Monday, November 15, 2004

Playing Anda's Game

Cory Doctorow has posted a spanking new and good story called 'Anda's Game' at Salon.com under a Creative Commons License(day pass or subscription reqd. - a kind of DRM, methinks). To make it easier for you to read - I'm providing Anda's Game text and html versions - also under a Creative Commons License.

As is par for Cory's work, the topics are cutting edge - dealing with ebay-driven in-game economics, dietary restrictions on kids,anti-globalization criticism, puns on the Bradbury/Moore controversy and female rights a la SuicideGirls(?). In another time, a little girl might play with a golliwog, a Barbie or a teaset. In this post-modern age, she is a skilled character in a game that borrows from Everquest, Ray Bradbury, Quake and Tolkien - more a killer than a wayfarer. Her participation in, and then disavowal of, an in-game conspiracy to terminate characters who produce in-game gold to be sold for real money on ebay, is bracketed with the onset of youthful diabetes, induced perhaps by the sweetshops just outside the 500 m sugar-free zone at her school.


"Anda, I don't think it's healthy for you to spend so much time with your game," her da said, prodding her bulging podge with a finger. "It's not healthy."

"Daaaa!" she said, pushing his finger aside. "I go to PE every stinking day. It's good enough for the Ministry of Education."

"I don't like it," he said. He was no movie star himself, with a little pot belly that he wore his belted trousers high upon, a wobbly extra chin and two bat wings of flab hanging off his upper arms. She pinched his chin and wiggled it.

"I get loads more exercise than you, Mr Kettle."

"But I pay the bills around here, little Miss Pot."

"You're not seriously complaining about the cost of the game?" she said, infusing her voice with as much incredulity and disgust as she could muster. "Ten quid a week and I get unlimited calls, texts and messages! Plus play of course, and the in-game encyclopedia and spellchecker and translator bots!" (this was all from rote -- every member of the Fahrenheits memorised this or something very like it for dealing with recalcitrant, ignorant parental units) "Fine then. If the game is too dear for you, Da, let's set it aside and I'll just start using a normal phone, is that what you want?"

Anda is an individualistic spirit, well defined and smart, though the ma and da characters are a bit thinly drawn and stereotypical.The language is very British, as is the spelling. The story joins Cory's significant and growing corpus of work, including my favorite, Eastern Standard Tribe. Quite some food for thought here, as well as a gameworld that begs to be explored, written about and played.

The concept of in-game dynamics and offline resonances was experienced recently in the MMORPG "A Tale In The Desert" with some in-game racist comments. Virtual economics is a dynamic field, with the Everquest economy larger than that of Bulgaria, and virtual economic disputes being settled in human courts.

Update: Excellent reviews of the story are provided by Derryl Murphy and the Mumpsimus

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader