For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Book Info
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
© 2010 Tom Doherty Associates, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0765322166

Plot Summary
People of all ages in countries all over the world band together to fight battles, complete quests and win virtual gold, items and treasure within the confines of virtual worlds in massively multiplayer online games. Each game develops an intricate virtual economy meant for the innocent enjoyment of its players, but as with real money greed and impatience can cause corruption and exploitation within these economies. Brutal sweatshops form in countries such as China and India packed with workers to “farm” virtual gold and special items from games for the purpose of selling them to greedy and impatient players in countries in Europe and the United States for real money.

Matthew Fong is a teenage, gold farming factory worker in China who longs to escape the clutches of Boss Wing to form an operation of his own with his friends, Ping and Lu. Mala, a fifteen year old in rural India with exceptional leadership skills is employed by a corrupt businessman to lead a virtual army. Leonard lives in Southern California, but is fascinated with Chinese culture and even learned to speak Mandarin so that he could communicate with his Chinese guild mates and adopted the name Wei-Dong. All of their stories intertwine as they get involved with a woman who calls herself Big Sister Nor. Nor wants a revolution to essentially unionize this corrupt underbelly of online gaming to gain protection, fair wages and reasonable working conditions for the workers, but the forces she is against won’t go down without a fight often resorting to real life blackmail, physical violence and even murder. With the odds against them, can they change things for the better?

Reader’s Annotation
For thousands in impoverished countries, multiplayer online games aren’t just a cherished pastime, but their source of income in corrupt factories with subhuman working conditions. Can a seemingly unrelated group of game workers be united to improve conditions for game workers everywhere?

Critical Evaluation
After reading Little Brother, I was very eager to check out some of Cory Doctorow’s other literary contributions, and I hate to say it, but I was disappointed in this book. As a former PC gamer of MMORPGs, I thought this book would be right up my alley. The book seemed to be slightly too advanced for people who have no online gaming experience in the terms of throwing around slang and gaming concepts, but also not quite realistic enough for an actual gamer to find the situations always believable. I also found issue with a blatant overuse of the description “waggled his/her chin.” I had no idea what exactly this was supposed to describe and noticed that it was sometimes used up to four times on one page alone. I would still recommend the book to people who are gamers or interested in gaming, assuming that they would be less critical and able to overlook some of the things I took issue with.

Information about the Author
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Open University (UK) and Scholar in Virtual Residence at the University of Waterloo (Canada); in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, sold to OpenText, Inc in 2003, and presently serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the MetaBrainz Foundation, Technorati, Inc, the Organization for Transformative Works, Areae, the Annenberg Center for the Study of Online Communities, and Onion Networks, Inc.

On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Economics, Labor Unions, International Relations

Booktalking Ideas
What can you learn from a game economy about our country’s economy?

Why do the Webblies want to unionize game workers?

How would your life be different if you were a teenager in China?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Occasional graphic violence against teenagers.
  • Sexual content.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Is the violence gratuitous? Is it integral to the power of the story? How graphic/gratuitous is the sexual content?

Why Included?
I was eager to read more from Cory Doctorow after falling in love with his novel Little Brother that was assigned for the class to read.

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