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