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In the virtual future, you must organize to survive

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual "gold," jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world's poorest countries, where countless "gold farmers," bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of "General Robotwalla." In Shenzen, heart of China's industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power--including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister's people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once--a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

Imbued with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new generation

Published: Macmillan Publishers on May 11, 2010
ISBN: 9781429989046
List price: $7.80
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One of my all time favourite books. Absolutely wonderful.read more
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Cory Doctorow’s gamer novel For the Win takes what’s now an old-fashioned topic –workers’ rights – and tosses it into a 21st century context – massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). These games have, in effect, their own economies which stretch outside the game through real-world online stores that sell in-game currencies. Young people in sweat-shop conditions play the games hour after hour, selling the goods that their characters gain for gold (or whatever passes for currency in that particular game world); this process is called gold farming. The people running the sweat-shops sell the in-game gold to gamers desperate (or lazy) enough to cheat. The remote ‘workers’ earn their ‘employers’ income, often with little to no benefits – or human dignity. After introducing the basic situation, Doctorow really lets loose. In the Internet cafes and MMORPG ‘factories’, workers start demanding fair treatment and pay. Game companies hire analysts to track and ban these gold farmers from their game worlds. The gold-seller markets combine into black market economies. Stock brokers and economists package futures on in-game commodities into complex bonds that are bought and sold like their real-world equivalents. Union leaders on two continents use modern communication technologies to organize a unified front and stay ahead of the police. The workers’ ultimate weapon is a financial scheme copied from real-world stock markets. We follow the stories of Mala from India, Matthew from China, and Leonard from California. They and others are drawn into a fierce international struggle for humane treatment and for workers’ rights, online or off.Doctorow’s idea is fascinating. The potential overlaps of our real world and online worlds are carefully described. Unfortunately, most characters remain thin, and some of the in-game details he invents seem odd (and I say this as a life-long gamer). And speaking of details, you can clean yourself with a basin of water and a washcloth instead of wasting gallons of water with a shower. You’d think that people living in cramped quarters in China, especially when the water supply might be unpredictable, would have come up with such an astounding concept even if a pampered Californian teenager can’t. Little things like these made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief.EJ 10/2010read more
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Not sure why I'm feeling so committed to finishing this. I'm not enjoying it, and I'm starting to wonder if it will ever, ever end.

As usual, Cory Doctorow has an interesting story, but buries it in a series of digressions on related topics (this time, online gaming culture and labor unions). He's obviously brilliant, but it's the kind of brilliance that can bog down his larger points.
***
Annnnnnnnnnd we're done. Finally. Online gaming culture, virtual economies, and labor unions--all interesting topics, but between three major topics and the huge cast, the book is overambitious and doesn't hold together that well.read more
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Somewhere, Joe Hill is smiling. He's got tears in his eyes, too.

Doctorow is easily as preachy as Heinlein. I like that in an author I respect and admire, one who has obviously reasoned his way to his positions. This book is far more violent than most books I like, but the violence is never gratuitous. There is a cast of thousands here, and it took me several hundred pages to start sorting them out.

Well-written, tautly plotted, and only semi-incomprehensible in parts- to a non-gamer like me. I got the gist of the gaming parts with little trouble. And I learned some economics theory.

I'm going to have to read it again.read more
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Gamers, economics, intrigue, action and suspense! One of the best books I've ever read!read more
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Doctorow, acclaimed internet guru, focuses his attention in a completely different direction to his previous near future novel. This time the plot is driven by the flow of money that encapsulates the online gaming business and how gold-farming is an integral part of it. The story follows people on both sides of a power struggle that erupts as gold-farmers unite in an attempt to stand up to their bosses; the ones that lock them in rooms, deny their basic rights and pay them pittance. This is a morality tale and is rooted, as expected, in hard fact. For The Win tries too hard to make it's point and at times the story is lost amidst Doctorow's monologues. The character arcs also become difficult to follow at times, compounded by the narrative style used. For non-gamers some of the mystique may be lost, however For The Win is an interesting read for the current generation of gamers. It should also offer an insight in to the future of the gaming business for a wider audience too.read more
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Has much of the same excitement of Little Brother, but a bit more revolutionary fervor (good) and a slightly muddier plot and confusing subject and conclusion (bad).read more
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If somebody alked up to me and said, "I have a book I know you're going to love. It's all about economics, labour unions, and the unfair working conditions in developping countries," I might suspect this person doesn't know my reading tastes very well. Such a book might appeal to those with specific interests, but me, well, that's not my thing.And then this person would hand me For the Win, and I'd be intrigued because it involves gaming, something I'm familiar with. And then I'd read it, and be blown away.That's Doctorow's genius in this book. He can take all of the above concepts and make them not only interesting, but make them into something that anyone can relate to, especially today's game-happy youth culture. He can take economics and break them down into the simply complex and absurd things that they are, and make it comprehensible. He makes the legnths that some companies go to to control virtual wealth seem like what it is: ridiculous and yet incredibly valuable. This book makes you look at the world, see it in a different light, and get outraged that it isn't better. It's hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and like the games it talks about, endlessly entertaining.The characters are, above all else, wonderfully human. There are sides of right and wrong, and the lines are clearly drawn, but the people on the side of good are still flawed, violent and angry and they make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes end up fatal. These are people you could pass on the street, could see at school; they don't have to be half a world away in some poorly-ventilated sweatshop, and that just seeks to underscore the message of labour equality that's the main focus of the novel. "There are no Chinese workers. There are just workers."If you think this books comes across as being a bit preachy, you'd be right. But when your characters are fighting for the right to refuse 22-hour shifts without being beaten, fighting for the right to not be raped in order to hang onto their jobs, I think a little preachiness is allowed.This book came to me highly recommended, and it leaves my hands in the same state. Go, pick up this book, read it and learn things that you may not have even thought about before. And I dare you to tell me that at the end of it, you didn't feel your moral centre being tugged at, even just a little.read more
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Chris brought a copy home from work for me, hurray.I actually liked this a lot more than I thought I would. I expected it to make me cranky, but I really enjoyed reading it. When I thought hard about it, though, it was missing something... revelatory, I think, that's keeping me from rounding up the rating. In my heart.One thing I knew right away, though -- it really is overlong. This story doesn't have to be 500 pages. To its credit, there isn't any thread or character I immediately think of cutting, but there's just a lot. This book is a ton of people. Maybe a trim in each region would have helped. (Yasmin & Ashok in India and Matthew in China are nice but not critical. Conversely, more about Big Sister Nor would have been good.) The funny, exclamation-pointy authorial economy lessons work pretty well, and they lend some seriousness to the plot points, but they do stick out a bit too.But generally speaking, the deeply international setting is wonderful, and written like the author has been on the ground in those places (not sure?), the slang is cool, there's a lot of day-to-day culture that feels right, and the sociological take is almost never off-key. (There are perhaps a dozen too many "chin-waggles".)The best parts just stick out really well. Jie and her "Jiandi" folk-hero internet pirate radio show fame in China is amazing. That whole long, long, long scene when she first scoops Lu up and keeps him safe in one of her secret apartments and puts him on the air is probably the coolest part of the book. I also really liked Wei-Dong ("Leonard") and his flight from American boarding school, and his voyage in a teched-out shipping container. He gets the only kid-and-parents family drama in the book and that's done nicely, though feels a bit out of place in this book about teenagers, the internet, and bad business.In general, this felt like a great book for this author to write because it's awesome to have so much internet in a novel, written by someone who isn't only doing research, who feels it too. (This reminds me of the item on my wish list that is John Green write a book about internet friends.) Pretty much all of this stuff is real, or like what's real, and it's a deep level of detail but written really invitingly. Most of it isn't in my experience, but enough is tangential that it's exciting or funny or touching when it should be. All the hacker-ish stuff is totally thrilling to someone who's never done any of it, I won't lie. You lost me at "proxy", but ok I am totally flipping the page! The level of totally real espionage needed just to stay online, it's great, portrayed really well, and relevant to actual real places.The only thing is, the thrust of the book, unionizing the gamers and this mission's clashes with authority... I'm not sure any of this was... necessary? I mean it's set up to make a lot of sense, and we can see in the story how these workers are exploited (and just, charming to read this YA book about labor organization you guys). But I think the workers of the world thing connects in only a limited way. Characters die (one of which was surprising, one of which was not). And this ambition kind of hurts its ending -- the scope is so big that waiting for all the laces to tie up is sort of ho-hum, eventually.Moments I liked:"'You violate the social contract, the other person doesn't know what to do about it. There's no script for it. There's a moment where time stands still, and in that moment, you can empty out his pockets.'"And:"Wei-Dong loved his parents. He wanted their approval. He trusted their judgment. That was why he'd been so freaked out when he discovered that they'd been plotting to send him away. If he hadn't cared about them, none of it would have mattered."And, a joke worthy of repeating on the internet:"He could feel everything that was happening in the games he ran. He could tell when there was a run on gold in Svartalfheim Warriors, or when Zombie Mecha's credits took a dive. ... He could tell when there was a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge in Zombie Mecha as too many ronin tried to enter Manhattan to clear out the Flatiron Building and complete the Publishing Quest."read more
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In For The Win, Cory Doctorow takes on the world of online gaming. Specifically, he uses online gaming and gold farming to write a near future novel built around the idea of oppressed and abused gold farmers in China and India needing to unionize to get a fair shake from the bosses. It’s more interesting that it sounds, really. For today’s under-educated teens, they’ll get a pretty good education in economics as Cory frequently steps away from the plot to explain the economics behind gaming. In his previous novel, Doctorow took hacking and made it heroic. This time he does the same thing with online gaming. Close minded conservatives will hate the book because of the positive depiction of unions, and to be fair, even I think Doctorow could have put just a little of the big business point of view into the story. It’s not always 100% about simple exploitation of the workers. It’s a riveting story built around near future technology, economics, gaming, and union organization. Little Brother is still my favorite book by Doctorow, but For The Win is a close second.read more
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I liked this, but it didn't have quite the emotional depth and resonance of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. And he felt he had to cram in a little too much economics into the exposition, which felt a bit forced. Still, I enjoyed this effort, and its depictions of labor unrest in the developing world felt as real as anything I've read on the subject. That said, the labor organizers and activists came off as a little too good to be true. Not to say the labor organizers and activists aren't on the side of the angels, but they seemed a bit idealized here. Anyhow, generally a good read, and I recommend it, but the depth of characters didn't quite bring it to the 4 star level.read more
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Doctorow is one of the most current near future science fiction writers. This is a great tale about gold farmers (people - usually in poor countries - who play games to build up game gold and then sell it to rich westerners) and their struggle to unionise themselves. I enjoyed the book, as I usually do with Doctorow, however it also left me a little unsatisfied and seems a bit naive in places.read more
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Finished this book (audio) a few days ago and would like to point out it was a very very slow starter that I nearly shut down several times. However, things picked up and I was able to finish it. My overall rating is really based on the story as narration was excellant. Also, there probably are not many books I will like for a while after reading Ready Player One and now trying to compare all others to it, they cannot stand up. With that said, For the Win is ok, not great, but if you can get thru the first few chapters you will enjoy the conclusion.read more
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So the kids in MMORPGs from all over the world start a union and take on game companies and repressive governments with mixed results. It is really a thinly veiled economics lesson, and Doctorow's fatal flaw this time around is doing what YA authors are supposed not to do: talk down to the their readers. There are clearly times when the narrative stops and there is a break for the "okay kids, now it is time for a lesson" nonfiction passage. Of course the in-game economics are the same as RL economics and there are thinly veiled explanations of our nation's most recent crisis of capitalism. So if someone reading this is unconcerned with aesthetics, it could be a great book for kids who want to learn about economics or adults that want to learn about MMORPGs. Doctorow is surprisingly neutral towards labor issues considering how polemical he is on other issues, even in his YA books. This is the best fiction of his I've tried so far. There are still too many characters, many of which I don't understand the motivations of, and a lot of the action takes place "in game." (Should I be enough of a jerk to mock: OH MAN THAT IS AN AWESOME KEYSTROKE!!!!) But the thing is, and this is a major theme of the book, if millions are playing the games and I'm not that just means I'm a dinosaur and I can make my jokes as I whistle past the cultural graveyard.read more
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A letdown after Little Brother. The disappointing thing about this book to me was that only the (highly unpleasantly stereotyped) corporate bad guys hacked. (In either the good or the bad sense.) So our gold farming / wage slave heroes were left with only quaint 20th century labor organizing.read more
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Doctorow takes on the real-world economic implications of computer game currencies. Matthew is a Chinese gold farmer, one of the thousands who play role-playing games for hours in order to accumulate virtual money, points, and treasures that can be sold — for real money — to other players looking for quick power-ups in games such as World of Warcraft. Matthew’s is just one of several stories Doctorow follows as gamers, gold farmers, and those who would take advantage of them both meet in virtual worlds and eventually in the real world when player Big Sister Nor, in Singapore, decides to organize the Webblies, the “Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web.” An interesting take on the global economic implications that gaming could have in the "real world" however, I found the stories presented a little too over the top and at times I felt I was being lectured at. That being said, people who enjoyed his first novel Little Brother, will not be disappointed in his latest novel.read more
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There was a good story in there somewhere. It just got bogged down by the rambling, repetitive explanations of economics and the inner workings of speculative markets. I thought most of the characters were developed well with the exception of Big Sister Nor, which is kind of funny since she's the character that holds all the story lines together.I'm not sure how this is considered a book for 12-17 year olds. If I'd read/listened to this book at that age, I would have quit pretty qui...moreThere was a good story in there somewhere. It just got bogged down by the rambling, repetitive explanations of economics and the inner workings of speculative markets. I thought most of the characters were developed well with the exception of Big Sister Nor, which is kind of funny since she's the character that holds all the story lines together.I'm not sure how this is considered a book for 12-17 year olds. If I'd read/listened to this book at that age, I would have quit pretty quickly. I get that the majority of characters are young teens, but the intricacies of the plot and the before mentioned economic and investment lessons would have lost my attention.Which isn't to say that I won't try more Doctorow. I've heard good things about his other books, but this one just didn't gel well. Too many side notes that seemed to go on forever, tearing me out of the story as a whole. It's hard to get into a story that has five or six plot lines with entirely different sets of characters as it is. Throw in long, rambling, repetitive tangents and things are going to fall apart in places.read more
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I read this as a free download but am going to buy multiple copies of the book as presents. If you love collective bargaining, rousing tales of union struggles, and speculations about the near future, I think you will love this too. I'm not even a gamer and I loved the gaming aspects. My only question was is Doctorow serious when he dedicates chapters to chain bookstores. Does anyone know? I love the dedications to independent bookstores, but the chains confused me.read more
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I absolutely loved Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, but I was disappointed with this one. I started to listen to the audiobook and just found the writing really lacking and way too didactic. I never cared about the characters enough to pay attention and, while their stories were interesting, I was never invested. Abandoned it!read more
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Not every day you pick up a young-adult novel that's essentially a thriller intended to dramatize the continued value of labor unions.

I kind of love the idea that parents may get this for their kids thinking it's an action-oriented book about video gamers, when in fact the gamers are gold-farmers being paid a pittance to bulk up the characters of westerners, and the gold farmers unite to get proper workplace rights.

I remain unclear on what makes a book a young adult novel -- clearly lengthy sections on economics, the threat of rape against under-age characters, and the rat-race malaise of a corporate economist don't get the book kicked upstairs to the adult section.

Doctorow's numerous detailed asides about how money works are informative, but they never make that edge into abstraction, like David Foster Wallace did at his best, or loop back into the narrative in a surprising way, which Neal Stephenson does reflexively -- which means they're a little didactic.

The book isn't as taut as Little Brother (Doctorow's previous young-adult book) or as emotional as Makers (his previous novel), but the extensive details of the business culture of gaming are informative, and the story moves smoothly from China to India to Los Angeles and round and round again, until the various plots come together. It's a little unfortunate that a solidly left-wing book needs a wealthy protagonist to get the political action to succeed -- though a lot of fun when the protagonist needs to call his mom for help.

Longtime readers of Doctorow will note familiar threads, including the magical world of Disney.
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This is a book that is so timely, yet instantly dated, that while I was reading it I wondered what people would think about it 10, 20, 50 years in the future, if anyone remembers it. It was sort of like a late-2000s version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, every bit as heavy-handed, almost as painful, but ultimately so READABLE! It was basically a story about people who farm gold for online MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Runescape (or their fictional equivalents). These people are crapped-upon third-world wage slaves, just like the factory workers that make your clothes, shoes, toys and electronics. They work long hours for little pay, aren't allowed to look up from their work or go to the bathroom, are kept for overtime work without pay, and often receive violent treatment from their bosses or foremen. They have another problem, too: established unions won't take them seriously because they "just play games" for a living. The fact that they are so scattered throughout the world doesn't make it any easier for them to organize, either. The cast of characters for this story are introduced one at a time, but their paths all intersect in time, and each more interesting than the last: A headstrong Los Angeles brat who runs away from home when his parents try to keep him from playing online games 20 hours a day. A group of teenage boys in China who are brutally beaten by thugs sent by their former employer when they leave their gold farming jobs to start their own company. A group of preteen girls and boys in a slum in India who are paid by a sinister stranger to hunt down and kill gold farmers in a game called Zombie Mecha. A shrewd American man who is an expert in game economies who lands a job overseeing the economies of all the online games owned by the Coca Cola Company. A sexy young woman with the survival instincts of a street rat who hosts a pirate call-in radio show where she encourages factory girls to stand up for their rights. And finally, a trio of young adults in Singapore who are trying to organize online workers across the world to fight the corrupt bosses that treat them all like garbage. With a cast of characters like that, how could you not want to read it? I’ve seen some reviews that complain that this book was too long. I don’t entirely agree, but I think that this book might be better off classified as an adult book. I know it’s tough to have books starring young people be interesting to adults, but times are changing. It was awfully long, but when I finished it, I could see Doctorow continuing the story indefinitely. It didn’t come to any real conclusion. How could it? Nothing ever ends, especially when it comes to labor rights which are constantly being negotiated. Thos book doesn’t have chapters, it just keeps chugging along, but Doctorow stops the action several times to tell anecdotes that help explain economic concepts. He does it so well, it doesn’t come across as dry or didactic. He even pulls of up-to-date internet slang without sounding like a total lameass. It’s hard for me to imagine many teens who would read all the way through this and think it was as rad as I did, but I would recommend it for ages 17 to adult, who want something they can really sink their teeth into.read more
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Inspiring, gripping, adventurous story about gamers all over the world banding together as the Webblys to fight for workers rights and fair compensation. I didn't always understand the gamer-ese, but that didn't matter or detract from the story at all...I had a hard time putting the book down, cried toward the end, and cheered when I finally reached the last page. Absolutely on par with Little Brother as one of my favorite books by Doctorow.read more
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For The Win is Cory Doctorow's second "Teen" novel, but stands up well with adult audiences as well. The story centers around gold farming in multiplayer online games, but features many themes rooted in current events. Most importantly, Doctorow does an outstanding job putting financial markets into perspective for any audience, and gives analogies for derivatives trading and market behavior that anyone can understand. This is where the novel excels, in addition to telling a great story packed with adventure, action, and geek-ery, there is an underlying thread that is not time, or age, or knowledge dependent. This novel tells a story of teens, and even children, working in-game for bosses in the same way that children work sewing tennis shoes in sweat shops. There is a movement to organize workers using the borderless realm of the internet, and create a union. It shows us how important and powerful the internet is for communicating beyond nationalities and race, to reach everyone and make them realize they are really no different then their fellow humans toiling across the globe. He even incorporates the character of a young, bright-eyed economist working with the union, which gives the audience a chance to see a fresh perspective on markets and supply/demand interactions that they may not be exposed to yet. I love all of Cory Doctorow's work, and this is yet another fine example. It is very fitting in the time period it has come out, but really will stand up as time goes on, and the economy changes yet again. Even though this was targeted to the teen audience, as was Little Brother, it will resonate with adults, especially with older geeks like myself!)read more
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A story of how online gamers manipulate games in order to turn virtual gold into real money. The gamers are led to unionize and face challenges from their criminal bosses and their oppressive governments. Interesting idea, but Doctorow fails to make the story interesting. The characters don't seem to be developed very well and the story drags quite a bit, finally working its way to a lukewarm ending.read more
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Poor teens around the world are working in gaming sweatshops as gold farmers, collecting game gold and making money for their bosses. The game gold makes up some of the largest economies in the world. Tired of mistreatment, the web workers form an international union.read more
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This is one of the best YA books I've read this year. You want to understand the world children live in, what they can do for hours and hours in a game, this is a book for you. Do you want to be enlightened to the fact that sweatshops exist in all shapes and sizes? This is the book for you. Are you interested in economics, stocks, ponzi schemes and other scams, unionization and it's future? This is definitely the book for you.With a patient hand, Cory Doctorow gives clear, easy to understand examples of everything I talked about in my previous paragraph. Even if you are not a gamer, an explanation is always handy when gamer terms are brought into this story. If you are a teenager, then no worries - every single scheme is detailed out with easy to understand analogies. The story flips back and forth between China, India, the US .. the entire globe. Everywhere children are being mistreated by the "bosses", those monopolizing the gold farming market - but these kids are good. They're really good, and now they are demanding the decent rights that every worker should have. This is not your typical video gaming set of kids - these are children who play 15+ hours a DAY farming the same area over and over - why? Because they love the games.I could seriously rattle on and on about how much I loved this book, but I want everyone to read it. Gamer or no, this book should be on your list - give it to the teenagers you know, recommend it. I feel like, for the first time, I have some understanding with regards to how economics works .. all because of a book about gaming.read more
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I liked FTW much more than Little Brother. It did spin on, and on, and on; but it handled the page count better than many of his other works. Watching the development of economic, political, and cultural ideas was exciting and interesting. There were a very large number of concepts that Doctorow tied nicely together into one solid package.Although I didn't feel like it quite hit the 5 star mark for me, it was VERY close. I look forward to recommending it to my son as well!read more
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I just couldn't read this any more. It sounds more like some political statement than a good story. I grabbed this because Little Brother was really good and moved quickly. This one just dragged on and on. I gave up on it a little less than 1/2 way though. I just didn't care about the characters or the story enough. I'm glad I got this as an ebook version for free and didn't have to pay for it.read more
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All around the world, people are playing games, battling for online gold, jewels, points, levels and status. And in poor nations, there are players who play for these treasures, but then their employers trade the virtual gold for real money -- from those who want to pay to skip to higher-level play immediately. This is the story of brilliant Mala in India, Matthew in Shenzen, Leonard (aka Wei-Dong) from California, and Big Sister Nor in rural China, who are all trying to break out of the sweatshops where low pay, fear and the threat of violence hangs over them if they do not earn enough every day. Big Sister Nor wants every "gold farmer" to join a union, to protect the rights of those who work from abusive employers and allow them to earn a decent wage and work decent hours, but those who make the money off this scheme will use any means necessary to keep things as they are -- including murder. The plan is to crash the virtual economies of every game in the world, all at once... if they can pull it off. Great for gamers and anyone who needs a challenging read with a big-picture view, 8th grade and up.read more
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Not in the same league as Little Brother, but a decent read. Some bizarrely repetitive turns of phrase, and some interesting economics lessons.read more
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One of my all time favourite books. Absolutely wonderful.
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Cory Doctorow’s gamer novel For the Win takes what’s now an old-fashioned topic –workers’ rights – and tosses it into a 21st century context – massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). These games have, in effect, their own economies which stretch outside the game through real-world online stores that sell in-game currencies. Young people in sweat-shop conditions play the games hour after hour, selling the goods that their characters gain for gold (or whatever passes for currency in that particular game world); this process is called gold farming. The people running the sweat-shops sell the in-game gold to gamers desperate (or lazy) enough to cheat. The remote ‘workers’ earn their ‘employers’ income, often with little to no benefits – or human dignity. After introducing the basic situation, Doctorow really lets loose. In the Internet cafes and MMORPG ‘factories’, workers start demanding fair treatment and pay. Game companies hire analysts to track and ban these gold farmers from their game worlds. The gold-seller markets combine into black market economies. Stock brokers and economists package futures on in-game commodities into complex bonds that are bought and sold like their real-world equivalents. Union leaders on two continents use modern communication technologies to organize a unified front and stay ahead of the police. The workers’ ultimate weapon is a financial scheme copied from real-world stock markets. We follow the stories of Mala from India, Matthew from China, and Leonard from California. They and others are drawn into a fierce international struggle for humane treatment and for workers’ rights, online or off.Doctorow’s idea is fascinating. The potential overlaps of our real world and online worlds are carefully described. Unfortunately, most characters remain thin, and some of the in-game details he invents seem odd (and I say this as a life-long gamer). And speaking of details, you can clean yourself with a basin of water and a washcloth instead of wasting gallons of water with a shower. You’d think that people living in cramped quarters in China, especially when the water supply might be unpredictable, would have come up with such an astounding concept even if a pampered Californian teenager can’t. Little things like these made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief.EJ 10/2010
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Not sure why I'm feeling so committed to finishing this. I'm not enjoying it, and I'm starting to wonder if it will ever, ever end.

As usual, Cory Doctorow has an interesting story, but buries it in a series of digressions on related topics (this time, online gaming culture and labor unions). He's obviously brilliant, but it's the kind of brilliance that can bog down his larger points.
***
Annnnnnnnnnd we're done. Finally. Online gaming culture, virtual economies, and labor unions--all interesting topics, but between three major topics and the huge cast, the book is overambitious and doesn't hold together that well.
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Somewhere, Joe Hill is smiling. He's got tears in his eyes, too.

Doctorow is easily as preachy as Heinlein. I like that in an author I respect and admire, one who has obviously reasoned his way to his positions. This book is far more violent than most books I like, but the violence is never gratuitous. There is a cast of thousands here, and it took me several hundred pages to start sorting them out.

Well-written, tautly plotted, and only semi-incomprehensible in parts- to a non-gamer like me. I got the gist of the gaming parts with little trouble. And I learned some economics theory.

I'm going to have to read it again.
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Gamers, economics, intrigue, action and suspense! One of the best books I've ever read!
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Doctorow, acclaimed internet guru, focuses his attention in a completely different direction to his previous near future novel. This time the plot is driven by the flow of money that encapsulates the online gaming business and how gold-farming is an integral part of it. The story follows people on both sides of a power struggle that erupts as gold-farmers unite in an attempt to stand up to their bosses; the ones that lock them in rooms, deny their basic rights and pay them pittance. This is a morality tale and is rooted, as expected, in hard fact. For The Win tries too hard to make it's point and at times the story is lost amidst Doctorow's monologues. The character arcs also become difficult to follow at times, compounded by the narrative style used. For non-gamers some of the mystique may be lost, however For The Win is an interesting read for the current generation of gamers. It should also offer an insight in to the future of the gaming business for a wider audience too.
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Has much of the same excitement of Little Brother, but a bit more revolutionary fervor (good) and a slightly muddier plot and confusing subject and conclusion (bad).
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If somebody alked up to me and said, "I have a book I know you're going to love. It's all about economics, labour unions, and the unfair working conditions in developping countries," I might suspect this person doesn't know my reading tastes very well. Such a book might appeal to those with specific interests, but me, well, that's not my thing.And then this person would hand me For the Win, and I'd be intrigued because it involves gaming, something I'm familiar with. And then I'd read it, and be blown away.That's Doctorow's genius in this book. He can take all of the above concepts and make them not only interesting, but make them into something that anyone can relate to, especially today's game-happy youth culture. He can take economics and break them down into the simply complex and absurd things that they are, and make it comprehensible. He makes the legnths that some companies go to to control virtual wealth seem like what it is: ridiculous and yet incredibly valuable. This book makes you look at the world, see it in a different light, and get outraged that it isn't better. It's hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and like the games it talks about, endlessly entertaining.The characters are, above all else, wonderfully human. There are sides of right and wrong, and the lines are clearly drawn, but the people on the side of good are still flawed, violent and angry and they make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes end up fatal. These are people you could pass on the street, could see at school; they don't have to be half a world away in some poorly-ventilated sweatshop, and that just seeks to underscore the message of labour equality that's the main focus of the novel. "There are no Chinese workers. There are just workers."If you think this books comes across as being a bit preachy, you'd be right. But when your characters are fighting for the right to refuse 22-hour shifts without being beaten, fighting for the right to not be raped in order to hang onto their jobs, I think a little preachiness is allowed.This book came to me highly recommended, and it leaves my hands in the same state. Go, pick up this book, read it and learn things that you may not have even thought about before. And I dare you to tell me that at the end of it, you didn't feel your moral centre being tugged at, even just a little.
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Chris brought a copy home from work for me, hurray.I actually liked this a lot more than I thought I would. I expected it to make me cranky, but I really enjoyed reading it. When I thought hard about it, though, it was missing something... revelatory, I think, that's keeping me from rounding up the rating. In my heart.One thing I knew right away, though -- it really is overlong. This story doesn't have to be 500 pages. To its credit, there isn't any thread or character I immediately think of cutting, but there's just a lot. This book is a ton of people. Maybe a trim in each region would have helped. (Yasmin & Ashok in India and Matthew in China are nice but not critical. Conversely, more about Big Sister Nor would have been good.) The funny, exclamation-pointy authorial economy lessons work pretty well, and they lend some seriousness to the plot points, but they do stick out a bit too.But generally speaking, the deeply international setting is wonderful, and written like the author has been on the ground in those places (not sure?), the slang is cool, there's a lot of day-to-day culture that feels right, and the sociological take is almost never off-key. (There are perhaps a dozen too many "chin-waggles".)The best parts just stick out really well. Jie and her "Jiandi" folk-hero internet pirate radio show fame in China is amazing. That whole long, long, long scene when she first scoops Lu up and keeps him safe in one of her secret apartments and puts him on the air is probably the coolest part of the book. I also really liked Wei-Dong ("Leonard") and his flight from American boarding school, and his voyage in a teched-out shipping container. He gets the only kid-and-parents family drama in the book and that's done nicely, though feels a bit out of place in this book about teenagers, the internet, and bad business.In general, this felt like a great book for this author to write because it's awesome to have so much internet in a novel, written by someone who isn't only doing research, who feels it too. (This reminds me of the item on my wish list that is John Green write a book about internet friends.) Pretty much all of this stuff is real, or like what's real, and it's a deep level of detail but written really invitingly. Most of it isn't in my experience, but enough is tangential that it's exciting or funny or touching when it should be. All the hacker-ish stuff is totally thrilling to someone who's never done any of it, I won't lie. You lost me at "proxy", but ok I am totally flipping the page! The level of totally real espionage needed just to stay online, it's great, portrayed really well, and relevant to actual real places.The only thing is, the thrust of the book, unionizing the gamers and this mission's clashes with authority... I'm not sure any of this was... necessary? I mean it's set up to make a lot of sense, and we can see in the story how these workers are exploited (and just, charming to read this YA book about labor organization you guys). But I think the workers of the world thing connects in only a limited way. Characters die (one of which was surprising, one of which was not). And this ambition kind of hurts its ending -- the scope is so big that waiting for all the laces to tie up is sort of ho-hum, eventually.Moments I liked:"'You violate the social contract, the other person doesn't know what to do about it. There's no script for it. There's a moment where time stands still, and in that moment, you can empty out his pockets.'"And:"Wei-Dong loved his parents. He wanted their approval. He trusted their judgment. That was why he'd been so freaked out when he discovered that they'd been plotting to send him away. If he hadn't cared about them, none of it would have mattered."And, a joke worthy of repeating on the internet:"He could feel everything that was happening in the games he ran. He could tell when there was a run on gold in Svartalfheim Warriors, or when Zombie Mecha's credits took a dive. ... He could tell when there was a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge in Zombie Mecha as too many ronin tried to enter Manhattan to clear out the Flatiron Building and complete the Publishing Quest."
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In For The Win, Cory Doctorow takes on the world of online gaming. Specifically, he uses online gaming and gold farming to write a near future novel built around the idea of oppressed and abused gold farmers in China and India needing to unionize to get a fair shake from the bosses. It’s more interesting that it sounds, really. For today’s under-educated teens, they’ll get a pretty good education in economics as Cory frequently steps away from the plot to explain the economics behind gaming. In his previous novel, Doctorow took hacking and made it heroic. This time he does the same thing with online gaming. Close minded conservatives will hate the book because of the positive depiction of unions, and to be fair, even I think Doctorow could have put just a little of the big business point of view into the story. It’s not always 100% about simple exploitation of the workers. It’s a riveting story built around near future technology, economics, gaming, and union organization. Little Brother is still my favorite book by Doctorow, but For The Win is a close second.
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I liked this, but it didn't have quite the emotional depth and resonance of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. And he felt he had to cram in a little too much economics into the exposition, which felt a bit forced. Still, I enjoyed this effort, and its depictions of labor unrest in the developing world felt as real as anything I've read on the subject. That said, the labor organizers and activists came off as a little too good to be true. Not to say the labor organizers and activists aren't on the side of the angels, but they seemed a bit idealized here. Anyhow, generally a good read, and I recommend it, but the depth of characters didn't quite bring it to the 4 star level.
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Doctorow is one of the most current near future science fiction writers. This is a great tale about gold farmers (people - usually in poor countries - who play games to build up game gold and then sell it to rich westerners) and their struggle to unionise themselves. I enjoyed the book, as I usually do with Doctorow, however it also left me a little unsatisfied and seems a bit naive in places.
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Finished this book (audio) a few days ago and would like to point out it was a very very slow starter that I nearly shut down several times. However, things picked up and I was able to finish it. My overall rating is really based on the story as narration was excellant. Also, there probably are not many books I will like for a while after reading Ready Player One and now trying to compare all others to it, they cannot stand up. With that said, For the Win is ok, not great, but if you can get thru the first few chapters you will enjoy the conclusion.
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So the kids in MMORPGs from all over the world start a union and take on game companies and repressive governments with mixed results. It is really a thinly veiled economics lesson, and Doctorow's fatal flaw this time around is doing what YA authors are supposed not to do: talk down to the their readers. There are clearly times when the narrative stops and there is a break for the "okay kids, now it is time for a lesson" nonfiction passage. Of course the in-game economics are the same as RL economics and there are thinly veiled explanations of our nation's most recent crisis of capitalism. So if someone reading this is unconcerned with aesthetics, it could be a great book for kids who want to learn about economics or adults that want to learn about MMORPGs. Doctorow is surprisingly neutral towards labor issues considering how polemical he is on other issues, even in his YA books. This is the best fiction of his I've tried so far. There are still too many characters, many of which I don't understand the motivations of, and a lot of the action takes place "in game." (Should I be enough of a jerk to mock: OH MAN THAT IS AN AWESOME KEYSTROKE!!!!) But the thing is, and this is a major theme of the book, if millions are playing the games and I'm not that just means I'm a dinosaur and I can make my jokes as I whistle past the cultural graveyard.
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A letdown after Little Brother. The disappointing thing about this book to me was that only the (highly unpleasantly stereotyped) corporate bad guys hacked. (In either the good or the bad sense.) So our gold farming / wage slave heroes were left with only quaint 20th century labor organizing.
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Doctorow takes on the real-world economic implications of computer game currencies. Matthew is a Chinese gold farmer, one of the thousands who play role-playing games for hours in order to accumulate virtual money, points, and treasures that can be sold — for real money — to other players looking for quick power-ups in games such as World of Warcraft. Matthew’s is just one of several stories Doctorow follows as gamers, gold farmers, and those who would take advantage of them both meet in virtual worlds and eventually in the real world when player Big Sister Nor, in Singapore, decides to organize the Webblies, the “Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web.” An interesting take on the global economic implications that gaming could have in the "real world" however, I found the stories presented a little too over the top and at times I felt I was being lectured at. That being said, people who enjoyed his first novel Little Brother, will not be disappointed in his latest novel.
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There was a good story in there somewhere. It just got bogged down by the rambling, repetitive explanations of economics and the inner workings of speculative markets. I thought most of the characters were developed well with the exception of Big Sister Nor, which is kind of funny since she's the character that holds all the story lines together.I'm not sure how this is considered a book for 12-17 year olds. If I'd read/listened to this book at that age, I would have quit pretty qui...moreThere was a good story in there somewhere. It just got bogged down by the rambling, repetitive explanations of economics and the inner workings of speculative markets. I thought most of the characters were developed well with the exception of Big Sister Nor, which is kind of funny since she's the character that holds all the story lines together.I'm not sure how this is considered a book for 12-17 year olds. If I'd read/listened to this book at that age, I would have quit pretty quickly. I get that the majority of characters are young teens, but the intricacies of the plot and the before mentioned economic and investment lessons would have lost my attention.Which isn't to say that I won't try more Doctorow. I've heard good things about his other books, but this one just didn't gel well. Too many side notes that seemed to go on forever, tearing me out of the story as a whole. It's hard to get into a story that has five or six plot lines with entirely different sets of characters as it is. Throw in long, rambling, repetitive tangents and things are going to fall apart in places.
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I read this as a free download but am going to buy multiple copies of the book as presents. If you love collective bargaining, rousing tales of union struggles, and speculations about the near future, I think you will love this too. I'm not even a gamer and I loved the gaming aspects. My only question was is Doctorow serious when he dedicates chapters to chain bookstores. Does anyone know? I love the dedications to independent bookstores, but the chains confused me.
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I absolutely loved Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, but I was disappointed with this one. I started to listen to the audiobook and just found the writing really lacking and way too didactic. I never cared about the characters enough to pay attention and, while their stories were interesting, I was never invested. Abandoned it!
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Not every day you pick up a young-adult novel that's essentially a thriller intended to dramatize the continued value of labor unions.

I kind of love the idea that parents may get this for their kids thinking it's an action-oriented book about video gamers, when in fact the gamers are gold-farmers being paid a pittance to bulk up the characters of westerners, and the gold farmers unite to get proper workplace rights.

I remain unclear on what makes a book a young adult novel -- clearly lengthy sections on economics, the threat of rape against under-age characters, and the rat-race malaise of a corporate economist don't get the book kicked upstairs to the adult section.

Doctorow's numerous detailed asides about how money works are informative, but they never make that edge into abstraction, like David Foster Wallace did at his best, or loop back into the narrative in a surprising way, which Neal Stephenson does reflexively -- which means they're a little didactic.

The book isn't as taut as Little Brother (Doctorow's previous young-adult book) or as emotional as Makers (his previous novel), but the extensive details of the business culture of gaming are informative, and the story moves smoothly from China to India to Los Angeles and round and round again, until the various plots come together. It's a little unfortunate that a solidly left-wing book needs a wealthy protagonist to get the political action to succeed -- though a lot of fun when the protagonist needs to call his mom for help.

Longtime readers of Doctorow will note familiar threads, including the magical world of Disney.
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This is a book that is so timely, yet instantly dated, that while I was reading it I wondered what people would think about it 10, 20, 50 years in the future, if anyone remembers it. It was sort of like a late-2000s version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, every bit as heavy-handed, almost as painful, but ultimately so READABLE! It was basically a story about people who farm gold for online MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Runescape (or their fictional equivalents). These people are crapped-upon third-world wage slaves, just like the factory workers that make your clothes, shoes, toys and electronics. They work long hours for little pay, aren't allowed to look up from their work or go to the bathroom, are kept for overtime work without pay, and often receive violent treatment from their bosses or foremen. They have another problem, too: established unions won't take them seriously because they "just play games" for a living. The fact that they are so scattered throughout the world doesn't make it any easier for them to organize, either. The cast of characters for this story are introduced one at a time, but their paths all intersect in time, and each more interesting than the last: A headstrong Los Angeles brat who runs away from home when his parents try to keep him from playing online games 20 hours a day. A group of teenage boys in China who are brutally beaten by thugs sent by their former employer when they leave their gold farming jobs to start their own company. A group of preteen girls and boys in a slum in India who are paid by a sinister stranger to hunt down and kill gold farmers in a game called Zombie Mecha. A shrewd American man who is an expert in game economies who lands a job overseeing the economies of all the online games owned by the Coca Cola Company. A sexy young woman with the survival instincts of a street rat who hosts a pirate call-in radio show where she encourages factory girls to stand up for their rights. And finally, a trio of young adults in Singapore who are trying to organize online workers across the world to fight the corrupt bosses that treat them all like garbage. With a cast of characters like that, how could you not want to read it? I’ve seen some reviews that complain that this book was too long. I don’t entirely agree, but I think that this book might be better off classified as an adult book. I know it’s tough to have books starring young people be interesting to adults, but times are changing. It was awfully long, but when I finished it, I could see Doctorow continuing the story indefinitely. It didn’t come to any real conclusion. How could it? Nothing ever ends, especially when it comes to labor rights which are constantly being negotiated. Thos book doesn’t have chapters, it just keeps chugging along, but Doctorow stops the action several times to tell anecdotes that help explain economic concepts. He does it so well, it doesn’t come across as dry or didactic. He even pulls of up-to-date internet slang without sounding like a total lameass. It’s hard for me to imagine many teens who would read all the way through this and think it was as rad as I did, but I would recommend it for ages 17 to adult, who want something they can really sink their teeth into.
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Inspiring, gripping, adventurous story about gamers all over the world banding together as the Webblys to fight for workers rights and fair compensation. I didn't always understand the gamer-ese, but that didn't matter or detract from the story at all...I had a hard time putting the book down, cried toward the end, and cheered when I finally reached the last page. Absolutely on par with Little Brother as one of my favorite books by Doctorow.
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For The Win is Cory Doctorow's second "Teen" novel, but stands up well with adult audiences as well. The story centers around gold farming in multiplayer online games, but features many themes rooted in current events. Most importantly, Doctorow does an outstanding job putting financial markets into perspective for any audience, and gives analogies for derivatives trading and market behavior that anyone can understand. This is where the novel excels, in addition to telling a great story packed with adventure, action, and geek-ery, there is an underlying thread that is not time, or age, or knowledge dependent. This novel tells a story of teens, and even children, working in-game for bosses in the same way that children work sewing tennis shoes in sweat shops. There is a movement to organize workers using the borderless realm of the internet, and create a union. It shows us how important and powerful the internet is for communicating beyond nationalities and race, to reach everyone and make them realize they are really no different then their fellow humans toiling across the globe. He even incorporates the character of a young, bright-eyed economist working with the union, which gives the audience a chance to see a fresh perspective on markets and supply/demand interactions that they may not be exposed to yet. I love all of Cory Doctorow's work, and this is yet another fine example. It is very fitting in the time period it has come out, but really will stand up as time goes on, and the economy changes yet again. Even though this was targeted to the teen audience, as was Little Brother, it will resonate with adults, especially with older geeks like myself!)
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A story of how online gamers manipulate games in order to turn virtual gold into real money. The gamers are led to unionize and face challenges from their criminal bosses and their oppressive governments. Interesting idea, but Doctorow fails to make the story interesting. The characters don't seem to be developed very well and the story drags quite a bit, finally working its way to a lukewarm ending.
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Poor teens around the world are working in gaming sweatshops as gold farmers, collecting game gold and making money for their bosses. The game gold makes up some of the largest economies in the world. Tired of mistreatment, the web workers form an international union.
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This is one of the best YA books I've read this year. You want to understand the world children live in, what they can do for hours and hours in a game, this is a book for you. Do you want to be enlightened to the fact that sweatshops exist in all shapes and sizes? This is the book for you. Are you interested in economics, stocks, ponzi schemes and other scams, unionization and it's future? This is definitely the book for you.With a patient hand, Cory Doctorow gives clear, easy to understand examples of everything I talked about in my previous paragraph. Even if you are not a gamer, an explanation is always handy when gamer terms are brought into this story. If you are a teenager, then no worries - every single scheme is detailed out with easy to understand analogies. The story flips back and forth between China, India, the US .. the entire globe. Everywhere children are being mistreated by the "bosses", those monopolizing the gold farming market - but these kids are good. They're really good, and now they are demanding the decent rights that every worker should have. This is not your typical video gaming set of kids - these are children who play 15+ hours a DAY farming the same area over and over - why? Because they love the games.I could seriously rattle on and on about how much I loved this book, but I want everyone to read it. Gamer or no, this book should be on your list - give it to the teenagers you know, recommend it. I feel like, for the first time, I have some understanding with regards to how economics works .. all because of a book about gaming.
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I liked FTW much more than Little Brother. It did spin on, and on, and on; but it handled the page count better than many of his other works. Watching the development of economic, political, and cultural ideas was exciting and interesting. There were a very large number of concepts that Doctorow tied nicely together into one solid package.Although I didn't feel like it quite hit the 5 star mark for me, it was VERY close. I look forward to recommending it to my son as well!
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I just couldn't read this any more. It sounds more like some political statement than a good story. I grabbed this because Little Brother was really good and moved quickly. This one just dragged on and on. I gave up on it a little less than 1/2 way though. I just didn't care about the characters or the story enough. I'm glad I got this as an ebook version for free and didn't have to pay for it.
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All around the world, people are playing games, battling for online gold, jewels, points, levels and status. And in poor nations, there are players who play for these treasures, but then their employers trade the virtual gold for real money -- from those who want to pay to skip to higher-level play immediately. This is the story of brilliant Mala in India, Matthew in Shenzen, Leonard (aka Wei-Dong) from California, and Big Sister Nor in rural China, who are all trying to break out of the sweatshops where low pay, fear and the threat of violence hangs over them if they do not earn enough every day. Big Sister Nor wants every "gold farmer" to join a union, to protect the rights of those who work from abusive employers and allow them to earn a decent wage and work decent hours, but those who make the money off this scheme will use any means necessary to keep things as they are -- including murder. The plan is to crash the virtual economies of every game in the world, all at once... if they can pull it off. Great for gamers and anyone who needs a challenging read with a big-picture view, 8th grade and up.
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Not in the same league as Little Brother, but a decent read. Some bizarrely repetitive turns of phrase, and some interesting economics lessons.
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