5 Hard Lessons After Spending A Decade Farming Gold On WoW
It's rough out there for people with extremely stupid jobs that they know can't last. It's cool that this is a world where you can now plausibly make a living playing video games, but let's not pretend that's the kind of thing that will keep you going into your golden years.
For example, last year we spoke to Jeremy, a World Of Warcraft "gold farmer" who, at the time, expressed concerns over the long-term viability of his career path (gold farming, that is, not "Blood Elf Frost Mage"). Turns out he was right to worry ...
A Fake Economy Can Collapse Just Like A Real One
When we last talked to Jeremy, he was living a relatively stable life making imaginary gold in World Of Warcraft and then selling it for real-life money. In a turn of events that literally everyone involved should have seen coming, the game's parent company started clamping down. That company -- Blizzard -- doesn't like any gaming marketplace that doesn't cut them in.
WOW had actually been slowly but surely losing players for years, and farmers like Jeremy were already hurting. A new expansion called Legion was expected to be a huge draw for new players, though, and it was -- big time.
Possibly on account of the game no longer looking like a sack of wet farts.
However, it included some new features and rule changes that intentionally screwed the world's hard-working gold farmers.
A year or so ago, Jeremy could sell gold for about $0.30 per 1,000 gold (which you'll note is a higher exchange rate than many actual foreign currencies get), but that price has effectively been cut in half. This predictably sent the market into chaos.
"February was the last straw," Jeremy lamented. "I logged on to sell my haul of gold, and I found that it had gone down by half. I think my heart stopped." Jeremy seized a bit and sold what he had, only to watch prices soar back up to 50 percent above their norm. "If I waited I would have made a killing. Now I couldn't afford rent. All of my friends were bragging about the money they made. The night I found out that I was financially ruined, I did the math and found that there was no way I could continue. I'd been ignoring how I'd been on thin ice for years, but after that, I couldn't go on."
A few eight-digit salaries aside, playing video games for a living tends to end this way.
It was time for Jeremy to make some serious changes. Or, to be frank, way past time, but let's admit that most of us only notice the oncoming train after we're well under the wheels.
The Gold Farming Community Hates It When You Leave
In our previous article, we mentioned that gold farming is just barely this side of legal. Well, like most gangs of people dealing with black-market contraband, there's often a tight-knit community that's rather ... let's say, dedicated.
Once you're in the linen cloth game, the only way out is in a coffin.
"We hadn't heard from a gold seller who was in our group for a week last year, and we called a police station in some town in Pennsylvania to check on him," Jeremy remembered. "He logged in a few hours later and angrily explained that he wanted a clean break, and thought leaving that way would spare feelings. It didn't. We did that because we cared if he was dead. He only talked to us because a police officer checked on him at our behest. I didn't want to leave with that kind of kerfuffle."
Or as the police would call it "A bigger waste of police resources than his D.A.R.E. class."
"When I told [my fellow farmers] that I couldn't live like this anymore, nearly all of them tried to convince me to stay. They told me that the market would get better, that we'd find new ways to sell gold, and gave other excuses I later realized I'd been telling myself for years. I put down my foot and told them I had to go. Half of them felt betrayed. The other half didn't want anything to do with me. Three of them did wish me luck, but I don't know if they meant that sarcastically."
If you've ever been in a bunch of people who are collectively making a bad decision and constantly reinforcing each other over it, you know how this works. The one person who wants to go straight is like a mirror held up to the group -- the good reasons they give for quitting actually apply to everyone there. It's not pretty.
Living in a game is, ironically, supposed to hide the fact that you're living in a game, not expose it.
"We had a gif we used whenever someone left," Jeremy explained. "It was from a web video called Charlie The Unicorn, with a unicorn saying, 'Shun the non-believer. Shun!' I talked in our instant messenger once a few days after [deciding to quit], and they put that gif up every time I typed something. This had already been a difficult decision, but I was gone. Completely gone."
OK so it's not exactly like Henry Hill leaving the mob.
It's A Bit Difficult To Hack It In The "Real World"
Jeremy took a deep breath, sat down, and tried writing a resume for himself in order to get a real job, only to realize, "no matter how I worded it, there was no hiding I was a gold farmer for ten years." Oh, wait, did we mention that part? The fact that he'd been doing this for a fucking decade?
Speaking to other ex-farmers, Jeremy learned that they'd all spent so many years leveling up in the rather niche skill of gold farming, they'd neglected a lot of other skills. So even though Jeremy has only been out of farming for a couple months, he's already feeling the heat to return.
The fact that it's a finely crafted addiction machine tends to have that effect.
A lot of former farmers have already gone back to gold farming and account-selling in WOW and other games such as Overwatch, and even Pokemon Go and League Of Legends. We live in a world where Pokemon Go more or less flamed out about a month after release, yet accounts can still sell on Amazon for over $100. "They couldn't make it in the real world," Jeremy admitted. "Even if interviewers didn't care about [our history of gold farming], we all talked on the computer and rarely left the house. Every time it came to interviews, they said they blew it because they froze or didn't know what to do."
Kids, if there's one lesson you take away from this article, let it be that: Interpersonal skills are like a muscle, they'll atrophy if you don't use them. And in a world in which robots are taking all the jobs, the ones that are left need you to be really good at acting like a human.
"Sorry, but we'll pass. We are LF1M, but until you L2P, you'll need to GTFO."
It's Not Just A Job -- It's An Addiction
It's easy to scoff at these guys as low-life basement-dwellers who made a living off of other, wealthier basement-dwellers, but they'd built a real life within this job and they were suddenly -- of their own volition -- left with nothing. They also had been spending all day, every day playing a piece of software designed to get the user addicted to an unending chain of delayed gratification and shiny, artificial rewards. "My routine had been logging in by nine in the morning to start my day for so long, that when I didn't go on, my body started tensing up at nine sharp," Jeremy said, noting quickly how unhealthy that is.
While googling resume templates, he'd be getting ads for Warcraft in the sidebar. He ended up going on random search binges just to get his ads to change. "I had urges to play. I never played for fun, but some days I wanted to log on and walk around or fly somewhere. Something in the game." He reached out to family, who instantly recognized someone in the throes of withdrawal.
Not especially surprising for a game that has its own addiction recovery group.
"They said from how I was behaving they thought I had quit smoking," he remembered. "I heard that a lot. My dad is handy with computers, so when he drove me back to my apartment, he went up with me. When I went to the bathroom, he had logged on and deleted my account. When I came out, he said, 'It's done.' I had no idea what he was talking about until I looked at my computer and saw the game had been uninstalled, and both my WOW and Battlenet accounts were deleted. He had done his homework on this, and by the speed he did it, had probably found a way to do it quick. I was furious, and for the first time in my life I felt like punching him. When he left, I saw he had left behind a job site open on my computer."
The clean break that Jeremy didn't believe could happen had suddenly occurred. "I thanked him last Sunday for doing that ... If he hadn't done that, I would have probably gone back on by now."
Typing six letters doesn't seem like something that should require help until you try to do it.
Oh, and the normally-upbeat Cracked comment section was retroactively helpful for Jeremy. "I saw those comments on our article, and at the time I did not like what they had to say. I thought they were mean, or that they didn't understand. But now that I'm past it, they were right. Still very mean, but they were right about the kind of life I was living and what gold farming really does."
It's Difficult To Stay Out Of The Farming Lifestyle For Good
Jeremy landed a job at a computer help desk (his WOW machine broke often enough to get him some practice) and has been there for over a month as of this writing. "I think about it every day," Jeremy admits. "I was good at gold farming. I was. I liked going over my quota and selling it off. It was an adventure." We didn't point out that he accidentally gave one of Walter White's famous speeches there.
"Another farmer who had been in my group showed me his plans to work part-time at the Geek Squad and part-time gold farming. He got really excited about it because he said he hadn't been the same since he left. He had to be talked out of it, because there was no way he could have pulled it off or not get sucked completely back in. I was worried, because at work I had played around with numbers seeing if I could go back. I was convinced there could be a way to make it work financially."
The fact of the matter is that it's not a particularly healthy lifestyle, for most people, and there's just never going to be enough money in the business to make it worth his while ever again. Jeremy has to remind himself of that daily. "We ended the last article with 'I don't know what's going to happen to [the farmers],'" Jeremy noted. "Well, I do know now. And it isn't great. When the WOW gold market breaks completely, from what I've seen, other games are going to find themselves with a lot of new users selling accounts or currency in that game. It's that hard to leave."
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, writer and interview finder for the Personal Experience team at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you'd like to see on Cracked? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Check out part one of Jeremy's story in I'm Paid To Play World Of Warcraft All Day (And It Sucks) and then read We're All On Speed: 6 Insane Reasons Pro Gamers Retire At 26.
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