For the Win

For the Win

4.0 31
by Cory Doctorow, George Newbern

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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, millions of “gold farmers” toil in electronic sweatshops harvesting virtual treasure that their employers sell to First World gamers for real money.

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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, millions of “gold farmers” toil in electronic sweatshops harvesting virtual treasure that their employers sell to First World gamers for real money.
Mala is a brilliant fifteen-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the nickname “General Robotwalla.” In China, Matthew defies his former bosses to build his own gold-farming crew. Leonard lives in Southern California and spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia. All of these young people, and more, become entangled with the mysterious woman called Big Sister Nor, who builds them into a movement to challenge the status quo.
Fighting pitched battles in the virtual worlds of every MMORPG worth playing, Nor’s network of gamers is so successful that it incurs ruthless opposition. Ultimately, Big Sister’s people 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Doctorow uses video games to get teenage readers to think more about globalization, economics, and fair labor practices in this expansive but ponderous story. Set, like his earlier Little Brother, in a near-future world, it centers on attempts to unionize teenagers who work within massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) as gold farmers, employed to raise game gold and find magic items to be resold, or as Turks, who help police the virtual environments. Employed for minimal wages under horrible working conditions—sometimes in near slavery—these children, led by a global group of fierce and talented gamers, band together, subverting the MMORPGs to take on their corrupt local bosses and the corporations that own the games. As usual, Doctorow writes with authority and a knack for authentic details and lexicon, moving between impoverished villages in China and India and inventive video game worlds. But the story founders under the volume of information he's trying to share—the action is interrupted by lectures on economic principles, sometimes disguised as conversations—and an unwieldy cast of characters. It's undeniably smart and timely, but would have benefited from tighter editing. Ages 12-up. (May)
From the Publisher

“Doctorow is indispensable. It's hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding.” —Booklist, starred review on The Win

“For the Win is not a perfect book—merely a glorious one.” —The Seattle Times on The Win

“A rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion--as necessary and dangerous as file sharing, free speech, and bottled water on a plane.” —Scott Westerfeld, Author of Uglies, Pretties, and Specials on The Win

“A terrific read... A cogently written, passionately felt argument.” —The New York Times on Little Brother

“A believable and frightening tale of a near-future San Francisco. Filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions…within a tautly crafted fictional framework.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review on Little Brother

“One of the year's most important books.” —Chicago Tribune on Little Brother

“A wonderful, important book...I'd recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I've read this year.” —Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book on Little Brother

Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
To Mala's impoverished family in India, she is the primary breadwinner; however, to her army, she is General Robotwallah, a fearless leader in virtual battles. In China, Matthew Fong can play eight simultaneous games of Svartalfheim Warriors and can run and map the rooms of any game with lightning speed. American teen Leonard, who goes by the name Wei-Dong and plays online in the wee hours of the morning with a guild of Chinese gamers, has parents who think he is addicted to playing and who are determined to rescue him by sending him to military school. These three main characters and many more are connected in the virtual worlds created by mega-corporations. They find the lines between the physical world and their virtual world blurred by economics, greed, power, and very real violence. Divided into three sections, the book draws in readers with fast-paced action, sensory details that bring each unique setting and character to life, and enough emotion to sustain the explanations of how the games function and their relation to corporate economics. The uniting factor of the three initial protagonists is Big Sister Nor, the mysterious figure who becomes the leader of an international effort to unionize the workers who form the foundation of the global gaming enterprise. The rationale is explained: "As hard as it is to win by fighting, it's impossible to win by doing nothing." With a huge cast, complex plot, political undertones, and challenging economic concepts, this ambitious and lengthy novel requires the type of sustained attention most teens are thought to lack, but the quality will be found in Doctorow fans, gamers, and those fascinated by intelligent predictions of the near future. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—In a story (Tor Teen, 2010) that explodes with life, Cory Doctorow invites us into the world of teenage video gamers who hail from India, China, and Southern California. Each character struggles to make a living via gaming and gold-farming, escaping the wrath of predatory adults who capitalize on the young people's online agility. Around every corner, they meet actual and virtual danger. These characters exist in a dizzyingly complex world, yet each interwoven tale describes an age-old story of forging identity, standing up for oneself, and eventually leaving home. Most affecting is Mala, who lives beside a plastics recycling plant in India, and escapes the powerlessness of poverty through gaming. All the characters are brought together by Big Sister Nor, an online presence who haunts and captivates—and invites them to reexamine the meaning of online labor. George Newbern's narration is perfunctory, with a reserved tone that seems too detached for such an exuberant story. He changes voices for some characters, but not others, and his Indian and Chinese accents and female falsettos will often make listeners cringe. In a book filled with so many culturally diverse characters, the narrator should have had more lingual versatility. The absence of music is also a missed opportunity. A snatch of melody from the character's culture could have signaled point of view shifts. And the sounds of the games, which Doctorow describes so vividly, would have also made for a livelier listening experience. The tech-savvy teens who would be drawn to this story would crave more stimulation than this audiobook offers.—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College Queens, Long Island City, NY
Kirkus Reviews
In a future so close it will be easily mistaken for today, teens all over the world play massively multiplayer online role-playing games, but not all are in the game for fun. In the Third World, the poorest children and teens "farm gold" for ruthless bosses who turn game currency into real-world money. The in-game economies of games like Mushroom Kingdom from Nintendo and Zombie Mecha by Coca-Cola Games rival those of Peru and Portugal. Big Sister Nor in Singapore and a small army of followers slowly and secretly recruit the best players into a fledgling union that could span the globe if it's not destroyed by corporations, corrupt police or repressive governments. Award-winner Doctorow spins a mammoth tale that, when in gear, is as engaging and fascinating as any MMORPG. Unfortunately, it is shot through with economics lectures; regularly, the focus shifts from the large cast of characters to a gentle exposition on union history or social contracts or some other complex economic idea. Fans, future bankers and future gametechs will be in heaven; those without interest will skim or give up by the halfway mark. (Science fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range:
12 Years


Meet the Author

Canadian-born Cory Doctorow has held policy positions with Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and been a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Southern California. He is a co-editor of the popular weblog BoingBoing (, which receives over three million visitors a month. His science fiction has won numerous awards, and his YA novel Little Brother spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

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