I love reading and playing games. I am not Nintendo Fan Girl (an amazing influencer that I’ve followed for a long time), but Nintendo is my favorite video game conpany. Although I use the Webtoons App on a daily basis, graphic novels and mangas will always be my first loves. When those two interests combine, how could I resist In Real Life IRL? Jen Wang’s illustration caught my attention, but Cory Doctorow’s introduction made me realize how much value virtual world has in the real world.
Side Note: If you’re interested in Video Game History, bookmark this review and check out my review of Game On.
The introduction gets the reader in the right mindset for the story. The dawn of civilization led to our current frame of mind. Mundane tasks have been merged to eliminate tedious work. Were able to connect with others that we’ve never met face to face. This connection is brought on by our interest. Things that seem like hobbies to others require time and dedication that a person would put into an organization. Skills that are valuable in the corporate world are utilized for the fun of it. It would be ignorant to claim that a virtual world doesn’t provide an environment for characters with malicious intent. Isn’t that true of the real world? Where does the story go from here? The reader is introduced to Anda, a sixteen year old from Flagstaff, Arizona who plays Coarsegold Online.
What is Coarsegold Online
I’ll admit Coarsegold Online sounds like Sword Art Online, without the full dive headset (the game requires your mind in body to be in a state of paralysis to play because it interacts with your nerve system). Since I started reading Let’s Play, a Webtoon, it gives off World of Warquest vibes too. If SAO is not your thing, the game name only sounds like it. Game play mirrors World of Warquest (fictional) and World of Warcraft (real world). .
In the context of the graphic novel, Coarsegold Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). It has over 10 Billion Subscribers world wide. On Anda’s sixteenth birthday, she meets Miss Combs aka Liza the Organiza, a gamer and guild leader from Australia. A guild leader traveling internationally to meet girl gamers that attend highschool in Arizona is pretty interesting. The international call to girl gamers can’t go unnoticed. Liza (Miss Combs) offers the girls in Anda’s class an opportunity to join her guild for a probationary period with the chance of becoming permanent members. What’s the catch? They have to play as girl avatars.
This is important requirement, because not all RPG games have gender options. In a way, some of us get used to playing as male characters by default. That being said a guy maybe more likely to play as a female character than a girl. Playing as a girl in a popular MMORPG in a guild that we can assume has a good reputation doesn’t sound like a bad stipulation to me. Still, Anda is 16 and needs permission to subscribe to the online game. She makes her own money baby sitting, but she doesn’t have a credit card. Given the amount of subscribers. This isn’t a game that has a physical copy that can bypass a parental unit. Even dedicated mobile game subscribers can relate to this situation. After, Anda agrees to only talk to girl players. She gets permission to use her mom’s credit card and away we go.
Gold Farming and Anti Gold Farming Missions
Anda quickly distinguishes herself as a strong fighter in Coarsegold Online. The reader gets to see that in-game confidence trickle down into Anda’s real life persona. In-game, Anda answers Sarge’s ad. By the way, Sarge is a member of Clan Fahrenheit, which is run by Liza the Organiza. She’s looking for skilled fighters that are interested in helping her with Anti Gold Farming Missions. What is Gold Farming?
They are solo and groups of players that specialize in obtaining high value items to sell to other players for real world currency. This is a problem in the graphic novel and our real gaming world. To be clear, these aren’t the types of upgrades, tools, or skills that someone can buy directly from Coarsegold Online. This is pirated website’s offering their in-game service for real world cash. Kind of like how Ralph and Penelope were trying to steal high value items for real currency in Wralph Breaks the Internet.
This clip summarizes the gold farming issue in an amusing way. Ralph and Penelope have spent zero gaming hours on this game. Yet, they planned to steal Shank’s car, an elite PC. However, they were doing it to get money to save Penelope’s arcade game. So, are their actions wrong? If you go back to the introduction, a corporate mindset can be used for malicious intent. It may seem like Sarge is doing this for a good cause but her “missions” are shady too.
From my perspective, Anti Gold Farming Missions are not commissioned through Coarsegold Online. Although Sarge’s in-game life is lavish. She implies her gains come from genuine hard work. This is why she’s passionate about stoping gold farmers from profiting off of items that true gamers work hard to obtain. So, why is she recieving real money for this? She uses her MMORPG experience and mature age to convince Anda to help her complete these missions. This may sound like it’s on the up and up…until you see what the gold farmers actually look like.
Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right
The morale compass takes sometime to get Anda’s attention. The real world money is nice and she’s making friends on Coarsegold Online. Until Anda’s mom discovers various deposits on her daughter’s Paypal account. Before you call her a helicopter mom, Anda’s PayPal account is linked to her mom’s credit card. This is the same account Anda used to sign up for Coarsegold Online. Again, Anda is newly sixteen. Prior to her mother discovering these deposits, Anda meets Andrew, a teenage gold farmer from China. She doesn’t exactly go out of her way to break her mom’s rule. Based on the image above, the farmers don’t appear to put much thought into their outer appearance. Since, Anda spends most of her time PKing them, Andrew was genuinely surprised to meet a mercenary that tried to talk to him.
Anda gets a rare opportunity to find out how gold farmers work and why they’d choose to make a living off it. Anda learns Andrew’s socioeconomic situation is different from her’s. At the core of it all, he wants to be a regular player. The two start to build a friendship that is later threatened by their roles in Coarsegold Online. Its an unexpected international friendship that impacts how Anda looks at society and her real life.
If this feels like I cut you off when the story was getting interesting, I didn’t want to spoil the meat and potatoes of the story for you. Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang did a good job showing how easy it is to interact with people that are thousands of miles away from you. Some how it’s possible to feel their presence. It could be text, audio, and video makes that person accessible in a strange but comforting way. Sometimes a virtual tribe is more supportive and understanding than people that are physically present in our day to day lives. This is why, I recommend reading the rest of the story on your own instead of a complete summary from me. This is where I leave you. If you decide to read it, please share your thoughts with me here or at Goodreads.