For The Win by Cory Doctorow. Book review

For The Win by Cory Doctorow. Harper/Voyager (2011) ‘14.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

For most kids of today, having a job where you would be paid to play computer games all day would be some kind of heaven. In this near future world, they can do just that. On-line games are big business and experienced players are needed ‘ but game-playing is not always fun.

Leonard is a sixteen-year-old American. As Wei-Dong he hangs out in cyberspace with a gang of Chinese players. His father tries to send him to a military school but Leonard runs away and gets a poorly paid job playing games. Mala and her army earn enough to get a better deal in the slums of Mumbai. One of their tasks is to help paying customers get their avatars up to higher levels where the in-game rewards are greater. They and Matthew’s gang in China are also gold-farmers. There are players who will pay real money to have virtual items credited to their in-game characters. The gold-farmers get them, their bosses sell them. It is a commodity market. Real fortunes can be made or lost. The players like Mala and Matthew work in sweat-shop conditions. Big Sister Nor, who plays out of Hong Kong, wants better pay and conditions for the workers. She proposes a Trade Union, the IWWWW.

Much of the story is the struggle to unionise the workers and get recognition. This is a realistic, gritty and at times, bloody novel. Just as the original workers’ unions had to fight for survival, so do these characters. Although this may look like a young adult book, For The Win contains deeply disturbing passages involving brutality and exploitation. These things are probably going on right now, in the places Doctorow describes. He has changed the parameters but the message is the same: act now.

For The Win by Cory Doctorow. Harper/Voyager (2011) ‘14.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

For most kids of today, having a job where you would be paid to play computer games all day would be some kind of heaven. In this near future world, they can do just that. On-line games are big business and experienced players are needed ‘ but game-playing is not always fun.

Leonard is a sixteen-year-old American. As Wei-Dong he hangs out in cyberspace with a gang of Chinese players. His father tries to send him to a military school but Leonard runs away and gets a poorly paid job playing games. Mala and her army earn enough to get a better deal in the slums of Mumbai. One of their tasks is to help paying customers get their avatars up to higher levels where the in-game rewards are greater. They and Matthew’s gang in China are also gold-farmers. There are players who will pay real money to have virtual items credited to their in-game characters. The gold-farmers get them, their bosses sell them. It is a commodity market. Real fortunes can be made or lost. The players like Mala and Matthew work in sweat-shop conditions. Big Sister Nor, who plays out of Hong Kong, wants better pay and conditions for the workers. She proposes a Trade Union, the IWWWW.

Much of the story is the struggle to unionise the workers and get recognition. This is a realistic, gritty and at times, bloody novel. Just as the original workers’ unions had to fight for survival, so do these characters. Although this may look like a young adult book, For The Win contains deeply disturbing passages involving brutality and exploitation. These things are probably going on right now, in the places Doctorow describes. He has changed the parameters but the message is the same: act now.