Why are people in Venezuela trying to make money from playing video games?

FEATURED IMAGE: Efrain Peña played Tibia at a cybercafe in Caracas on Nov. 28, 2017. PHOTOGRAPHER: WIL RIERA/BLOOMBERG

 

The crisis in Venezuela has persisted over a long period. The uprising against the repressive government calls for policies to tackle the problems faced by the country. The issues range from hyperinflation to government corruption.

 

Inflation in Venezuela was estimated to be 80,000% by 2018. Bloomberg estimated that it was 380,000% at one point. To the citizens, these numbers meant that they would need to find new sources of income—money that would not lose its value in a short time.

 

How bad is the hyperinflation? When the wage increase is far lower than the rate of inflation, individuals have to find new ways to feed themselves.

 

The cybercafes in Venezuela have more visitors now. But these people are not here to enjoy the desperate time; they are here to earn money.

 

These people can spend hours playing online games to acquire virtual currency or items that will be sold in exchange for money or cryptocurrencies.

 

Typical online games include RuneScape. Through gold farming, a player selling 500,000 gold per hour less than two days can earn more than the new monthly minimum wage $6.70, which was previously increased to in January.

 

However, this is not a stable source of income, as gold farming breaks the rule. The account can be shut down at any time, sending these people to bed with no dinner.

 

RuneScape players are also upset with the in-game inflation caused by an increased amount of gold sold on the in-game market. Some players are fed up and take actions. A guide can be found on Reddit, detailing how to spot and kill Venezuelan players in the game. Other players argue that this is inhumane as those Venezuelans do not have alternate sources of income.

 

The crisis persists; many Venezuelans are still affected today.

 

Causing about 3.4 million to flee the country, the Venezuela crisis is a tragedy sustained by the corrupt nation. (TLDR: Wikipedia entry, the crisis in Venezuela is “a socioeconomic and political crisis that began in Venezuela during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, has continued into the presidency of Nicolás Maduro. It is marked by hyperinflation, climbing hunger, disease, crime and death rates, and massively emigration from the country.”)

 

A group of about 10 Venezuelan migrants are walking together for safety. ©2019 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren

 

The country could already see it coming. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world; through profits from exports, Venezuela once became the wealthiest country in South America in the 20th century.

 

The fortune did not persist. The 1980s oil glut caused Venezuela’s economy to contract due to a surplus in crude oil. Since then, the country was in massive debt.

 

Although Chávez, elected president in 1998, promised to improve the condition; the corruption in the country did not help.

 

Chávez’s policies included redistribution of wealth, land reform and democratisation of economic activities. Venezuela’s economy grew—just before the global recession in 2009. The crisis began.

 

After the economic growth decreased again, Chávez also tried currency devaluation in the hope that export will be easier to sell. It did not work.

 

Chávez died of cancer in 2013. Maduro assumed the presidency when the rate of inflation exceeded 50%. A year later, protests were broken up with force.

Marcus Tsai

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