legal ways so they are forced to go to the black market which has been created and is maintained by the chavista regime.

        • Another Gringo –

          I wondered about that exchange, too. My guess is that the guys who grew up with a cell phone in their crib find it easy to set up some kind of PayPal account which they can then use for currency conversion as well. How it’s actually done may be a secret, maybe Bitcoin accounts, maybe others.

          Personally, I can get the idea, but grade “D” leather, boots, and emerald tipped spears are a bit over my head. I’m wondering how the game’s database handles transfers of money within the game itself, how contacts are established with other “gamers” within the game, how those are translated to the real world, how the game handles those who are repetitively killed, and how one “vigilante gamer” (out to kill the “gold farmers”) can survive against an organized “mafia” of “gold farmers”?

          The whole thing just goes to show how humans are capable of creating real-world fantasies that become more interesting then the real world itself. The world of entertainment, but also the fictional world of “Socialist Paradise” – now THAT is a tough game, and no one has figured out any way to win it.

          • There are pages that take care of the transactions and buy the fake game coins in exchange for actual bolivars.

            I don’t know the exact intricacies of the game’s engine, but as I play a similar game, I can tell that you can simply give the currency to another player, which in this case could be piloted a representative of the trade site in question and then he would later transfer the bolivars after the deal has been struck.

            “Personally, I can get the idea, but grade “D” leather, boots, and emerald tipped spears are a bit over my head.”

            Goods and assets are goods and assets everywhere, as I explained before, those take a truckload of time to be “farmed by the player himself” but there’s always the option to pay to speed up the things, that’s the main way those games make money.

            “how the game handles those who are repetitively killed,”

            As far as this specific game’s rules go, it’s perfectly okay to kill another player’s character at any time, that’s why it’s called a PvP game (Player versus player), the mods and developers don’t feel they have to do anything, because technically it doesn’t count as harrassment either.

            “and how one “vigilante gamer” (out to kill the “gold farmers”) can survive against an organized “mafia” of “gold farmers”? ”

            That depends, many of these vigilantes are usually clad with the endgame setup already, meaning they’re pretty much invincible, if the gold farmers were actually serious, they could recruit some players equally armed as well to fight these vigilantes, but that takes time and money, and apparently that’s two things the farmers aren’t exactly interested to invest in this case.

        • There are webpages like this one that offer to buy the gold for bitcoins https://www.boglagold.com/sell-gold/

          In fact, when I enter the page I immediately get a pop up with costumer service chat with this:

          “¡Hola amigo! Somos una empresa con sede en Canadá, pero pagamos en Bitcoins – el método de pago preferido de nuestros clientes Venezolanos. Nuestro personal habla principalmente inglés, para comunicarse mejor con ellos por favor considere el uso de un traductor de Google (es muy fácil de usar).”

          They already have a greeting message for Venezuelans, clarifying that they don’t speak Spanish and that they accept bitcoins. They must have a lot of Venezuelan costumers.

          Changing bitcoins to bs is pretty easy too. Must Venezuelans use localbitcoins, where there are many bitcoins buyers that pay in bolívares through bank transfers.

          Alvaro, I imagine Venezuelans tend to play Old school Runescape because it is an old game with really modest pc requirements. There’s a newer Runescape, but I imagine that one is more controlled by game moderators, and it’s harder to farm without getting caught (just guessing). That actually would’ve been one of the questions I would’ve asked the players if I managed to get to where they farm: “why Runescape?”.

          Right know Runescape seems to be the most popular among gold farmers in Venezuela, but I guess other games that offer the similar opportunities should have them too

  5. I checked a couple of times the reddit posts about the little racist manifesto there, I’m quite glad I never played that game, and I guess I won’t touch it even with a 10-ft pole, it seems to be filled with one of the most toxic playerbases ever, and I’ve played games with toxic players before.

    I was also hilarious to see how pro-communist groups took the guide as an example of “the evils of capitalism”, heck, chavistas would have a field day with this, I’m damn sure of that.

    • I am concerned with the comments making reference to an alleged 70% venezuelan economy that is on private hands. This is something i have read several times repeated by “true socialists” in several news outlets and comment boxed all around social media.

      I believe such an obvious lie is part of the official canon of opinion regarding Venezuela from the international left and people who don´t know our reality are buying it. This needs to be combated with factual responses.

      How can they repeat such a monstrous fallacy when oil , gas, electricity , iron, coal and telecommunications, are on the hands of the state and every mid, major and even minor sector enterprises and distribution networks are either in the hands of the state, dependent of the state for usd from the BCV or materia prima by nationalized monopoly or at the verge of breaking from price controls, looting and government menaces.

      “Venezuela is mostly private sector duh, you see, is not socialism dummy”

    • The government control over imports is the first thing that must go. The exchange controls are closely connected, and must go, too. It is totally absurd to consider that there is ANY free market economy in Venezuela. Sure, you get isolated pockets of free market, or black market, but without access to imports and foreign currency, it’s like saying that because NYC has a tiny shop that sells grain, the city is an agricultural economy.

      • “I am concerned with the comments making reference to an alleged 70% venezuelan economy that is on private hands. ”

        Those are called “pendejos sin fronteras” (Boundless morons), they are the couch socialist/communists who praise that sewage of system but love to enjoy all the decadence and money from capitalism.

        A bunch of hypocrytes, they wouldn’t last 2 minutes in a debate.

        • Gringo, Ulamog

          Of course. Absolutely. But my concern is that ridiculous as it is for us who do know it still very easily believable to people who don`t know the Venezuelan case or even bother double checking. There are political parties pushing this lines of opinion worldwide and it pays off, mostly in younger votes and partisanship.

          I was called an “useful idiot” on fb by several socialists from the US no less, for not knowing about the economic war from the private sector and “embargo” that is causing the shortages… Seriously, the military runs even the food distribution and electricity wtf.

          It is also very common that people don`t understand about the currency exchange so they calculate our average salary in Dipro or Dicom and compare it to regulated good prices like they exist and then claim that we actually live in a bonanza of abundance.

          I hate being that annoying person who goes out of their way to express their opinion on social media, but facts are a silent minority the power of lies and disinformation is huge, informed people need to at least put their 2 cents in that battlefield futile as it may ultimately be.

          It is the same as the lies and justifications we used to hear bout the Cuban reality by leftists years ago before this country went the same way as them. Its sad that the Democrats in the US are falling for it and are normalizing the fallacy that being liberal equals to being a marxist leninist. All the millions of petrodollars that PSUV used to lobby in the first world proved to be a great investment.

          • “All the millions of petrodollars that PSUV used to lobby in the first world proved to be a great investment.”

            And now you know the other reason chavismo has stood undefeated during all this time, and why children are starving to death in the country.

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