Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Anda's Game" by Cory Doctorow

Length: Approx. 1 hr
Reader: Alice Taylor

The story: "Anda's Game" uses the setting of an online fantasy game to explore how world-spanning issues of responsibility are present even in the games people play. Like much of Doctorow's science fiction that I've read, this story takes place in a near-future or slightly alternate present. Anda, a high school girl, spends most of her time playing a World of Warcraft-like game. She and Lucy, a friend Anda meets through an online gaming group called the Fahrenheits, begin taking on in-game quests of a very unusual nature. As Anda begins to realize these quests are morally questionable, she is caught up in a situation she knows is wrong, but feels powerless to alter.

Doctorow fits a number of societal issues into his fiction and this story is no exception. His knowledge and care for his characters allow his handling of childhood obesity and game addiction to avoid the crassness of TV news shock stories. The story touches on rarely-discussed questions about sweatshop labor, world economy, and virtual economies. The story does not try to provide the answer to all these thorny issues, but instead suggests that relying on others through honest communication is the starting point for solving difficult problems, be they personal or international.

Rating: 7/10

The reader:
Alice Taylor has a mumbly British accent, which makes it sometimes difficult to understand, but fits the main character perfectly. While individual words are sometimes unintelligible, whether through pronunciation or slang usage, the meaning is always clear. When a character in the story types, Taylor types along on her keyboard, making an aural equivalent to what authors sometimes do by changing typeface or indentation to indicate a written conversation over computer. Each of the three episodes is introduced and ended by Doctorow's own comments on the story and his personal life.

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