Saudi gamers using “up to 10,000 Indian labourers” to build vast online Minecraft citiesRIYADH: Up to 10,000 migrant workers from India are living in squalid conditions in over-populated online labour camps across Saudi Arabia, claims a BBC Panorama documentary to be aired tomorrow evening.
The filmmakers secretly recorded footage in several camps built in Minecraft, a popular internet-based video game set in an open world in which players can construct vast cities from pixelated resources.
The game has proved a huge hit in Saudi Arabia, but the documentary will reveal what it terms the ‘Craftier Side of Minecraft’, in which players from the country have employed thousands of labourers from across the Indian subcontinent to build their worlds for them.
The programme alleges that many of the workers were lured over with the promise of high salaries and fulfilling work, but most have seen their pay packets drastically cut and positions involve repetitive click-orientated labour.
“I’ve got a degree in advanced engineering, but I’ve spent the past two years moving polygons from one spot to another and bashing through squares of dirt,” claims Anuj Anawink, a 37-year-old from Kerala who wished to remain unnamed. The documentary makers also managed to speak to several hundred workers who had been stranded within Minecraft by employers who they claim “simply tired of the game upon the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and moved on.”
Most of these workers, it says, have been left without their passports and unable to leave the game.
“I’ve been waiting for my documents and at least four months wages for over a year now,” claims one interviewee. “We’ve all been living off pixelated apples for six months.”
Despite the allegations made in the documentary, much international attention has already been made of the structures being built by the Saudi Minecraft community, including the Mushroom Kingdom Tower, set to be the world’s tallest online construction when it is completed in 2014, and the 65-kilometre long Mall of Minecraft.
Game devotees across the world, however, have criticised the developments, many labelling them ‘crass’, ‘tacky’ and ‘ostentatious’. Others have even suggested that the buildings are to blame for a recent slowdown in gameplay, with the Minecraft servers unable to support their sheer scale.
“The Saudis always have to go one step too far,” claimed Helsinki-based Minecraft commentator Sven Svenburg.