That's where people like Jeremy come in -- they are sort of doing the virtual equivalent of counterfeiting. They create accounts and pile up gold (either by hand or with software that automates the task) and sell it on the open market. But there is competition. Lots of it, in fact.
At its height, gold farms in China comprised a nearly $1 billion cottage industry. As many as 100,000 workers were employed full-time in these virtual mines, and many of them pulled 12-hour shifts (as does Jeremy, by the way). Many employees are earning only about 10 cents on the dollar for gold gained. "They rack up gold really fast," says Jeremy. "And because it's all virtual, there's no quality issues associated with it."
Or health risks.
China banned the practice of gold farming among private citizens and companies in 2009, which isn't to say that Jeremy never runs into his Eastern counterparts: "You know when you encounter them. Many Chinese and Vietnamese players have names that are mostly numbers or symbols, because some people over there don't have English keyboards. They barely know any English and will try to avoid talking or interacting with anyone else. They also have names or give details about themselves to try to sound American, but they fall just short. One orc I thought for sure was a bot, but when I asked where he was from he responded 'Dragon Beach, California.' This confused me, because I looked it up later, and there was no Dragon Beach. I later asked a Chinese friend about it and he told me that 'dragon' in Chinese is 'long' [or 'lung,' apparently] -- the player had translated one of the words that didn't actually need to be translated."
Dragon Beach orcs don't fuck around.
That's not to say his broken-English brothers and sisters in arms are breaking the law -- on the contrary, many of them are being forced to play by the law. Gold-mining is such a golden goose that the Chinese government has added it to many prisoners' itineraries, alongside -- rarely instead of -- hard physical labor. So yeah -- you find yourself going up against people who not only have a quota but can be beaten for not meeting it. As one former ward of the Chinese state put it, "We kept playing until we could barely see things."
If this had been a subplot in Blade Runner, we'd have laughed.