Friday, March 20, 2015

In Real Life


Anda is a high schooler who is about to learn something about the real word after being introduced to an online game. No, this isn't a dark tale. It could have gone dark, but writer Cory Doctorow gives us a light tale about a girl who comes to realize that life, and especially the people in it, come in shades of grey. Artist Jen Wang adds a style that is amazing and perfectly compliments Doctorow's story of a girl trying to find her identity. It all starts with a special guest speaking in one of Anda's classes.

Liza, a gamer, speaks to the class about gaming and more specifically how girls view themselves. While plenty of the girls in the class are gamers, none of then play as female characters. The story also indirectly addresses the reality that women and girls face in gaming and nerd culture. Liza goes on to say that it's a tragedy that so few of their in game characters are women and how when she started, and even she couldn't be proud of who she was even though she is one of the best. Times are different, now, she explains, but things still aren't perfect. And this is the case in the real world. Events like Gamaergate are proof enough. But the odd territorial misogyny in gaming isn't exclusive to that world. Certain circles and individuals in comics and other nerd/geek branches have become hostile to women making their marks. But back to the story. Ada joins the fictional MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) Coarsgold, a World of Warcraft kind of game, and makes her character.


She also joins Liza's guild, Clan Fahrenheit, an all female group. As she progresses, she befriends a senior member of the guild, Sarge, who convinces Anda to go on side quests to eliminate gold farmers. Gold farming being the practice of acquiring currency in game and then selling it to other players. Gold farmers do the grunt work of making money by whatever means. It can be time consuming. Other players who either don't have the time or don't want to put in the time to make the in game money themselves use real money to buy the game money. It is a real practice that is banned by most games. And people do make a living doing this.


While some do it for personal profit, it is not uncommon for people in some countries to go to work doing this every day for an employer, for long hours, with low pay and no benefits. After going with Sarge to eliminate farmers a few times Anda meets Raymond, a gold farmer who explains that he isn't doing this to cheat the game. It's not a matter of cheating, for him it's a matter of real world living. Essentially he works in a real and virtual sweatshop to survive.


The story goes on to show how Anda comes to grips with how people in other parts of the world survive and how ethics and good and bad can be blurred. It doesn't help that Sarge is getting paid real money by other gamers to take care of the farmers.



Anda faces real and virtual consequences that help to define the person she wants to be. Games are supposed to just be about having fun right?


The book is the expanded version of Doctorow's short story, Anda's Game. It could have used a little more character development and it feels like some things could have gotten fleshed out a little more, but it's otherwise a great book that could have gotten heavy handed with the subject matter.It could have been dark, but the writing and amazing art keep this on the lighter side. It's also good to have a gamer themed story with a female hero. It's also written so that you don't have to be a gamer to follow and enjoy. And I enjoyed it a lot as a non-gamer. I first check this out from my local library and decided to add it to my collection. I recommend it for gamers and non-gamers young and old.

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