In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, review by Melissa Fox
Anda is a gamer. Which makes her a bit of an anomaly in her new high school
in Flagstaff, Arizona. So when a woman comes to their tech class, inviting
them all to join this new online gaming community, Coarsegold, Anda jumps
at the chance. However, once she begins playing the game, she finds out
that not everyone is playing on equal ground. She hooks up with another
player, Sarge, who introduces Anda to the illegal world of gold farming.
Actually, Anda and Sarge's job is to kill off those who are doing gold
farming -- harvesting virtual gold for real money.
When Anda happens to befriends one of the gold farmers, a Chinese boy who
goes by the English name, Raymond, she discovers that what she thought was
a simple case of cheating isn't as simple as she thought. She discovers
that Raymond's being forced to work for hours on end without a break, for
very little money and no health coverage. So, she gets Involved.
In the end, even though the story of Anda -- who is drawn realistically by
Jen Wang; no super perfect bodies and a wide range of diversity in this
book both of which were refreshing -- was that of a gamer, set in a gaming
world, it was accessible to those of us who aren't gamers. I also
appreciated the acknowledgement that girls are gamers, too, and good ones
I also enjoyed that this was about more than just gaming. Doctorow weaved
in a simple world economics lesson; how in the global economy, people who
have the money to get ahead can sometimes take advantage of those who
don't. But, most of all, it's about activism: the ability the internet
gives us to not only be involved in our own communities, but those around
It's a fascinating quick read and definitely one worth dipping into.