According to a prisoner from a Chinese labour camp in Jixi, Liu Dali (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) says that he was just one of the many prisoners who were forced to gold-farm. During the day, he would perform physical labor by breaking rocks, but at night, the 54-year-old was forced to slay demons – an unusual, if not as cruel, punishment:
Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour. There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [about $800] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.
If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things.
Jin Ge, a researcher from the University of California San Diego, says that these virtual but literal gold farms are rampant and problematic, but ultimately enticing for their owners, particularly as a form of prison labor:
You would see some exploitation where employers would make workers play 12 hours a day. They would have no rest through the year. These are not just problems for this industry but they are general social problems. The pay is better than what they would get for working in a factory. It's very different.