Most days here at The Crime Analyst's Blog, I try to write serious posts that show how crime analysis benefits law enforcement. Sometimes though, it's hard to find a crime story that lends itself to this. The good thing is that I know there are usually plenty of crime stories that are just plain weird and yet interesting. This is going to be one of those posts.
There's a story over at The Guardian that alleges that prisoners in China's prisons are being forced to play online games in order to build up virtual goods that the guards can then sell for real money.
But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment. The hard slog may have been virtual, but the punishment for falling behind was real.
"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," he said.
It is known as "gold farming", the practice of building up credits and online value through the monotonous repetition of basic tasks in online games such as World of Warcraft. The trade in virtual assets is very real, and outside the control of the games' makers. Millions of gamers around the world are prepared to pay real money for such online credits, which they can use to progress in the online games.