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FOR THE WIN – the buck-oh-five review

August 15, 2011

Cory Doctorow’s novel FOR THE WIN is a nail-biter that twists thrilling, fast-paced story-lines together into something greater than its parts. I downloaded it for free from the author’s website (see below) and then I bought two copies from Powell’s. The story kicks ass and the author’s creative approach to economics and ownership impressed me, so I’m donating a copy of this book to one school in Kodiak, Alaska, and one in Portland, Oregon.

FOR THE WIN is a story about growing up, sticking it to The Man, creative new economies, and why Unions matter. It’s an adventure in economics. It’s about gamers and chatrooms and neighborhoods and friends and bosses who are dicks–and I mean beat-you-to-death-because-in-the-big-scheme-of-things-you’re-an-economic-prisoner-a-slave-so-you-better-shut-it-or-else. It left me feeling like I’d accidentally learned something.

I also felt like I’d visited the hot and smelly slums of India and the dehumanizingly bland factory-lands in China as well as the World-of-Warcraft-style Mushroom Kingdom. These kids love playing their games and it’s great to go along with them as their hobby becomes business and business becomes a question of how to organize in the real world. Doctorow’s novel explores what it means to be free in a capitalist world.

Of course, if we’ve learned anything from Team America: World Police, it’s that Freedom isn’t Free–I think the going rate is around a buck-oh-five. When the kids playing their MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games) realize they can earn real money by working together, they arrive at a crossroads: work within the corrupt system of bullies (The Man) or organize for better working conditions. Babies, lemme tell ya, The Man ain’t about better working conditions.

Listen, in case you don’t know this, I suppose I should be the one to tell you: Real Money ($) is passing between Real People (♀♂) in these games all the time, right now, in your world. Lets say you want better armor for your character: you can go mine the stuff from a mountain and forge it yourself, if you have the skill and the time, could take a week; or you can buy it from someone by transferring real money into the account they name. Here is an example from your world where this scheme is being perpetrated by prison guards in China. This is just one example. People get really creative when money is involved.

So, these kids are playing MMOs (or their working in factories, or both) and realize they could make Real Money ($), I’m talking buy-your-mom-a-new-house kind of money. But they aren’t the first ones to think that, and the competing entrepreneurs they run up against are genuine cutthroat capitalists who are not about to give an inch–bullies, in other words.

Not only did I love this book, but I loved the price, too. That’s right: free. You’ll find a link to Download for Free on the FOR THE WIN website and another link to Donate.

After reading it I went to the Donate page and figured out how to reimburse Doctorow for the book. I bought two copies from Powell’s and had them send it out to two of the addresses listed on the site–school libraries in Alaska and Oregon that had requested a copy. Because the book was such a fulfilling read and since Cory Doctorow is such an interesting dude, I was happy to chip in my buck-oh-five.

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