Cory Doctorow’s award-winning YA debut Little Brother tackled government security and civil liberties in a post 9/11 era—so it’s no surprise his new YA novel tackles the equally timely topics of the global economy and labor unions in For the Win. But he does it through the world of online gaming. Yes. Think World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs—this story runs from privileged gamers in San Diego to impoverished ones in India and “gold farmers” in China. Game on!
1. Tell us a little bit about For the Win.
For the Win is an adventure story about gamer-kids all over the world who work together for justice and freedom, using video-games to form a trade-union of sweatshop workers. The games allow union organizers to virtually go to places they could never physically get to, and allow workers to outrun their bosses in a global game of cat-and-mouse that can be as absurd as a fight between Super Mario villains or as deadly serious as a brawl in an Internet cafe that leaves kids crippled and bloody computers in pieces on the floor.
This time, I’m hoping to help kids understand macroeconomics, social justice, behavioral economics, free markets, labor politics, and other subjects of note and moment in the post-economic-collapse world.
2. What inspired you to write For the Win?
The spread and globalization of multiplayer online games has done more to put people from diverse backgrounds together than any other development to date. Kids and adults from all over the world fight alongside each other to defeat formidable monsters, reap great treasures, and solve clever puzzles.
But like globalization itself, global gaming has its dark side.
Real-world evils like racism and prejudice play out online, and the companies that run the games aren’t always interested in justice, especially when it comes at the expense of profits.
The economics of games are very odd indeed. Hundreds of thousands of kids from the developing world labor today as “gold farmers,” paid to do repetitive tasks in games, amassing virtual wealth that’s sold on to impatient players from the rich world. These sweatshop workers are spat on by “real” players, who see them as enabling cheating, and they’re hunted mercilessly by the game-runners, who see them upsetting the careful planned economies they try to establish in their virtual worlds.
The structure of games—the organization of players into guilds and teams—has many parallels with other real-world societies, from trade unions to medieval guilds to street gangs.
I wanted to explore how the wired labor markets of the 21st century could take advantage of these amazing organizational tools to revolutionize themselves in the same way that the forces of capital used technology to drive a globalization revolution in the past ten years, and how the balance of power might change in that world.
3. What message, if any, do you want people to take away from For the Win?
I hope that readers come away from the book with questions, rather than answers: questions like, “Why are some so poor and others so rich?” and “When is cooperation a better strategy than competition?” and “Who do bankers work for?”
I hope that people who read this book come away understanding that in some sense, *everything* is a game: the economy, politics, our social interactions, and that the games we play are potentially just as significant as any of these older, better-known games.
From the Tor/Forge May newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from our May newsletter:
- For the Win on Facebook
- Cory Doctorow reading from FOR THE WIN – YA science fiction novel about gold farming
- Q&A with Cory Doctorow
- For the Win Teacher’s Guide