A Girl, a Gold Farmer, and a Game

In Real Life is a clever and humane new comic about the video-game world.

Courtesy of First Second
A panel from In Real Life.

Courtesy of First Second

In the wake of Gamergate, teens in your life may be feeling a little down on the world of video games. (So might their parents.) It’s a perfect time, then, for those teens (and their parents) to read a story that intelligently and humanely faces issues of gender, economics, and kindness in gaming. A story with a kick-ass heroine navigating the gaming world. A story like In Real Life, the new comic written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang.

When Anda starts playing the massively multiplayer online game Coarsegold, she quickly makes new friends and levels up. She even finds a quest: Shutting down “gold farmers,” players who collect valuables inside the game and sell them, violating the rules. But when she befriends one of those gold farmers and learns about his real life, her simple online game gets a lot more complicated.

Doctorow’s story is smart and funny, as to be expected from a plugged-in writer for teens. But the book rises on Wang’s beautiful cartooning, which renders both Anda’s real life and the online world of her avatar Kalidestroyer vividly. Even the gold farmers, who could have been indistinguishably nooby, become memorable characters thanks to Wang’s sharp line and sense of 2-D and 3-D space. I really loved her artwork in In Real Life, and I’m very pleased that Jen Wang is illustrating the December Slate Book Review.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. First Second.

See all the pieces in this month’s Slate Book Review.
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