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How RS is Helping Venezuelans Survive

Jul-02-2024 PST

The Collapse of Venezuela

Venezuela, once one of South America's wealthiest nations, has faced an unprecedented political and economic crisis over the past decade. This turmoil began with a gradual economic decline around 2010, eventually escalating into a catastrophic situation characterized by rampant crime, pervasive corruption, and widespread starvation. Today, 90% of Venezuelans live in poverty, with many struggling to secure basic necessities such as food and medical supplies. One of the most extreme periods of hyperinflation in recorded history has rendered the country's currency, the bolivar, nearly worthless. The average Venezuelan working a minimum wage job earns the equivalent of just $5 a month, a stark contrast to the country's prosperous past.

How RS is Helping Venezuelans Survive

As the crisis deepened, millions of Venezuelans fled the country in search of better lives. By November 2019, the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants had reached 3 million. Those who remain have been forced to find creative ways to survive. Among the various survival strategies, one particularly unusual and innovative method has emerged: playing the online multiplayer role-playing game RuneScape.

The Virtual Lifeline: RuneScape

RuneScape, developed by British company Jagex and first released in 2001, has become an unexpected economic lifeline for many Venezuelans. Specifically, Old School RuneScape (OSRS), the older and more popular version of the game, has gained significant traction among Venezuelan players. OSRS is favored because it is less demanding on computer hardware and consumes less data, making it more accessible for those with limited resources.

In the last four years, a growing number of Venezuelans have turned to RuneScape as a primary source of income. The game's virtual economy, which allows players to trade in-game items and currency, has become a crucial means of survival for many. This phenomenon illustrates how virtual worlds can offer real-world economic opportunities, especially in times of crisis.

Martinez's Story

One such player is Martinez, an ex-accountant who requested anonymity to protect his RuneScape account. Martinez's story is emblematic of the broader trend. He quit his accounting job after the hyperinflation of the bolivar made it impossible to sustain himself on his salary. Martinez turned to OSRS as a means of survival, spending hours hunting green dragons and engaging in other in-game activities to earn virtual gold, which he could then sell for real money.

The RuneScape Economy

The in-game economy of OSRS operates on a virtual currency known as gold. Players can earn gold by completing various tasks, such as fighting monsters, completing quests, and trading OSRS items. This gold can then be sold to other players for real-world money through third-party platforms. For Venezuelans like Martinez, this virtual gold has become more stable and valuable than their national currency.

The process of converting in-game gold to real money involves several steps. Players typically use third-party websites or forums to find buyers willing to pay cash for their virtual earnings. While the exchange rates can vary, the income generated from these transactions often surpasses what Venezuelans could earn from traditional jobs in their home country.

A Growing Trend

Martinez is not alone in his reliance on RuneScape. Thousands of Venezuelans have joined the game's virtual world, forming a community of players who share tips and strategies for maximizing their in-game profits. This burgeoning community has attracted attention from both the gaming world and the broader public, highlighting the intersection of virtual economies and real-world crises.

The reasons for RuneScape's popularity among Venezuelans are multifaceted. The game's low system requirements and minimal data usage make it accessible to those with limited resources. Additionally, the flexible nature of the game allows players to engage in a variety of activities, from combat to crafting, catering to different playstyles and preferences. This flexibility has enabled Venezuelans to find niches within the game where they can be most productive.

Challenges and Risks

While RuneScape has provided a vital lifeline for many, it is not without its challenges and risks. The practice of selling in-game gold for real money, known as Real World Trading (RWT), violates the game's terms of service. Players caught engaging in RWT risk having their accounts banned, which would cut off their source of income. This has created a precarious situation where Venezuelan players must balance their need for income with the risk of losing their accounts.

Moreover, the reliance on RuneScape as a primary source of income underscores the dire economic conditions in Venezuela. While the game offers a temporary solution, it is not a sustainable long-term strategy for economic stability. The volatility of the in-game economy, combined with the potential for account bans, means that players must constantly adapt and find new ways to generate income.

Community and Solidarity

Despite these challenges, the RuneScape community has shown remarkable solidarity and support for Venezuelan players. Many international players are aware of the struggles faced by their Venezuelan counterparts and have taken steps to help. Some offer advice and guidance on how to avoid account bans, while others engage in fair trades to ensure Venezuelan players receive a decent price for their OSRS gold.

This sense of community extends beyond the virtual world. Various online forums and social media groups have sprung up, where players share their experiences and offer support. These platforms have become essential spaces for Venezuelan players to connect, share resources, and navigate the complexities of both the virtual and real-world economies.

A Glimpse into the Future

The phenomenon of Venezuelans using RuneScape to survive highlights the potential of virtual economies to provide real-world economic opportunities. As technology continues to evolve, the lines between virtual and real economies may become increasingly blurred. This trend could lead to new forms of work and income generation, particularly in regions facing economic instability.

However, the reliance on virtual worlds for economic survival also raises important questions about the sustainability and ethics of such practices. As more people turn to games like RuneScape for income, developers and policymakers will need to consider the implications and potential regulations to ensure fair and safe practices.


RuneScape has become an unexpected beacon of hope for many Venezuelans amidst a backdrop of economic collapse and political turmoil. The game's virtual economy has provided a means of survival, allowing players to earn real money through in-game activities. While this trend highlights the resilience and ingenuity of those affected by the crisis, it also underscores the need for long-term solutions to address the root causes of Venezuela's economic woes. As the world continues to grapple with economic challenges, the story of Venezuelans and RuneScape offers a glimpse into the potential of virtual economies to provide real-world relief.