Publisher: :01 First Second
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a fact now. So very many of us play them, or know friends who do. Award-winning author Cory Doctorow and incredible artist Jen Wang press the reader further: In Real Life, who are the folks that share our digital gaming realms?
Jumping right over the anticipated tropes of unexpected girls, or unexpectedly troubled teens, Doctorow and Wang hit us hard in the gut with the last people we think of in our digital play lands: minimum wage workers playing MMORPGs in sweat shop-like conditions for company profit. Working 12 -hour shifts with no health care or legal recourse, countless gold-mining employees complete repetitive tasks in game. The companies that employ dozens of these workers sell the results of their
In Real Life may carry a lovely cover with an adorable, awkward geek girl juxtaposed with her competent and fiery online avatar, but the true dichotomy here is not "digital fantasy vs. real responsibilities." The core contrast, expertly and deftly explored, is the oldest one of all: luxury vs. poverty.
Real life Anda from Flagstaff, Arizona meets "Raymond," a 16-year old boy who lied his way into employment with one of China’s online "gold-mining" companies for so many subtle reasons: grinding poverty, political realities in his country, physical disability, and because he genuinely loves gaming. He and Anda connect as friends online, as so many of us do, but the characters, and we the readers, are continually confronted by Raymond’s difficult living conditions, illegal worker status, and worsening health—all horribly discordant with the bright colors, bouncy character designs, and the rich fantasy realm of the game.
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang have done a masterful job weaving a story based on our shared gaming language. They tell a massively impactful story both within the shared digital world and real life, making revelatory connections between the players and the reader in the process.
~ Sarah Martinez