In Real Life sets out to tackle a few heavy subjects in a 175-page graphic novel—and is surprisingly successful at it. Anda is a shy teen who is new to town after her family moves from Arizona. Anda enjoys computer programming and video games and is content to play offline games until Liza McCombs, an Australian female game promoter, comes to Anda’s school and offers all the girls in her class a chance to be in her guild. Liza the Organiza, as she likes to be called, struggles with the reality of the gamer world’s disproportionately male population. Liza tells the girls if they start playing her game Coarsegold Online with female avatars they will get to play as recruits in the legendary Fahrenheit guild.
Anda convinces her skeptical mother to allow her to play online as long as she only talks to girls her own age and avoids any trouble. However, Anda quickly gets wrapped up in a gold farming conspiracy where she is paid real money to kill bots that harvest gold. Unaware of the consequences and the people paid in foreign countries to play Coarsegold Online, Anda changes the lives of people she’s never really met.
In Real Life does a great job exploring what it means to be a female gamer and exposes the terrible work conditions of professional gaming in foreign countries. Cory Doctorow is known for his controversial and political young adult literature and he clearly didn’t pull any punches in his graphic novel. I recommend this title to Doctorow fans, (girl or boy) gamers, and anyone who enjoys a well-illustrated graphic novel.