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Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-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.
From acclaimed teen author and digerati bigwig Cory Doctorow and rising star cartoonist Jen Wang, In Real Life is a sensitive, thoughtful look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture-clash.
I must admit my interest was immediately piqued when I heard about this Young Adult graphic novel that appealed to both my gamer soul and my feminist sensibilities. I was not let down! I enjoyed this graphic novel so much I thought the only flaw was its brevity. Perhaps too short to really go as in depth in characterization, or with the issues as I’d’ve liked, but still an all around solid story. I found In Real Life to be a very heartfelt and eye opening story about the intersection of gaming, feminism, economics, and labor rights.
And as such, we are so pleased to be a part of the 30 Questions with Cory Doctorow tour! Below I am privileged to present the questions and answers on our leg of the tour.
Anda gains a lot of confidence through her success with the all-girl gaming guild. What message about being a girl in gaming do you hope younger girls can take away from the story?
Girls are already about half of gamers, but there’s widespread perception that games are a masculine pursuit — girls who game often think of themselves as “weird,” not realizing how many of their peers are also in gamespace. This perception gives the jerky, trolly misogynist loudmouth know-nothing minority cover for their harassment and hatred. Shifting the perception will change the reality.
The book does a fantastic job of being educational and eye opening about its issues without coming across as preachy. How did you balance the complexity of the issues addressed without crossing into heavy handedness?
You balance it! Firmly felt beliefs that you’re passionate about are just as fascinating and captivating as the stories of imaginary people doing imaginary things. The important thing about a story isn’t whether it’s preachy or not — it’s whether it’s passionate and captivating.
As serious as the subject matter is, there is a relentless sense of optimism and idealism throughout the story. How do you maintain this positivity and avoid activist burnout?
I think it’s important to distinguish between “optimism” and “hope.” I am both optimistic and pessimistic — I think that a difference can be made, and think that in the absence of that difference, the world will get a lot worse.
But even if I wasn’t optimistic, I’d still be hopeful, because the alternative is surrender. Whatever forces there are militating against positive change, they can never be countered without people of good will working against them. Maybe we won’t win, even so, but we can’t win without trying.
I’m hopeful and keep fighting for the same reason that I’d keep treading water if my ship sank in the open sea — because as improbable as rescue is, the alternative is surrender
About the Author
Canadian-born Cory Doctorow is the author of the New York Times bestselling young adult novel Little Brother, and the co-editor of the popular blog BoingBoing. His other YA novels include Pirate Cinema and Homeland (2013), the sequel to Little Brother. His adult novels and short stories have won him three Locus Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He has been named one of the Web’s twenty-five “influencers” by Forbes Magazineand a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Are you a gamer? And/or an activist? What do you think about the intersection of these things? We’d love to hear your thoughts!