Some words and thoughts on Cory Doctorow as part of the Books for Gamers blog post series.
Though most of the novels that are accessible to younger readers were written between 2010-2012, Cory Doctorow’s books are an example of forward-looking gamer novels. Political and social commentary make the books feel relative and subversive to young readers while also giving the younger readers a chance to look into the politics of the world from a point of view they can grasp, perhaps for the first time. Some locations have changed since 2010, meaning that a characterization of an area in China may apply better to another area of the world, but the socio-economic commentary is still apt.
In Little Brother and its followup, Homeland, a LARP taking place outside of school has put our hero into trouble when Homeland Security shuts down San Francisco after an attack. Running for the law, Marcus brings the community together.
In Real Life, written with Jen Wang, introduces an introverted girl who finds empathy for the gold farmers of the RPG world through talking with them in the game, a concept first introduced in Doctorow’s For the Win. In For the Win Leonard, known online as Wei-Dong, farms gold from the USA for people who would pay real money for online prizes. He games at night, befriending South Asian gamers. At the same time Micheal Fong in China and Mala in India are getting in hot water for their attempts to Unionize gold farmers (or to fight to ensure that their home lives are comfortable while taking down unionizers). For the Win is available on Cory Doctorow’s site as a free download under Creative Commons lisence.
Although very heteronormative and limited in point of view scope, there is an audience for these books and they should be recognized for the contributions they bring. These books have brought some of my reluctant 5-8th graders to reading because they build empathy through their worlds.
Cory Doctorow is a Prof at NC Library Information Sciences College, works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, is a MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate, is a Visiting Professor of Computer Science at Open University, a Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. He also currently writes for Boing – Boing and other online sites as well as novels for adults. This is a busy person!