I read this short story in a Czech translation before the year 2010. It was included in a collection aimed at "younger readers", but sci-fi and fantasy collections in Czech and Slovak translations often tended to be put together haphazardly, so it might not be its original intended audience.

I would like to read it in English and preferably in its original context.

It was a light sci-fi story dealing with the social aspects of Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs.

  • The main character is a teenage girl whose only hobby is playing a certain MMORPG. I believe the game's name is never mentioned.

  • She was struggling with the portrayal of female characters in the game, but she eventually joined an all-female guild of like-minded players and was able to play comfortably.

  • The guild was considered elite and one day was hired to raid and grief areas where apparently new players were crafting low-value items.

  • I believe that payments for these raids were in real-life money.

  • One day, during one of the raids, the girl and her fellow players were contacted by an activist who told them that they were raiding a real-life sweatshop where poor children were forced to craft low-value items in order to level up characters to be sold. If these characters are killed in the game, their players won't get paid for the day. The activist pleaded with the girls to stop the raids, but they were ignored and killed repeatedly.

  • The activist eventually reaches out to the girl when she is alone in the game and pleads with her, showing her pictures of the harsh conditions in those sweatshops. During this meeting, the activist notices that the girl's username was Kali and asks her if she is from India. She must admit that she is actually British. She agrees to help the activist.

  • The girl is obese and is eventually diagnosed with diabetes. This forces her to change her lifestyle. She starts playing hockey and only spends a limited amount of time playing the game, which takes her somewhat out of the picture. However, it is suggested that based on her actions, her guild starts helping the activist.

I remember that when I read it, I was struck by how many "little things" from the life of an MMO player this short story realistically portrayed, such as disassociation due to a lack of realistic representation, health issues, isolation from family, and the possibility of exploitation and cultural appropriation. The author was able to create a context in which these aspects stood out as sore thumbs without being preachy.

Now my research lead me to Cory Doctorow's For The Win, which has many similar themes but story I'm looking for definitely predates it.

Also some discussion on MMOs having a capacity to be exploited by sweatshoppers apparently existed in early 2000s (i.e. this [forum])2. The name Julian Dibbell is sometimes mentioned in these early discussions, but none of his books match the style or even genre.

1 Answer 1


Is it possible that you read "Anda's Game" (ISFDB), also by Doctorow, which he expanded into For the Win? It was part of the 2007 short story collection Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present, which would put it in the right time frame. It was first published in 2004 in Salon, as well.

From this review:

Anda is a high-school girl in near-future Britain who spends most of her time playing an unnamed World of Warcraft-like MMO, as a member of an extremely large and well-known girl-gamer guild. (A guild is a group of players who band together to form an organization for their collective benefit.)

The guild’s renown is such that mysterious figures have begun paying its members real money, not in-game gold, for raiding and destroying what appear for all the world to be virtual sweatshops: laborers sitting around crafting cheap gear to be sold for in-game money.

Anda is puzzled over why this is worth real money, but goes along with it—until she meets up in-game with a labor activist who explains that Anda’s guild is being paid by real-world sweatshop owners to axe their competition in-game—and depriving poor Mexican workers of their daily wages.

As if that wasn’t enough for Anda to worry about, her lack of physical activity and addiction to candy sold in a shop near the school have led to the emergence of pre-diabetes symptoms.

I just did a quick readthrough of the story, and it seems dead-on. If you read it in Czech, you may have read it in Trochu divné kusy 2.

Front cover of Trochu divné kusy 2

Jsou autoři, jejichž práce u nás často nevídáte. Tvůrci vizí natolik svébytných a netradičních, že se k nám dostanou jen stěží. Lidé a jejich příběhy, které dokáží uchvátit do té míry, až se tomu ani nechce věřit. Tato kniha se pokouší představit hned jedenadvacet takových jmen. Navštivte s nimi dům, v němž se střídají roční období; civilizaci odmítající moderní technologie ve strachu ze ztráty své jedinečnosti; pomozte ztrápené duši v zasloužené sebetrýzni; podnikněte cestu časem při hledání pravé lásky; vzepřete se zavedeným společenským pořádkům mimozemské civilizace; odkryjte pravou tvář zneužívání levných pracovních sil; následujte temné zlo v cestě za sebezničením; navštivte virtuální realitu ovlivňující skutečný svět více, než si myslíte; naučte se dosud nepoznanému jazyku můr; poznejte pravou tvář mimozemské intervence; vraťte se do fantastické země dětství; najděte ústí fascinující řeky včel; usmiřte se s památkou zesnulého; sledujte romanci přerušenou krutými zákony vesmíru; zmapujte neskutečno transformující se v realitu; dosáhněte vytoužených Zahrad vlahé noci; přečtěte si dopisy od královny Elfie; přijměte ztrátu milované s pomocí malých bohů; a nakonec postavte Věž z kostí rána. Ale Predevším se připravte na to, že fantastika zde opět odkrývá tvář doposud nepoznanou, trochu divnou, tajemnou a podmanivou. Připravte se na další Trochu divné kusy, tentokrát snad jesťe odvážnější než ty předchozí...

  • 1
    As a side note, yes, the title sounds like "Ender's Game". Ray Bradbury was apparently making a stink about Michael Moore calling his film Fahrenheit 9/11, so Doctorow started writing stories that paralleled famous sci-fi titles as commentary. There's a few more Bradbury references in the story itself.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 21, 2023 at 16:09
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    This would have been my guess as well. Aug 21, 2023 at 16:53
  • There were tons of references in this one - Heinlein, C.S. Lewis, even poke on Eurotrip-ish cheap hotels in Bratislava (city where I was born). But more Importantly this is the right answer. So I finally got a chance to read the story in the original language and I loved every line, also the translation I have read years ago, turns out pretty good as well. I'm definitely getting more books from Doctorow ASAP. Aug 22, 2023 at 6:53
  • I own all three parts of "Trochu divné kusy" and these collections are actually the example of the one ones that had a certain concept and managed to hold it over the iterations. But I have read "Ada's game" in different, not as well-thought collection first. Aug 22, 2023 at 7:01
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    @byMaelstromer :-D I'm glad that I could help. I have my own long history of seeking long-lost books on this site.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 22, 2023 at 12:06

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