Video games and labor relations might seem like strange bedfellows, but they're intricately joined in the new graphic novel, "In Real Life," from writer Cory Doctorow and artist Jen Wang.

The story follows a girl who plays an immersive online video game, where she encounters a Chinese boy who works long hours playing the video game as a gold farmer. The girl tries to help him get more rights at work, and the story begins to unfold from there.

amNewYork spoke with Doctorow, who will be appearing at New York Comic Con, about the book.


What is a gold farmer?

A gold farmer is someone who does repetitive tasks inside a video game ... to amass virtual money, weapons, prestige items and skills. These are then sold -- illicitly, usually -- to players in the rich world.


What kind of research did you do about gold farmers?

I've traveled to China, met with gold farmers, talked to the owners of gold farms, interviewed academics who study gold farming, read gold farmer zines ... and even farmed gold, and bought farmed gold, too!


What is the key to doing a story dealing with labor relations with young people?

I think young people intrinsically understand fairness and unequal power relations; generally I prefer writing for young people because you don't have to devote as much time to explaining why obviously messed up stuff is messed up.


What does Jen Wang's art bring to the book?

Everything! As a visual idiot, I am in total awe of Jen's work. The way she illuminates the story and its emotions, plot and intricacies with visuals just knocks me out. It's sorcery.

The New York Comic Con runs tomorrow through Sunday at the Javits Center, 655 W. 34th St. Go to for a full schedule of events, times and ticket information.