North Korea Now Supplementing Itself With Virtual Gold
No, that's not a headline from The Onion, or for that matter, news from Second Life. That's from the New York Times:
North Korea is believed to train an army of computer programmers and hackers... Working from Northern China, the police said, the squad created software that breached the servers for such popular South Korean online gaming sites as “Lineage” and “Dungeon and Fighter.” The breach allowed round-the-clock play by “factories” of dozens of unmanned computers. Their accumulated gaming points were exchanged for cash at Web sites where human players are focused on acquiring enhancements for their online personas, or avatars... In a little less than two years, the police said, the organizers made $6 million.
I suspect the Times' isn't quite clear on how virtual gold farming and real money trading works, because a dramatic hacker-style breach isn't usually required to do this. To make matters more surreal, relative to North Korea's blighted economy and starving populace, $6 million is actually quite a lot. Here's another strange thing: Years ago, when renowned military strategist and futurist Thomas Barnett made an appearance in Second Life, he predicted that MMO technology would one day be used to help overthrow a real dictactorship. Our present is even stranger than he imagined: Instead, a real dictatorship is now using an MMO to help stay in power.
Image via the great Kim Jong Il Looking at Things.