For the Win, Cory Doctorow’s newest novel, is a thought-provoking story centered around players of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games. It blends gaming culture with economics and labor unions, the end result being believable and thought-provoking.
The bane of the companies that run online games is gold farming. Denizens of underprivileged countries are often paid to “farm” (by repeatedly playing quests or killing monsters) the virtual currency of multiplayer games, which is then sold to gamers seeking an easy way to level up their characters and acquire better equipment. The game developers aren’t happy about this sort of behavior, as it’s considered unfair to players trying to play the game without cheating, so they go to great lengths to discourage (and sometimes ban) the gold farmers.
Now what if Wall Street was in on all this? What if trading “gold futures,” in a manner sanctioned by the game companies, was the new big thing in the financial “industry?”
What if the gold farmers banded together to form a labor union in order to demand higher wages and better working conditions from their employers?
That’s the basic premise behind For the Win. The resulting tale is packed with action, economic theory, and gamer terminology. (It seems to be set in the not-to-distant future, having a fairly contemporary feel to the setting.) I can’t think of another book like FTW, but it does share a few similar themes to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It’s definitely worth a read.