David Pescovitz over at BoingBoing picks up on a story reported over on Yahoo about a Tokyo woman facing conviction for killing off her virtual husband.

Are such things the inevitable middle-class outcomes of the soft-side of the MMO world, where “relationships” spring-up in instants, and can be thrown away just as easily. The woman in this case may be facing a 5 grand fine, but better this than the more deeply worrying gold farming black economy that have developed in MMO culture?

A great post over at Private Sector Development Blog takes a different view – that the virtual sweatshop of the gold farmer is better than the real sweatshop of the retail giants.

Returning to the original point about the general rise in trade of services through the internet, gold farming is only one stage of development in an increasingly complex set of economic relationships. As internet infrastructure spreads further in the developing world, entrepreneurs will take advantage of low wages to outsource more complex (and perhaps better paid) online services to China and elsewhere.

It’s difficult to see the pattern – a virtual repetition of real and untenable deprivation, or a step forward in the intertwined development of emerging economies and the internet?

Either way, there are stories waiting to jump out of this. Tell us what they are.


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