Among the recurring Comment Spams I get on my China-related sites is this one (links removed:)

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I’m able to see that these Spam comments are posted from China, but I never gave them much thought.

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At least I didn’t until I recently ran across the story “MODERN CHINESE SECRET: Thousands employed in search for, sale of video-game shortcuts.”

Here’s the short version:

Parked in front of computer screens, the players move through virtual dungeons to slay ogres and gather gold in online games. But this isn’t mere idleness. Many of these gamers are working. A vast shadow industry has mushroomed in rural China. Savvy entrepreneurs harness teams to play popular online games, gathering magic spells, battle hammers, armor and other virtual assets. They then provide the assets to brokers, who sell them to rich players in the United States and Europe who want shortcuts to gaming success.

At any given time, as many as half a million Chinese gamers toil in Internet cafes and makeshift computer labs, sometimes sleeping on cots in nearby dormitories in shifts.

And here I just pictured some bored but industrious high school or college students behind my Comment Spam. Nope. It’s part of a booming underground industry.

Yeah, “Wow,” indeed. I’m almost flattered that they feel my sites worth Spamming, even though I haven’t played a video game since “Quake I” way back when.

And from the pictures, it looks like their working conditions are better than those found in some iPod manufacturing plants in China.

UPDATE: And further fueling my suspicion that all of the MSM’s “feature” headlines are pulled from six-month old YouTube videos, here’s a digital tour and documentary in progress of some Chinese Gold Farms in China, called “Chinese Farmers in the Gamedom: A Work in Progress” by Jin Ge aka Jingle:

Update: A New York Times video article about the same topic.