Anda’s Game

This story appears in my collection Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present, 2007

Best American Short Stories, Michael Chabon, ed, 2005

Podcast read by Alice Taylor of Wonderland: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Fan art by Jeremy Shuback

Free download for Android

This is a riff on the way that property-rights are coming to games, and on the bizarre spectacle of sweat-shops in which children are paid to play the game all day in order to generate eBay-able game-wealth. When I was a kid, there were arcade kings who would play up Gauntlet characters to maximum health and weapons and then sell their games to nearby players for a dollar or two -- netting them about $0.02 an hour -- but this is a very different proposition indeed.

There are a lot of firsts in this story:

  • It's the first story I've written since moving to the UK, and the story is told from the point of view of an English girl
  • It's the first in a series of stories I'm writing that riff on the titles of famous SF novels and stories (this one is a play on Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" -- also coming are "I, Robot," "The Man Who Sold the Moon," "Jeffty is Five," and "True Names" -- this last with Ben Rosenbaum). This started as a response to Ray Bradbury's assertion that Michael Moore was a "thief" and a "horrible human being" for using the word "Fahrenheit" in the title of his last movie -- but now I'm just finding it fun to deconstruct the stories of the writers who came before me.
  • It's the first story that Salon has ever published under a Creative Commons license -- which means that you can put it on a P2P network or email it to a friend without running afoul of the law.

I'm really proud of this one: I read it to an audience at the WorldCon last September and the response was really warm and enthusiastic.

Anda didn't really start to play the game until she got herself a girl-shaped avatar. She was 12, and up until then, she'd played a boy-elf, because her parents had sternly warned her that if you played a girl you were an instant perv-magnet. None of the girls at Ada Lovelace Comprehensive would have been caught dead playing a girl character. In fact, the only girls she'd ever seen in-game were being played by boys. You could tell, cos they were shaped like a boy's idea of what a girl looked like: hooge buzwabs and long legs all barely contained in tiny, pointless leather bikini-armour. Bintware, she called it.

But when Anda was 12, she met Liza the Organiza, whose avatar was female, but had sensible tits and sensible armour and a bloody great sword that she was clearly very good with. Liza came to school after PE, when Anda was sitting and massaging her abused podge and hating her entire life from stupid sunrise to rotten sunset. Her PE kit was at the bottom of her school-bag and her face was that stupid red colour that she hated and now it was stinking maths which was hardly better than PE but at least she didn't have to sweat.

But instead of maths, all the girls were called to assembly, and Liza the Organiza stood on the stage in front of Miss Cruickshanks the principal and Mrs Danzig, the useless counsellor.

"Hullo chickens," Liza said. She had an Australian accent. "Well, aren't you lot just precious and bright and expectant with your pink upturned faces like a load of flowers staring up at the sky?"

"Warms me fecking heart it does."

20 Responses to “Anda’s Game”

  1. I put up a version at http://www.xs4all.nl/~collin/test/, because I wanted to be able to refer to the story without having people have to go through that whole Salon registration rigmarole. However, I am not sure that in doing so I did not break the license. In the end I decided you would not have licensed it if you did not want it distributed. Still, let me know if I did anything wrong.

  2. zencoder says:

    Thanks for sharing that with us Branko. I too greatly dispise the crap you have to go through at Salon. I can understand their position and reasoning, but why do they have to make it so tedious and difficult? Just put up a basic name/pass authentication that can be kludged by http://www.BugMeNot.com like everything else. :P

  3. i totally enjoyed this story. such a great way to convey the circular nature of exploitation. excellent read.

  4. Boing Boing says:

    John McDaid's brilliant sf story Keyboard Practice free online

    One of my favorite sf stories of the past ten years has been shortlisted for this year's Nebula Award, and is being made available for free download during the final balloting season. Last December, I blogged about John McDaid's "Keyboard Practice, Con...

  5. Boing Boing says:

    Cory's Anda's Game podcast concludes

    I've just posted the third and final part of the podcast of Alice Taylor of the Wonderland games blog reading my story Anda's Game. Anda's Game is a story about in-game sweatshops, child labor, obesity, exploitation and community online. It was origina...

  6. NCG says:

    Good, that there are thoughts on those lines too - despite it being quite dark clored story it gives interesting perspective on potential new economy rising from the social environment created by the online games. Take for example robots working in hazardous environments, process monitoring, offices - the need to move human brain capacity for doing work is not needed in many differenet areas. The technology is there; the most agile and untangled minds are to use it first and as always the ethics on new frontiers will be quite different from the one we are used to...

  7. Boing Boing says:

    Cory's Anda's Game in Russian, Kurzweil interview in Italian

    My story Anda's Game has been translated into Russian, and my interview with Ray Kurzweil has been translated into Italian. Anda's Game was translated for publication in Game.EXE, a Russian gamer mag; the Kurzweil interview was translated by Giovanni E...

  8. Steve Bickle says:

    I came across 'Anda's Game' in the 'Voices' anthology on Podiobooks.com, I was very impressed, and played it in the car for the whole family on a long drive back from our Holiday in Ireland. It must hve hit home because it cause some discussion between myself and my teenage daugter about the ending. I thought the Sci-Fi short story was a thing of the past, not having seen many anthologies in book shops recently, but it seems that the creative commons licencing and the efforts of people like Stephen Eley at Escapepod and Mur Lafferty (of GeekFuActionGrip) who is responsible for compiling 'Voices' are carving a new route to market for authors. After hearing your stuff on Escape pod, I'm visiting your site to find out about your other stuff. BTW I think you got the English stuff about right in Anda's game.

  9. Diana says:

    Hi there

    Sounding good so far....except the Australian accent. Have you ever actually heard an Australian? just leave that bit out. Seriously.

  10. drew says:

    Wonderful story! I don't think the future of this is very far off. A cross between Lineage2 and SecondLife might present very similar scenarios.

  11. Andres Indaburu says:

    Hello from Barcelona.
    I just finished reading Anda s Game, mezmerised and caught by the story. It is truly a beautiful piece of narrative. I will tell my friends about it.
    Thank you and take care.

  12. Seth says:

    I've just posted a review of "Anda's Game" at my blog Free Listens. Free Listens is a blog that reviews legally free downloadable audiobooks and audio stories. Thanks for sharing this excellent story.

  13. Anda's Game comes across in audio very well, I think. Print version is even better. Great story.

  14. I have your site bookmarked and your feed link saved. I should be good to go now.

  15. Thong Videos says:

    I am going to have to sign up to receive your feed. This is good stuff.

  16. English isnt my first language but you made me understand clearly, thank you.

  17. Free Games says:

    A great story and it has been adapted in a lot many ways. The narrative here is just perfect and engrossing. This is a great new medium of storytelling specially fiction ones which are so very difficult to find.

  18. Fuzu says:

    Ooh shoot i just wrote a big comment and as soon as i hit reply it came up blank! Please tell me it worked right? I dont want to sumit it again if i do not have to! Either the blog glitced out or i am an idiot, the second option doesnt surprise me lol.

  19. FX short term trading is fun but can be rewarding!

  20. Thanks for sharing that with us Branko. I too greatly dispise the crap you have to go through at Salon. I can understand their position and reasoning, but why do they have to make it so tedious and difficult? Just put up a basic name/pass authentication that can be kludged by http://www.BugMeNot.com like everything else. :P

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