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The Esoteric Beat: Farming, Vaporware, Stalking

Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at the habits of MMO gold fa...
Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at the habits of MMO gold farmers, a new PC-based pseudo-console platform, and a particularly worrying real-life 'game' service. - Gamers often put themselves in some peculiar places, and one of those places is the metallic agriculture of the gold farmers of Azeroth. Yeah, that virtual economy thing isn't going away, in fact it's set to get even bigger as more and more people decide that they're willing to part with cash for a head-start in the online economies of the MOG. Game Guides Online has just delivered an article that sits half way between a How To guide for gold farmers and an expose of their game breaking practices. The article dismisses some misconceptions, such as the 'virtual sweatshop' concept of gold farming, inflation, and the idea that farmers are necessarily anti-social gamers. The article also looks at some practices, and ways to recognize farmers. Overall, the conclusion seems to be that farmers are really just everyday gamers who found themselves in a 'special place' of repetitive behaviour and an astonishing understand of just how a game works. "The best farmers I know claim they can complete the Uldaman run solo within five minutes. I've never timed them so I can't vouch for that; but even if, as I suspect, they're exaggerating their prowess, they can do it quickly enough to make a nice profit at it." - The video game industry would be a lot less interesting without a good piece of alleged vaporware doing the rounds, so how about this latest one: The Gamix. This most recent idea is essentially just a compatibility standard. It's a hardware spec in a box that manufacturers can sign up to say that their machine meets the 'Gamix standard'. Gamix President Eli Tomlinson explains: "It is our passionate belief that by giving developers and hardware manufacturers a completely open market, creativity and innovation will thrive. The business model of large companies with proprietary systems controlling the profitability of independent game developers will not be able to compete. So what exactly is Gamix? Gamix is simply the technical specifications for the videogame system of tomorrow. And Gamix is the marketing behind the platform." So isn't it just a PC? Hmm. Either way, we're still waiting for our Phantom. - Finally, we end on what must be the story of the week, that of an agency which organises real-world events in the style of David Fincher's 1997 film, The Game. For some reason this has been tagged by bloggers as a 'real-life videogame', but the number of videogames in which you get kidnapped for your personal titillation seems fairly limited. Artist Brock Enright offers "bespoke executive kidnappings" for $1,500 a time. Every abduction is tailored to the phobias the client, so as to offer "maximum terror". Initially little more than publicity stunts, Brock now runs a company, Video And Adventure Services, which allegedly offer 'custom reality services' in which people bizarre fantasies about being set up or stalked are realised by Brock and his team of actors. I've been wanting to be burgled and kidnapped for weeks now... where do I sign? [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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