Doctorow Novel Comes True?
Up to 100,000 people in China and Vietnam are playing online games to gather gold and other items for sale to Western players, a report suggests.
The global market for such virtual game goods is worth at least $3bn (£1.8bn) the World Bank study estimates.
About 75% of that comes from so-called "gold farmers" who stockpile game currencies to sell on later.
Encouraging these in-game services could aid development in many poorer countries, said the report.
The high proportion of money from such sales that reaches those in the country where the work was done [23% to the individual] might mean that it could aid development in many nations, said the report which was co-commissioned by the World Bank and development organisation InfoDev.