In Real Life, or IRL, is a graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang that showcases a high schooler’s life as she joins a popular MMORPG. Anda, the main character, has a love of gaming, both online and offline as the comic shows with her classes in computer and gaming programming as well an afterschool D&D campaign. When a well-known gamer visits her class to talk about Coarsegold, an MMORPG, and the importance of female gamers being comfortable playing as females in their games, Anda joins the guild.
Upon entering the game, Anda meets another female online who convinces her that there are players who cheat the system by gold farming. It’s her job to get rid of them and she gets paid real money for doing so. Anda joins her in this quest believing she’s doing the right thing for the game and also making a little extra money along the way.
This isn’t well received by Anda’s mother, who was apprehensive about Anda joining an online game in the first place. Like most parents, her mother was concerned about Anda talking to strangers, particularly men. She was appeased by Anda joining an all-female guild, but when Anda starts getting paid to get rid of gold farmers, it’s her mother’s bank account that is connected to the game. Her mother, believing that Anda is talking to strangers and accepting money, cuts Anda off from her video games right when Anda begins to realize that the gold farmers are real people rather than bots.
Before Anda gets cut off, she actually has a conversation with one of the gold farmers, a young kid from China trying to make extra money as he works in awful conditions. Anda realizes there are people out there who don’t have it as easy as she does and she’s determined to help him out. There’s a lot of morals that go into this graphic novel and it’s not just about playing video games online and making a hobby out of it.
Reaching out and trying to help others, bullying, and the morals of meeting people both on- and offline are all lessons that are touched upon in this graphic novel. I actually thought it was interesting how the mother was in this story, with her being concerned about online predators that we really don’t see much nowadays. Rachel and I grew up with the internet, having special classes occasionally in school regarding internet safety since it was still fairly new. Now, kids are much more tech-savvy than their parents when it comes to online and people’s lives are plastered on the internet more so than ever.
It’s true. Most kids are on their own when it comes to the Internet. They learn from their friends or they figure it out for themselves. However, from a babysitter’s perspective, there are still plenty of parents out there who worry though mostly because they don’t understand. Their kids don’t understand either (even though they think they do) which makes them worry more. So, reading the conversations between Anda and her mother were pretty real to me.
Which is great, it’s good that the graphic novel echoes the conversations that parents you know have had. I feel as if parents’ involvement with the way their kids interact with the internet has fallen to the wayside in recent years. When it comes to the images of the graphic novel, I enjoyed the art style and how fluid it was. Being set mainly in an MMORPG, there were plenty of action shots and pages, and the characters’ expressions were always clearly captured, in my opinion.
This graphic novel, overall, is well done. The illustrations are fun, the characters are easy to get into it, and the story is a good one.