Gold Farming and the Geopolitics of Trade: The ARG

I’m going to be coordinating a couple of ARGs this Spring. Here’s the announcement for the first one. Please join us!

‘Stop Gold Farming!’ is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) developed for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. It could be called an experiment in collective storytelling, a radical new media project, or an internet ‘hoax’ with a social message! Anyone can play (participants interact with the narrative in real-time using a variety of communication technologies such as email, blogs, SMS, digital video, podcasts, etc.), and therefore anyone can shape the outcome. The game revolves around a fictional controversy unfolding at Ithaca College related to the issue of gold farming, or the practice of selling virtual goods that can be used in massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy. These goods are often produced under sweatshop conditions in developing countries for the consumption of First World clients. ‘Stop Gold Farming!’ is the story of a student organization demanding that an IC student engaged in the distribution of virtual goods be expelled from the college. As part of the ‘Trade’ stream of FLEFF, the goal of this ARG is to engage students and festival participants in an exploration of gold farming as an embodied economic practice in a gaming context characterized by virtuality and disembodiment, and in the context of globalization and trade as a process that reinforces “unequal human relations rather than merely intensifying connectedness” (Biao, 2008). By framing the experience as an ARG, this FLEFF LAB involves various communities in analyzing a real-life problem, collectively articulating a multitude of realistic and possible responses to it, and examining the ethical question of what form action should take after the game. This FLEFF LAB was conceptualized and is being coordinated by Prof. Ulises Mejias from SUNY Oswego, and produced in collaboration with FLEFF interns. You can join the experience by visiting stopgoldfarming.wordpress.com. You can also join us on April 3 from 9:00 to 10:30 AM in the Park soundstage (Ithaca College) for a discussion that will include a gold farming demo and a live conference call with a team of researchers in China.

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