In Real Life
By: Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
“Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massive-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.
But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer — a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.”
I stumbled upon this graphic novel quite by accident. I was looking for something else and an Amazon pop up came and suggested this as something I would enjoy – give my past searches and buying history. I’m always looking for new graphic novels and to find one that deals with the virtual world – I was overjoyed. It did take me a while to finally purchase the book, but when it arrived I devoured it that same day.
The story revolves around Anda, an overweight teen who’s a coder, gamer and D&D player. We get the impression early that she’s new to town and like many new teens sticking to the outskirts. Things change when their computer class has a special speaker from Australia who invites girls to join an online MMO game and play as girls and join her guild. The story briefly touches on how many girl gamers don’t play female avatars in the online game world. So by encouraging girls to play girls in a safe online environment as part of this all girl guild, the speaker hopes to encourage future girls to be more confident in the gaming and computing world.
From that point on, Anda creates a warrior character and falls in love with the game “Coarsegold”. She befriends another guild member by the name of “Sarge” and is introduced to ‘gold farming’ and being paid in real money to destroy these gold farming avatars. At first Anda doesn’t understand what she is ultimately doing, only that gold farming is bad in the game and wanting to make things fair for other members. It becomes more complicated as the story unfolds and Anda befriends a gold farmer from China. Her eyes and mind are open to an entirely different way of life, where a kid just like herself is playing a gold farmer as a job. She tries to help but only seems to make things worse. I won’t go into any more details, the ending is definitely worth reading.
Besides the story, there is the art. I really enjoyed Jen Wang style and illustrations. It reminds be a little of Scott Pilgrim but unique and different at the same time. It’s also refreshing to see the main character outside the game as being more overweight, and not having it brought up in conversation. It’s just there. There are actually a few different body types we see and I really liked the representation. The avatars were just as good, or even crazier, but that’s the point of these online games – people can make outlandish looking characters and I liked how that was introduced in the game world.
I’m not an online gamer so I had my boyfriend explain gold farming to me. They explain it in the book and Cory Doctorow does a great opening and introduction to it too, but it’s still hard for me to understand the real problem behind it. But it didn’t stop me from enjoying the characters and the book. There’s a political side to the story, but I don’t find it overly cumbersome. The pace is kept up and we are always eager to see Anda log in and find her friend and discover more in Corsegold. I really hop there will be more books in the future, there is a “01” on the spine.
For all those gamer girls out there, please check this one out and enjoy!