"I'm a Chinese girl," the new resident tells me, by way of introduction. "My work is playing this game for my boss in real life, and my boss asked me for 500 Lindens a day, or I'll be fired, and I'm poor in Second Life and real life, so don't have any chosen.
"So," she concludes, "I'm in trouble now, sir."
"Why does your boss want 500 Lindens a day?"
"Because," she explains, "500 Lindens equals US$2, and US$1 equals 8 Yuan. So I have to finish this task… Do you know my job now, please sir?"
And of course I do know what her job is. The wonder is that I haven't met her kind sooner. At the moment, she's a voluptuous blonde woman with white angel wings, and a spear in her hand. But she's also the latest incarnation of an even more elusive figure-- and perhaps one that's just as fantastic.
"As some of you are probably aware," Persig Phaeton posted to the Second Life forums a few days ago, "other MMO titles over the years have had to deal with an influx of actual sweatshops in Third World countries. These sweatshops force young, underpaid workers to play [popular MMOs], not for enjoyment, but solely for the purpose of harvesting gold to be traded out... to be eBay'ed." This apparently happens on more traditional online role playing games, where it's possible, for example, to earn gold coins or whatever else the official currency of the realm happens to be, by having one's character perform some simple, mindless task like mining or fishing for hours at a time. With enough low-paid laborers doing these tasks on a battery of workstations, the theory goes, it's possible to auction off a large block of the currency on a site like eBay for a profit.
Since there's no simple, mechanical way of earning in-world money in Second Life, however, Persig believed the phenomenon wouldn't come here.
"Last night, however, I had a disturbing experience."