It began with a tweet by Sebastian Bergmann, which made me buy “88 names” by Matt Ruff. The book is a tour of massive multiplayer online role playing games for people who do not play, and also a discussion of identity on the Internet.
John Chu has a small sherpa company, an outfit that helps causal players who have the coin to experience hard content in MMORPGs in an easy and successful way without investing too much time into the game. Chu is coming out of a relationship with a borderline gamer, Darla, and is being asked by an obviously powerful and demanding anonymous client to be shown several well known MMOs to better understand their genres.
Chu is trying to uncover the identity of his client, and comes to believe that he is the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. In the course of his research he learns the real identities of his employees, none of which are what he thought they were, and the real identity of Darla, who is way further past the borderline that he originally assumed.
This was a fun read for me, because it relatively accurately portrays MMOs and online games. At the same time Ruff’s writing very causally avoids Gamer Dudebro stereotypes and shows that people playing video games are way more diverse than their cliche. If you ever have had your Internet spaceship refueled by a 60+ year old english granny and ex-schoolteacher you will understand exactly what I mean.
“88 Names”, Matt Ruff