Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Title: For the Win
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor Teen
Date: May 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0765322166
Reviewed from Advanced Reader’s Copy from publisher

Plot Summary: In the future, the game industry is big business, with virtual gold and specialty items being sold for real money – and impoverished workers in third world countries are hired as “gold farmers” to collect virtual gold for their bosses.  Matthew, in Shenzhen, China, plans to lead his own gold-farming business, in spite of intimidation and violence from his former bosses.  A gamer in southern California, named Leonard – but you better call him Wei-Dong, secretly plays in the middle of the night when it is daylight in China, where the rest of his team is based.  He makes real money on these missions, but his parents threaten to send him to military school if they catch him playing after hours again.  And in Mumbai, India, a talented strategist and born leader named Mala is paid to destroy players in the game, until she receives a message from a mysterious person named Big Sister Nor, who challenges the way she understands her existence and asks her if she thought she deserved better.

Critical Evaluation: After reading Little Brother for this course, I had high expectations for Cory Doctorow’s latest work, and I was not disappointed.  In the same way that Little Brother explained tough concepts like cryptography and Bayesian physics, For the Win made gaming terms and economic phenomena accessible, while maintaining an exciting story that kept me turning pages (and For the Win is not a short read!).  The theme of forming unions for workers and developing fair business practices can be set in any time period or location, so Doctorow’s decision to place it in a game-based futuristic society may have been intentional in order to remove the issues from history and preconceived understandings of the subject, in order for us to view it more objectively.  It also helped me to better understand the economies of their imagined societies – virtual and otherwise – and economics is not my strong suit!  I would definitely recommend this book for teens.

Reader’s Annotation: In the virtual future, video games are big business, and virtual gold – farmed by poor workers in third world countries – can be sold for real money.  A mysterious person called Big Sister Nor draws together three players from across the globe – Matthew in China, Wei-Dong in California, and Mala in India – in order to improve the conditions for gamers everywhere.

Author Information: Cory Doctorow is a blogger, journalist, and author of several books and short stories about science fiction and blogging.  Doctorow is also the co-editor of Boing Boing, a blog that contains articles on tech, gadgets, science as well as business, entertainment, and art and design.  An activist for the Creative Commons organization, Doctorow has made his novel Little Brother available as a free download under their license.

Born and raised in Canada, Doctorow has also spent time living in London.  He married Alice Taylor in 2008 and has one daughter.

Genre: Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Economics

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Contrast Matthew, Wei-Dong and Mala.  What are their backgrounds?  Why do they play?
2) Why is it so important to form unions for the gold-farmers?
3) Do you think it is possible for games to have as much influence on society as they do in For the Win?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: sexual content, violence

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I became a fan of Doctorow’s work after reading Little Brother for this course, so when an advanced copy of his next young adult novel became available I was excited for the opportunity to review it.


Cory Doctorow’s personal blog.


May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Books |

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