Doctorow, Cory & Jen Wang. In Real Life.

NY: First Second, 2014.

Doctorow has a well-deserved reputation for very original writing, combined with an often acerbic take on contemporary society, especially its technological aspects. He demonstrates that nicely in this graphic novel that explores the real-world economic effect that online games have in the developing world.

Anda is a very bright (and slightly chunky) teenager recently transplanted from San Diego to Flagstaff, who’s basically just floating along, dealing with whatever comes up, and hanging out with the other geeks. And then a young woman comes to her class to promote Coarsegold, a huge MMP — and more specifically, to recruit girl gamers to play as girls. Anda is intrigued and talks her mother into letting her subscribe. Turns out she’s a natural as a female warrior. Things are looking good.

Then she hooks up with “Sarge,” a more experienced player, who takes contracts from other subscribers for real money, mostly to kill off rival gold-farmers within the game. As she gets in deeper, Anda finds she doesn’t much like the whole gold-farming sweatshop world that lives off gaming and uses up many young lives in the process, especially in China. And her father happens to be a labor organizer, so she has some hopefully useful ideas.

Cory manages (most of the time) to tread the fine line between straight storytelling and preaching. And one hopes that the gamers who are most likely to read this book will learn something from it and become at least a little radicalized.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Definitely a “message” book, but very well done! I liked how the colors went from earth tones (reality) to jewel tones (online) to convey the switch between the two worlds of Anda.

    • Yeah, I don’t mind a little preaching in a good cause, as long as there’s a good story to support it.


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