How Hyperinflation in Venezuela Led to Clan Warfare in Old School RuneScape : Planet Money Two groups of people who would never meet in real life collide in a world of wizards and dragons. They battle it out in a low-tech video game, and it shakes the lives of a lot of real people living in a collapsing economy. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Video Gaming The System

Video Gaming The System

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Amanda Aronczyk fights a giant rat while playing Old School RuneScape. NPR hide caption

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NPR

Amanda Aronczyk fights a giant rat while playing Old School RuneScape.

NPR

A few years ago, something strange started to happen in a video game called Old School RuneScape. Suddenly there were lots of new players in the game, and they were all behaving in pretty much the same way. They were there for hours on end, performing the same tasks over and over again. Killing green dragons, and harvesting gold, killing more green dragons and harvesting gold.

It seemed pretty clear these new players were what gamers call "gold farmers." They were winning gold in the game and then converting that game gold into actual money by selling it to other players on underground websites. It's been going on for years, and most games prohibit it, but it still keeps happening.

The question was: why were there suddenly so many of these new players in Old School RuneScape?

The answer lay in one single collapsing economy. Venezuela. Rampant hyperinflation was undermining the local currency. And for thousands of Venezuelans, video game gold had become a currency of refuge.

Music: "Supa Fly By."

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