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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

You've probably seen this news report in The Guardian already, but just to forestall sixty thousand of you from emailing me about it:

Labour camp detainees endure hard labour by day, online 'gold farming' by night

As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old ... reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "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 [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."

(More interesting stuff if you follow the link at the top. Go read.)

If there's a crack-down on gold farming in prison camps, I expect to see reports of the work being out-sourced to other countries with less savoury regimes: Burma and North Korea spring to mind. However, the bandwidth there is poor; if Greece or Portugal really do flake out of the Euro zone and suffer a consequential currency collapse, look for the gold farming to move to the depressed underbelly of Europe, where the packet latency to Blizzard's servers will be lower.

(I'm still boggling about the idea of being forced to play computer games in a prison labour camp. Although I'd like to point out that being forcibly deprived of sleep after working 12 hour hard labour shifts would be enough to take the pleasure out of any activity, however enjoyable it would normally be.)

72 Comments

1:

Very similar, but totally different story, though I guess you saw it already:

http://idle.slashdot.org/story/11/05/24/1257229/Increased-Power-Usage-Leads-to-Mistaken-Pot-Busts-for-Bitcoin-Miners

2:

I would assume that '12 hour gold farming sessions' were not at the same day as 8-12 hour rock breaking or chopstick making work sessions. I'd say it is more likely that they'd have 12 hour gold farming 'instead' of the same 12 hours making chopsticks. As noted in the article the same prisoners do different jobs over time, so gold farming could just be one of the possible jobs in rotation. And overall that one might be more humane than breaking up rocks or making chopsticks.

3:
I'm still boggling about the idea of being forced to play computer games in a prison labour camp.

I assume that, like a number of other countries, the prisons are in private hands (or semi-private, as in "nobody checks what you're doing"). Exploiting the labor of prisoners is extremely interesting as a way to get rich.

I think that practice even has a name... Something beginning with "sla" something "ry"...

The practice of gold farming is a reflexion on the failure of some MMO game systems. To pad the game, repetitive activities are introduced, and to justify them, they have to produce tangible and useful rewards.

Gold farming used to be done piecemeal, in an amateur fashion, in the early MMOs. Usually with bored and poor college students who found it more interesting (and requiring less fixed hours) than flipping burgers at the nearest McDonalds. Then, as the playing population grew, the entrepreneurs came to be. Then the copycat entrepreneurs. Then the scammers (who steal accounts, strip them, then resell the gold for cash). And now the slaves.

The MMOs where you buy directly from the game company are worse. Those companies are completely geared around making you pay directly to them - there's no volatile currency to trade. You either earn in-game, or pay to the company. But, at least, they don't need slaves to push the bits around; they control the scripts.

And finally, you've got to admire the EvE Online system, where they managed to create an economic flow that is resilient against gold farming. There's still gold farmers, but they make a very, very small business.

(I was starting to write a lengthy article on how they do that, but then I realize that, maybe, it's not going to be a good fit for the blog. After all, big articles are our esteemed host's responsibility)

4:

(I was starting to write a lengthy article on how they do that, but then I realize that, maybe, it's not going to be a good fit for the blog. After all, big articles are our esteemed host's responsibility)

No, go ahead! It sounds interesting.

(I've never played Eve. Or WoW, for that matter.)

5:

Vincent - I haven't played Eve for a few years now, but from what I remember, gold farming (bot mining) was rampant. And when I visit the forums every once in awhile out of nostalgia, there's still a lot of complaining about it. Have they changed something to fix it?

6:

I expect to see reports of the work being out-sourced to other countries with less savoury regimes: Burma and North Korea spring to mind. However, the bandwidth there is poor

Not so:

http://www.telecomsearchengine.com/show/company/OrascomTelecomNorthKorea/1827.html

I remember reading something along the lines that North Korea now has some 100.000 UMTS connections and growing rather quickly.

North Korea is not at all completely isolated - and being next to the notoriously well-connected city Seoul certainly helps to keep the bandwidth up in North Korea.

And btw., I have a nagging feeling that there are some (slow) changes for the better in North Korea that go unreported in our media, because they don't fit into the picture they painted of the country (and now can't get out of their heads).

There is quite a bit of industrial cooperation with South Korea and the border to China also seems to be a lot more permeable than you would expect from the reports.

A near-term death of Kim Jong Il no longer being a remote possibility seems to have brought some reforms to the country - just as in Cuba today or after Mao's death in China.

Of course, don't expect anything to happen on a scale shorter than decades. But don't expect things to stay the way they have always been - they never did and they'll never do.

7:

The comments on the post are even more interesting, where people question the idea of forced virtual labour. The thousands of people in offices every day are also forced (by being financially trapped) but are also doing things as virtual as mining gold in WoW. People spend hours messing around with spreadsheets or sending emails that nobody ever bothers to read - all virtual artefacts that have dubious real value.

8:

I think you missed the "prison labour" bit.

People in offices are not "trapped" except in the sense that they're doing it voluntarily to earn money. They can, in principle, walk out at any time.

The prison inmates don't have that option: there are guards with clubs, guns and dogs to keep them there.

The technical term for what's going on in these camps is "slavery", and there's a reason we in the civilized world tend to disapprove of prison labour being employed for the profit of the guards.

9:

There's also a large chance of disabling injury to the prisoners.

10:

I'm looking forward to the first international treaties to curtail the trad of "Blood Gold" or maybe "Slave Gold"

11:

Isn't this going to head into the same problems of "how do you identify this virtual gold piece as being "Blood Gold" as occurred with the theft in Halting State?

12:

Now how does it go ? “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

That report instantly reminded me of Jessica Mitfords

"Kind and usual punishment " that was first published in 1974


http://www.amazon.com/Kind-usual-punishment-Jessica-Mitford/dp/0394710932

My, UK edition, copy is titled " The American Prison Business "

In poking around for the spelling of "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose " I came upon this site that may interest you Charlie ...


http://www.chinalawblog.com/2007/05/chinese_and_american_cultural.html

" Chinese And American Cultural Differences -- La Plus Ca Change . . . .

Posted by Dan on May 08, 2007

A loyal reader sent this to me and though obviously dated, I found it quite interesting. I re-read Alexis De Tocqueville's Democracy in America a few years ago and was again amazed at how accurately it portrays the United States today, even though it was written in the early 1830s.

The "this" that our reader sent me is a look at America from the perspective of Wu Ting Fang, a Chinese diplomat stationed in the United States in the early 1900s. The "look" is fascinating both for what it says about the United States and for what it says about China. " "


It appears to me that The USAs Democratic Republican and Chinese " Communist " governmental systems are actually converging and that European Democracy may well be crushed between the Chinese American grinding wheels within wheels.

My but I'm in a grim mood- but then I've just been watching deputy prime minister on TV hold forth on the N.H.S.

13:

For the moment, that is unlikely. While certain international treaties do ban prison labour, the main international treaty on civil rights - the ICCPR - specifically permits prison labour:

Article 8

1. No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.

2. No one shall be held in servitude.

3.

(a) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour;

(b) Paragraph 3 (a) shall not be held to preclude, in countries where imprisonment with hard labour may be imposed as a punishment for a crime, the performance of hard labour in pursuance of a sentence to such punishment by a competent court.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm

Now, I'll be the first to sign a petition to ban prison labour. However, given the current political state of the world, I doubt the most egregious offenders will sign the treaty. It's too convenient, and being seen as tough on crime is often good political PR.

14:

I play EVE , haven't seen any gold-sellers.
there's stuff for reporting ISK traders , never seen so much as a sniff of one.
The main valuable I can see in the game is PLEX ( pilots licence extention) which is basically a months free game time on the server.
you can buy em off the in game markets for serious ISK or pay a subscription.
It looks possible through mining etc to actually pay the game for free, but then , with the repetitive task, becomes a job.

15:

Given that the guy is 54 and I dont know his background but dont think he was an avid PC gamer ... maybe the activity is not as enjoyable as we may think?

Hell, I have played almost all MMOs for 1-2 months till getting absolutely bored out of my skull and unsubscribing; if I had a guard telling me to keep playing WoW for 12 h for months I would loathe the thing :-P

16:

Trapped in WoW gold farm, send help.

Fuck.

I suppose it's indoor work with no heavy lifting, in that sense it's better, just like a properly calibrated taser might be "better" as a torture instrument than a couple of peeled cables plugged into a wall socket, but still...

17:

As it is logical to assume that it is not an isolate case and that that kind of cyber-slavery is going to grow in the near future (has anybody read Cory Doctorow's For the win?), will we see some fair-trade label for gold farming emerge?

18:

FTW is in the "to be read" bookcase, so no spoilers please.

Also see my comment #11.

19:

EVE online has whole alliances working together with RMT shops; maybe 5 to 10% of total accounts could be gold farming bots.

20:

I really dont see that much value from any online game's monetary system. Admittedly this is because I refuse to have anything to do with the money grubbing bastards, and have seen too many accounts being hacked by those who use the gold farmers and powerlevelers.

I believe the going rate in WoW is about £60 to 50000 gold or there abouts. But it is really pointless as most of the really good stuff is not bought for gold, its either quested or requires you to do lots of dungeons or PvP battles. The only thing that has any value that can be bought for gold is obscure mounts, often from the tie-in trading card game. Or the occasional vanity pet.

Also from my own point of view it really defeats the purpose of playing the game in the first place. Namely achieving these things for yourself, working hard and having a sense of pride when you gain something really good. Buying gold is just for the terminally dumb who cant play the bloody game well enough and have rich parents (yeah I do believe that most of them are kids under 16) who will pony up their credit card details.

Its nothing new, it was there in EverQuest 10 years ago and it will no doubt be with us in another 10 years. But its really is a good way to have your account raped.

I do feel sorry for the guys who are forced to play. That should be stopped. I am sure blizzard must have noticed that certain accounts are running 24/7, which should ring alarm bells.

21:

I am sure blizzard must have noticed that certain accounts are running 24/7, which should ring alarm bells.

How many times has some paper (usually the Daily Snail I think) run a "$Eastern_Asian dies whilst playing $MMORPG for several months straight" type story?

22:

Loads of times. I seem to remember there being one is 2000 of a player who dies playing EverQuest non-stop. Its nothing new.

23:

"As it is logical to assume that it is not an isolate case and that that kind of cyber-slavery is going to grow in the near future"

I don't know. There was an interesting article about a guy in Eve who apparently made a living from running bots to do the grinding for him:

http://www.evenews24.c
om/2010/12/03/rmt-uncovered-part1-former-aaa-leader-explains/

If the bots are sophisticated enough to mimic the player, why bother with a sweatshop prison when you can just have a server farm?

24:

Well -- folks are always going to be recalcitrant when it becomes obvious that they are on a gradient towards $someparticularevil.

So they'll spit up on slavery when it starts to look like the "wage slavery" they're involved in -- even if it's qualitatively worse, it still analogically similar. So defense mechanisms come into play.

It's what happens whenever you point to say 1984 as a hyperbolic, fairy-tale version of our reality (as most literature is). Immediately folks get their hackles up instead of rationally discussing similarities and difference. "1984 never happened" is the refrain from all over Oceania since the UK was never actually renamed Airstrip One. Poor, poor foolish Orwell -- how could he have so poorly predicted the future? (!!!)

You can fill in any evil you want -- it's pathetically repetitive, particularly in the good ol' USA where we are the opposite of all evils.

25:

Sorry, bad link:

http://tinyurl.com/27xnhga

26:

Ok, lets see.

I apologize. When I said "long article", I said long. My motto at work: never write a sentence where a paragraph can fit.

A few people have talked about the gold sellers, there still some, but only a few. It's not really profitable for them; due to reasons I'll explain below. Most of the bots reported around are actual players who farm gold (ok, space credits) for their use and plex trading (again, see below).

Now, curiously, there's a lot more use for gold/space credits in EvE online than in WoW. As others have noted, most of what you can purchase in WoW is not game-changing. You can use gold purchase to outfit a few characters in starting max-level equipment, but that equipment is outstripped by anything obtained while playing regularly. Gold is useful for fluff stuff, like rare pets (worth a couple 10k gold at the AH), expensive mounts (27k the highest currently) and the like.

In WoW, gold buying is really for the rich. The player who can't play a lot is not going to purchase gold to compensate for his lack of time or social relationships; it's because he wants the fluff, and farming gold for the fluff is horribly boring.

In EvE online, you actually lose your stuff. Get blown by gate campers, forget your action order, or regularly get with a couple friends to roam the spacelanes hunting for trouble for the lulz, and your internet spaceship gets blown, your expensive modules are salvaged by greedy scavengers, and you head back naked (in a capsule) to your main base.

Everything in EvE (most of everything) is player-made, and either consumable, or can get blown at any time. As a result, regular EvE players DO need a lot of credits all the time.

So how come the gold sellers don't swamp the game?

Three things.

The first is that most of the real credit-making schemes are dangerous. The biggest income earners are industrial-level exploitations of "R64" moons. But those are in the full PvP areas (called 0.0-security areas), meaning that you can't let them work unattended: each R64 moon in the game is known, and player empires tend to regard them as their private gardens. So, if the gold sellers try to take over, they get shot by players. A lot.

The next earner is 0.0 "ratting" (the NPC ships in the game are called "rats"). It's the closest to WoW gold-farming there is, but, again, the 0.0-security bites you. Any player that finds the gold seller there is going to happily blast him to pieces. The gold seller then has to purchase a new ship, setting him back further. The only way to be safe while "ratting" is to rat in your home territory, which means you have to have a territory, which means you belong to a space empire, which has to defend its territory, since the only thing EvE 0.0-security empires live for is destroying and conquering other space empires.

I'm skipping the rest, all the activities yield a lot less credit/time, and the safest activities (high-security mining) have really an awful credit/time ratio.

Now, you'd still get chinese slave gold - sorry, credits - farmers there. So why don't they come?

That's simple. CCP, the creators of the game, have come with an ingenious scheme.

Like all major MMOs, you pay by the month. You can either enter your credit card, and get a recurring subscription (with the usual rebate if you take a 3month plan, or a 6month plan instead of the monthly plan), or you can get to the store (mostly internet stores), and purchase a game card. That's a scratch-card, with a unique number that can be redeemed for a 30 or 60-days game time. All majors MMO now allow this paying scheme.

Now, here's the thing. With EvE, you can use that game card (called a "plex"), but instead of increasing your account time, you get an in-game token instead. The token can be used at any time to activate the extra duration, but then vanishes.

So what do I do if I want some free time? I get my billions of space credits, and go on the market, and see who is selling those plexes. I purchase the plex, using the in-game secure interface (which pretty much guarantees that I do get what I pay for) for my billions of ISK, use it, and get my extra time. And my credit card isn't used: I got play time for in-game currency.

And what do I do if I don't have billions of credits, but need to pay a new shiny T3 Battleship outfitted in T2 modules because I just blew up the last, and don't want to rat in high-sec for 6 weeks to repay it? I get my credit card out, buy a time plex, go in game, and put the in-game plex on the market for, well, whatever I think people are going to pay for it (120 billion, usually. Fluctuates depending on the local depressions and market conditions).

So, you do have an in-game secure system for trading that can be used to match people with real money with people with in-game currencies, and let them exchange something that has value for both of them: game time.

But for the gold seller, it's useless. The gold seller does not want play time - he wants the original cash. The gold seller must sell you credits for your real cash. And there is absolutely no in-game mechanism for that; CCP didn't put any.

So, we come to the third nail in the coffin:

As a player, you're faced with the following choice: You can purchase a plex with your credit card, and use the in-game marketplace, and safely trade the plex for credits. Or you can enter your credit card information on a dodgy site named www.bestestgold4cash.cn, written in engrish, and trust the guys - which no one hears about, since their activity is completely dodgy, so nobody complains or lauds them, for fear of being banned in-game - to not overcharge your credit card and deliver the actual sum.

The gold seller needs to make his deals extremely attractive to get there. And when the deal is so much attractive, you start worrying about the catch "how do they guy get 800 billion ISK for 10$ when the going rate is about 100 billions for 12$? Must be something weird".

And that, gentlemen, is how CCP got gold sellers marginalized in their game while they are rampant in WoW. They simply made a legit channel, and made it more secure... and they ensured in the meantime that the legit channel lands in their pockets (minus the margin that the cash out-of-game plex sellers pocket when reselling game cards)


TL;DR: When you face something people want, you can get War on Drugs and lose all your energy in it for little result, or make a legit channel, and see the criminal enterprise wither.

27:

Careful following that link. They seem to be stealing photos from another site and the replacement photo is definitely NSFW.

28:

Personally, I'd suggest that anybody MMO player who cares should place copies of From Dictatorship to Democracy (http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations98ce.html) in taverns, on cavern or temple walls, under rocks deep in dungeons, on treasure, wherever, throughout WoW and other MMOs. It's freely available, after all. No point in not spreading the word, especially if people have hours per day to read it.

29:

Shoot, I just noticed that. I had read it months ago, when it had the actual pictures up, and didn't scan through it before linking.

Sorry, guys, NSFW there.

30:

Here are parts 2 and 3 of the article, which are SFW, and are where it gets interesting:

http://tinyurl.com/2vly8hr

http://tinyurl.com/3xwy689

31:

Also from my own point of view it really defeats the purpose of playing the game in the first place. Namely achieving these things for yourself, working hard and having a sense of pride when you gain something really good.

Your brain is wired one way. Others are wired other ways. Some could care less about pride, it's all about the win, rules be damned. And we could go on. But not all people have brains wired the same way.

32:

I'm pretty sure we don't have a Chinese Communist party.

33:

No, you've got two of them instead.

34:

If the bots are sophisticated enough to mimic the player, why bother with a sweatshop prison when you can just have a server farm?

Because you have a sweatshop prison lying around doing nothing (for you). It's about the prison authorities having all these prisoners and deciding how to make a (private) profit from them. Presumably the chopstick making kickbacks aren't going to bring in anything but beer money.


35:

anura @ 24
Careful!
If you read the award-winning book "Nothing to Envy", you will come across the comment from N. Korean refugees - cuurently running @ ~3000+ a yeat (Guards are being bribed) ...
"How could this obscue Englishman, "Orwell" describe N. Korea so accurately?" - when they finally read "1984" in the South.
Ouch.

36:

I think I remember reading that Neal Stephenson's next book, Reamde (evidently, correct spelling) is a gold-farming thriller of some kind. Maybe now he knows how Charlie feels about getting scooped by reality.

37:

Charlie Stross: "Although I'd like to point out that being forcibly deprived of sleep after working 12 hour hard labour shifts would be enough to take the pleasure out of any activity, however enjoyable it would normally be."

Yes. But a nitpick: if it was normally enjoyable, there wouldn't be a market for this stuff. People are paying to avoid the tedious parts of the game....seems like bad game design. And yet MMOs are popular, despite seeming so much like work.

Larger point: Since gold farming is "illegal" in the game anyway, there's no way to stop forced labor, or organized crime, you name it, from being involved. It has similar problems to banning other products and services, if the ban isn't enforceable.

The game company itself sells game gold and items for real-world cash. Is the ban on gold-selling basically the protection of a monopoly?

38:

"Owners of the world, unite"
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/05/22/976743/-Owners-of-the-world,-unite?detail=hide&via=blog_1

Interesting piece on the long collaboration between the nominally Communist Chinese government and the capitalists of the rest of the world.

39:

I haven't played that many MMOs, mostly just EVE and then tried some for a short time, so I'm not sure how accurate this is.
Mostly I've talked to friends who do play.

People are paying to avoid the tedious parts of the game....seems like bad game design. And yet MMOs are popular, despite seeming so much like work.

I think one of the reasons for the so-called 'grind' (the tedious parts) in MMOs is the business reason: you have to get people to pay for the game, and repetitive things are much easier to implement. This way you can cheaply have content which people more or less happily run through multiple times,
instead of them having new things more often.

From the player point of view, it seems that people like to feel they've achieved something. In WoW, where as said above, you don't need the money that much, but want the un-tradeable items, which means going through the combats and quests often multiple times, until you get just the item you want. Then you can show off that item, or go grab the next one.

From what I hear from WoW it feels to me more like Massively Single-Player Online Game - even though things are often done in groups, everybody is basically there to grab stuff for themselves. When people max their levels I think it's a different game, but somebody who really has played the game can elaborate better.

EVE, on the other hand, is a multiplayer game. I'm of course biased from having played it a long, long time with good friends. As said in previous comments, much of the stuff in-game is done only by the players, and much of the things are not easily done by one (real-life) person, even if said person would run multiple accounts.

This means that it's beneficial to co-operate with other people to get the good stuff you want. Also the definition of 'good stuff' is not given explicitly by the game: EVE is much like a sand-box. The players themselves decide what they want and they go and work for it. This means EVE lacks a simple 'end-game', what for WoW is when you have maxed your levels and then get to the 'good stuff'.

Of course, the 0.0 Alliance play could be considered an 'end-game' of sorts, but it's not by all means the only one. That kind of play means being part of large player-controlled entities and sometimes, well, working for them, with mandatory fleet operations and hauling items around and things like that. The players can well define other goals and work around those.

Also the experience gathering is not as tedious: in EVE the characters' skills grow with time, with diminishing returns. My main character has something like 120 million skill points after playing over seven years, but he can only apply about 20-30 million of them at the same time, so a concentrated younger character could be better at one thing, easily. (Even not considering the fact that I'm not a good spaceship combatant.)

Making money is somewhat tedious, though. There are a lot of ways to make that, but mining and missioning (doing quests) is quite boring. Many forms of scamming are prohibited in the game, but many other schemes for making money are allowed.
Even the market is very much player-versus-player - it can be said that EVE stands for 'everybody versus everybody'. There are a lot of players who make money by trading, never undocking from stations.

I make just enough to keep me in ships and equipment, and the basic rule of undocking in EVE is 'never fly what you can't afford to lose'.

As for defining their own goals, I play in a small or medium sized high security space alliance. We roleplay, so for the time we play, we are in game, interacting as the *characters* instead as ourselves. Most EVE players of course don't care about roleplaying, but the game is structured so that they don't need to and we can easily interpret them as people in-game. In WoW the interaction with roleplayers and non-roleplayers seem much more immersion-breaking.
This roleplaying angle gives us a different goal than just grabbing real estate and money in the 0.0 regions: we have dedicated ourselves (or, rather, our characters) to defend one of the four (game fluff, so, not controlled by players) states against an inevitable attack by an another state. We also try to keep the region safe, so we attack also (player character) pirates and other criminals.

This gives us a good goal in the game, while avoiding the 'end-game'. I haven't yet run out of stuff to do even though I've never been part of the 0.0 alliances, haven't been a mercenary, or haven't done a lot of fun-sounding stuff.

It was a long rant, but I hope somebody understands more about why EVE is different from WoW.

40:

Couple of things. Firstly, for those who didn't read the article, these prisoners were being forced into playing the game all night AFTER a 12 hour day of hard labour. Not instead of hard labour but as well as.

Secondly, I'm one of the people who bot EVE, I have half a dozen accounts that mine asteroids 5 days a week 8 hours a day and pay for themselves. In effect making the game 'free to play'.

EVE Online is, in many ways, a very badly designed game. It's all about player versus player interaction and has little or no interesting content other than combat. It's also got mind numbingly simple procedures so that even the shabbiest programmer can write mouse click macro scripts to go botting for them.

This isn't a new feature of EVE, it's always been like that. Shockingly dull grinding content in order to pay for 'exciting' combat content, and a player base with the singularly most awful behaviour ever. All EVE really has going for it is that it's the only serious scifi space game and it has beautiful graphics.

From my point of view EVE isn't a game worth playing so I don't play it, I play the botting metagame. If they 'fix' it I'll play the game.

41:

I'd quit EVE soon if I didn't have the good corporation and alliance to play with, but I just have to ask:

From my point of view EVE isn't a game worth playing so I don't play it, I play the botting metagame. If they 'fix' it I'll play the game.

It seems to me you play the game even then. Why do you play if you don't want to play? You seem to even disregard the player-versus-player content, so why macro even for that?

Also, there's lots of interesting stuff to do besides straight-up combat. It's just sometimes hard to find that content under all the Goons...

42:

Charlie, I forgot to say that EVE Online is one of the few MMOs that can be played on the Mac. It's also very static in visual terms so your vision problems shouldn't be too badly affected, provided you don't flick the mouse around too much. Free trials are available thus it's not even necessary to fork out cash to have a look at it.

43:

"In Soviet Russia" (thanslated by Google):

Ark: sidekick in the army
Ark: 10 months not a single news
Ark: Yesterday came sms - Mihalich, this is Leha, check the bot in Giran and give 300kk Diastrez, it is our company commander: (

(c) http://bash.org.ru/quote/404736

44:

Please also note that EvE is one of the games around here with the highest learning curve.

So much that this picture has even been used by the game designers themselves.

(Google "eve learning curve" and look at the images found... scary, isn't it?)

45:

Dear Anon: do you think you could pick a more creative pseudonym?

It's not that I have a beef with anonymity on the internet, but I think we currently have at least two different people posting here with "Anon" as their handle, and it makes it rather hard to hold a conversation if one doesn't know which anonymous sock-puppet one is addressing.

46:

One of our political parties in Ontario, Canada, has just announced that they will recreate chain gangs if elected.

Ontario has good to excellent connectivity, so gold farming would be eminently possible here.

--dave
[Oddly enough, the promise resonates with their core
supporters so they probably will act on it]

47:

Thanks for that, and it does rather ring true - not just Now but also in the past of Once Upon a Time and in the Future of SciFi. In essence its the old rule of discovering the culprit in either Crime or/and Politics isn't it? ..."cui bono "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cui_bono

48:

Ah, right, well, I did miss a bit from my sentence didn't I, thus, perhaps ? " It appears to me that The USAs Democratic Republican ***system, and *** the *** Chinese " Communist " governmental systems are actually converging and that European Democracy may well be crushed between the Chinese American grinding wheels within wheels."

Better now?

Actually I also do disagree with Our Esteemed Host in as much as it seems to me that rather than ... " No, you've got two of them instead. " ... the US of A has NOT got ** Two ** parties of government but rather only One and that that One Party is un-evenly divided between the, "Not At all of the Left These days but rather to the Right of the British Torys " ...AKA the Democrats .. and The " Barking MAD Party of Guns and God " ... also known as the Republicans.

I claim as a saving grace that I think it highly likely that it is impossible to pick up the ebb and flow of any countries political system unless you actually live in that country for a couple of years, and do step outside of the diplomatic /business enclaves that people do build for themselves when they live abroad.

But then wot do I know since I really am ever so English and have never lived in the US of A?


For an entertaining view of the Real US of A vian Communist Party do seek out Jessica Mitford's splendidly absurd view of The Party ..." A Fine Old Conflict "


" Mitford's second memoir, A Fine Old Conflict (1977), comically describes her experiences joining and eventually leaving the Communist Party USA. Mitford titled the book after what, in her youth, she thought were the lyrics to the Communist anthem, "The Internationale", which actually are "Tis the final conflict". Mitford recounts how she was invited to join the Communist Party by her co-worker Dobby, to whom she responded "We thought you'd never ask!" She bristled against the conservative structure in the CP, at one point upsetting the women's caucus by printing a poster with "Girls! Girls! Girls!" to draw people to an event. She mercilessly teased an elder Communist about what she perceived as his paranoia when he wrote out the name of a town where she could get chickens donated from "loyal party members" for a fund raiser. When he wrote Petaluma on a scrap of paper to avoid being overheard by possible bugs, she asked in jest how the chickens should be prepared, and wrote, "Fried or broiled". It was subsequently revealed in the book Spycatcher by former MI-5 counterintelligence officer Peter Wright that in fact, MI-5 had a massive operation of bugging the communist party in England, which Wright had participated in. "


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Mitford


Truly they don't make 'em like that anymore.

49:

I think you misunderstood my take on US politics.

There are two parties in alternating control of the US government: the mad billionaires, and the sane billionaires.

Mad billionaires: "why don't we KILL THE POOR AND TAKE THEIR STUFF?!?!11?"

Sane billionaires: "hang on, who's going to mow our lawns if you kill them all?"

They sort out a compromise between them and inflict it on the public via the approved marketing channels, of which there are two (branded "Republican Party" and "Democrat Party").

Note that the billionaires (be they mad or sane) do not have any intrinsic political loyalty other than, well, their money. It's just that they buy the best political representation they can get, in a situation where the supreme court lately declared that money is speech within the strict meaning of the first amendment.

(Cynical? Moi?)

51:

The Republican Party and the Democrat Party. They're both sock-puppets. The real decisions get made elsewhere and rolled out via the circus performances in the big tent.

Just like the Chinese communist party, only you've got two of them..

52:

**I thought Charlie meant we had two communist parties in the US, so please kill 50 & 51.

53:

No :)

Actually, you've got a whole bunch of Communist Parties in the USA. (So do we, in the UK.) Communist Parties in the west tend to fission like amoebae at the drop of a hat. It's a symptom of powerlessness.

54:

We all make mistakes ..it's part of exploring the political processes of the many and various Ape /Wolf packs that have come to Dominate the World.

55:

I'll agree with that for the parties, mostly, but there are also the sane billionaires who think, "Someone with a high school degree is much less likely to kill me for my wallet; someone with a degree and a good job is less likely to have children who will kill me for my wallet."

56:

Yes, that's the "who's going to mow our lawns?" variety.

Because there's not a lot of difference from a billionaire's perspective on wealth between a gardener and a senior partner in a large commercial law firm.

57:

I've been searching my memory as best I can, and I think I only know two billionaires personally, and neither one particularly well -- talking with either frightens me. (You can guess one of them, I'm sure.)

I know a couple dozen people worth 8-9 figures, though. They run the entire political spectrum from bat-shit right-wing nutjob to bat-shit left-wing nutjob. How is it in the UK? (Where, I presume, a lot more of the wealth is old money than among the crowd I know.)

58:

I have a couple problems with EVE.

1. It's too big of a time-sink. I've got a real life that I don't have enough time for.
2. Too much grinding that became too much work. They kept nerfing the reward for any credit-earning activities. Why make things more tedious?
3. Too sharp a divide between veteran and n00b. You die quickly in PVP combat and often have no idea what went wrong. Might be a realistic depiction of getting robbed and murdered by a highwayman but doesn't make for fun gameplay.
4. Too many players were dicks. You have carebears -- people who want to play the game and not get into death duels with other characters -- and griefers -- people who take a perverse delight in ruining someone's day.
5. The developers cheated at the higher end. You had big in-game battles between rival factions which could be fun but you found out that the developers were backing a given team and giving them all sorts of freebies.

That last one really feels too much like real life. I worked briefly as a stock borker. You read about how the game is supposed to be played, what the rules are, how they apply to everyone and any player in the market has a fair shake at making a buck. HA!!! Between regulatory capture and all manner of nefarious cheating, the big boys have offloaded all of their risks to the suckers and are pulling down 100% pure, unadulterated, risk-free profit. Only a sucker finds himself in a fair game; a baller only plays a rigged game and he's the one rigging it.

The one useful purpose EVE serves extremely well is acting as a small-scale model of the dynamics of the larger world. You really get to see all the extremes of human behavior for good and bad, mainly bad. You can see how markets rise and fall, the workings of scams, cons, grifts, and the very worst of politicking. If CCP ever managed to clean up the game, they'd have a blueprint for fixing the greater society outside the servers.

59:

It's more of a mixture than you might expect - though the English Aristocracy is way up there at the top - but then the UK /London is a world city and a center for financial systems as well as being a refuge for foreign oligarchs who have taken the money and run.

This might interest you ...

" There are 48 billionaires (35 are British) living here, making the UK Europe's super-rich capital. Here we reveal the secrets of the 20 richest people in Britain. "

Read more:

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=432472&in_page_id=2#ixzz1NaimDXd1
"

60:

Well, in Northern Virginia, we always have teeny parties run against the Democrats and Republicans, but none of them are ever named Communist.

61:

"worked briefly as a stock borker"

Assuming this isn't deliberate, "stock borker" is my favorite typo this week. Either way, kudos.

62:

These days no sensible political party of Power would Ever Label itself as being 'Communist '..the Brand has been pretty comprehensively devalued since the end of the Cold War. Rather than 'communist ' an ambitious neophyte Party Of Power would label itself 'Democratic ' and associate itself with the PEOPLE whilst using vaguely positive terms like, say, 'Liberal' or 'Republican ' and having their front men/women ladle the Humanity and Environmentalisms of their 'Core Values 'over the electorate with a Very Big Ladle ...never hurts to emphasis how Intelligent and Sensible the Electorate is ... You cant Fool The People and the People Support US!!!

Sorry if I seem to be terminally cynical but at one stage in my career i found myself teaching Presentation Technique .. I got ever so weary of comforting tearful students outside of my TV suites control room as they queued to Go On to deliver their presentation, after they had been very poorly prepared, that I started to do my own, very popular, little seminars in my own lunch time ..'little ' that developed into hundreds of students in preliminary tutorial sessions that were never called Lectures.


As a retired .. 'spin Doctor '? I can say that I am now really, Really, tired of being told that President Obama is a Really Terrific Orator..thus ..

" US President-elect Barack Obama's rhetorical skill, his ability to captivate and inspire audiences with his powerful speeches, has led some writers to describe him as the greatest orator of his generation.


" The power of the word: Mr Obama is inspired by earlier orators
What is the secret of his success - the words themselves, the way he delivers them, or the historical change he represents?

"I believe Barack Obama embodies, more than any other politician, the ideals of American eloquence," says Ekaterina Haskins, professor of rhetoric at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7735014.stm

To which I reply ... Bollocks! Personal Presence ...lots of self confidence .. Good Speech Writers - material that is written for delivery to camera - and a few simple rhetorical tricks, like the Rhetorical ...........Pause, to catch attention ..and there you have it.

Sorry about that but my addiction to the news media has left me victim to yet another fawning report on the POTUS visits London.

63:

Most of the Communist Parties in the US are long dead, because the Old Bolshies who originally set them up wouldn't update their rhetoric, couldn't get many new members, and are now dying off. There are a lot of individual Communists still around, but they're not really well organized. Much of the infrastructure they depended on, in the unions and academia, has been dismantled by the rightward shift of the country coupled with the loss of union membership and the natural pusillanimity of university administrations.

There are still a lot of people like me who identify as Progressive, or Far-Left, or some variant of those, but a many of us feel like the landscape shifted and left us stranded in a place where no one believes in social justice or the cooperative nature of civilization. And there are still a few people who talk the Communist talk, and walk the Communist walk, like Angela Davis.

64:


I was enough of a anti-Communist that I got dressed down by people I liked and mostly agreed with. Who did not know anything about the Communist. There has never been any real evidence our Right knows anything about Communist outside of what they yell to give themselves meaning.. I think I can tell you what happened to Communist, maybe? Back when we were working at a super computer that would think, Russian computer scientists were finding reasons to be where that work was being done. One of ours found a Russian alone and told him if they succeeded would be a secret. The Russian supposedly said that we would know if you did it. And we know we need a computer that's bigger by (I forget how many) factors to run a centralized economy. They were too big and trying too much. like America is. We never found it and they turned inward and corrupt. They were not as bad as we believed by then. We know now that if they were like we had thought they were, the were the only thing that could have kept them off the English channel was Nukes. Hip fools and Euros have been yelling about how there is only one party in America for a long time. There sure are two from where I am. One that's part Tea bagger and part Wall St and may go the way of the Wigs as the same thing happens to them that happened to the Wigs. And one that is run at the top by people who have the best jobs they ever will, and don't want to take a chance of losing them by doing what the people who still vote for them want. Europe was better off than the US. Europe 's bad problems started when their banks got into our big banks AAA bonds I think. They were a Con. Bush stepped aside and ruined the world. Our problem and maybe yours is that Democracy in the US is being usurped by authorition Corporatism. BOY DID I CUT THIS DOWN !

65:

Not all that long ago there was short story where a good son goes to the retirement home and saw how, miserable, bored and poor they all were. This being Analog (the one with the rivets) he set them up with tela-computer jobs doing real work of value running things. Huuum...

66:

Yes, I'm not a communist, but my beliefs are a lot farther left than the Democrats these days.

67:

OK, OK. I've got my breath back and a apology may be do. I am a little still in the then not the now maybe. But the idea of my party still allowing the reading and keeping of all E-Mail, just in case. Adding using their voters money to pay for police cars that read licence number to a 1984 computer is hard on me. The R/W Marvin Liebman, once said the Conservative movement was predominantly an "ooze . . . made up of bigots, anti-Semites, anti-Catholics, the KKK, rednecks, Know-Nothings, a sorry lot of public hucksters and religious medicine men.". It still is! Then the Democratic party leaders sold out to rich computer guys who gave them money for free trade and not getting letting the nuts rule them. Not long ago unions helped keep mad, rich cowboys and money monkeys in check. Now ordinary people have nobody on their side. Just pols strip mining them for votes. I think that's why the run to the kind of disastrous free trade we have. By treaty it can not be voted on, ever. Our two parties were never like the Euro parties but it worked. Now they are different in big ways. The Rev. Moon's illegal Japanese money and his Washington Times newspaper along with Fox TV have been pushing us to a Vichy America. In fact the speeches of Vichy France I've read could be coming from Rupert Murdoch's once illegal Fox TV. You know him over there, right! All the far right Presidential candidates were working for it, getting in the eye of Fox voters.

68:

SORRY. THESE PEOPLE UPSET ME.

69:

Similar but different idea from Japan here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13597670

A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners is volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station. The "Skilled Veterans Corps", as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of sixty. One of the group, Yasuteru Yamada, told the BBC's Roland Buerk that they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

I give you John Scalzi and "Old Man's Meltdown".

70:

They told me at the re-fueling that the older you are the fewer new cells are being formed. And the danger is a new cell taking a hit of one ray. So give them jumper pay. They can have a ball before they die and it probity will not the rads that do it.

71:

They don't really need skilled engineers on-site at Fukushima Daiichi per se, what they need are fit young folk, men preferably, who will do the grunt work of assembling and installing the kit needed to create the closed-loop cooling systems and the structural reinforcements planned for the reactor buildings and other parts of the plant. The skilled engineers will be working in offices and factories well away from the site designing and constructing the bits.

Some of the grunts are old folks anyway -- one of them had a heart attack and died recently while working in a bunny suit and respirator on the plant grounds doing cleanup. I think he was 62 or thereabouts.

72:

Trust me the book Spycatcher by former MI-5 counterintelligence officer Peter Wright is full of the kind of history that's needed. See what He and Harry Truman and J.E. Hovver thought of the GOP's anti-commie war of the 50's. And why. AND WHAT THEY KNEW WAS GOING ON. Just not who was doing it. There was a there, there.

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