We can all agree that gold farmers in an MMORPG are a blight and that people shouldn’t support such “businesses,” but the problem of gold sellers being drawn in to Old School RuneScape some years ago has a few more wrinkles to it than one might expect.
In the most recent episode of NPR’s Planet Money radio program, we get a closer look at the cause of a gold farming boom in OSRS, which was being directly fueled by a crash in Venezuela’s GDP from 2014 to 2020 and hyperinflation of the Venezuelan bolivar that saw the currency’s value drop dramatically. The broadcast brought on one OSRS player by the name of Alex, who originally lived in Venezuela and explained how becoming a gold seller helped people like him escape the country’s inflation trap.
“If you find something like RuneScape, and you realize that putting 10 hours a day into this game you could be making $8 that day, but you made that money in dollars – in a currency that you know isn’t going to be affected by the rampant inflation of your country – then you would run the numbers, and you would realize that by the end of the month you could be making more than a university teacher or a doctor.”
The fact that OSRS gold held more value than the Venezuelan bolivar and that it was an easy to run game in terms of system requirements meant that many people like Alex took to the world of old-school Gielinor pretty quickly. It also brought up tensions with the wider OSRS community and kicked off a so-called Great Battle of the Revenant Caves. The broadcast is about 21 minutes but is an insightful bit of reporting into a world that otherwise is swiftly derided.