While it's always amusing to see the New York Times catch up with the more leading edge press -- What's this? People pay monthly fees for some sort of electronic game? Over the internets? What next, miniature phones you can put in your pocket? -- a front page story there is undeniably a benchmark that the subject has hit the mainstream.
This time, it's gold farmers (visit www.bugmenot.com if you don't have a nytimes.com account). Stale news to many of us, but surely a novel head-scratcher to those outside the dev or player community.
For a fictional take on this phenomenon, read Cory Doctorow's short story Anda's Game. It deals with gold farming in MMOGs, but also the medium's larger questions of identity, community, and achievement both true and illusory.