Ed Felten describes the odd nature of gold farming in World of Warcraft:
This relationship is an amazing tangle of play and work. The gold farmer works playing a game, so he can earn money which he spends playing the same game. The customer finds part of the game too much like work, so he works at another job to earn money to pay a gold farmer to play for him, so the customer can have more fun when he plays. Got it?
This practice is not just a digital phenomenon, though. Think about golf caddies or golf instructors who spend their spare time playing golf, or fishing and hunting guides. Taking someone else out to where the fish are and showing them how to catch them may not be as fun as fishing for your own pleasure, but it still beats regular work, at least for some. Or how about sherpas on Mount Everest? They are some of the most accomplished alpinists in the world, but they are seen mostly as laborers to assist the “real” climbers in achieving their goals.