March 16, 2004
Let’s face it. We’ve pretty much exhausted the story/game discussion, at least as formulated in the question, “What does Tetris have to do with Hamlet (or Half-Life)?” First Person exists to replace this with a more interesting question.
The contributors to First Person certainly consider games like Tetris. But they also discuss the “not games” and playable art I wrote about last month. They consider the politics of playable simulations, and the ways they may be employed for more explicitly political ends. They examine the ways that time functions in games, as well as the lack of dramatic compression in The Sims. They present concepts for game analysis and approaches to game design. They discuss the necessity of a field of ludology, and debate how it might be defined.
The contributors also certainly consider traditional stories, and the commonly-discussed game/story examples, and the ways that story-like experiences can emerge from contexts like massively multiplayer games. But they also discuss interactive drama and cinema. They discuss hyperfiction and interactive fiction. They discuss electronic poetry and textual digital art. They present narrative-focused alternatives to traditional AI approaches to characters and agents. They present frameworks for understanding very large scale online conversations and for understanding the roles that voice chips perform in intelligent toys, car alarms, and artworks.
This takes place in a conversational structure. 25 essayists each present a point of view, and then each is responded to by another essayist and also by an outside respondent. Then each essayist responds to their respondents.
The result, Pat and I hope, is a contribution toward ending some of the talking past each other that has plagued our field (e.g., in the debate that never happened). The result is, Pat and I hope, a contribution to helping us replace the exhausted question with a more productive (if also more complicated) question. If I were to try to articulate the new question, it might be, “In the field of digital media, how do we understand the playable, and how do we understand the literary, linguistic, and performative — in relation to the broader culture and to one another?”
Starting from where we are now, 25 essays and 74 responses aren’t enough to come close to definitively answering all the pieces of that question. But hopefully they’re enough to definitively open the question. And the next stage will be further discussion of these issues in the forthcoming First Person thread at electronic book review.
I post this with my first copy of First Person sitting beside me, just now in my hands.
March 16th, 2004 at 6:06 am
I picked up a copy of First Person at the MIT Press Bookstore two days ago. I’ll write more later when I have some free time, but first I really want to thank Noah and Pat for putting this together. This is the kind of book I’ve been wanting and waiting for. The idea of gathering together so many active, knowledgeable voices into one volume, who are making a real effort to dig into the multitude of possibilities of the playable and anticipating the challenges that lie ahead, is extremely helpful to me as a practitioner. And, having the contributors respond back and forth to one another, laid out on the page in parallel with the essays themselves, is really valuable, and a lot of fun to read. (Admittedly it’s not quite as novel as it would have been before many of us started blogging over the past year, but still… :-)
It’s not an overly thick volume, but the book is bursting with ideas and perspectives. I’ve skimmed it so far; and while I’m already familiar with some of the essays and arguments, there are several that are new to me, and of course all of the back-and-forth responses are new. I wish I could just sit down and read it cover to cover, but it’ll have to wait until my plane ride to GDC next week, I think…
I’m looking forward to the forthcoming thread on EBR too.
March 16th, 2004 at 6:15 am
Hey, congratulations! Thanks for First Person (and for the New Media Reader). I’ll grab a copy next week, first thing after I get to San Francisco. Congrats again!
March 16th, 2004 at 12:04 pm
Hey Gonzalo – thanks for the congratulations! They tell me First Person will be on sale at the GDC bookstore, so no need to search around San Francisco. Also, as you’re one of the essayists, MIT Press should be sending you a copy before long.
March 16th, 2004 at 12:27 pm
I can’t wait to get a copy. Having glimpsed at the bits of the project as it was in progress (writing an essay, reading John Cayley’s essay to reply to it, writing a response to that, writing a reply to Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray’s replies to my essay, seeing the book manuscript in the late stages before typsetting) I’m particularly excited about the book.
Obviously, it was a huge load of work – and I suppose will be for a while as the discussion continues on ebr. The type of conversation it contains, and will engender, will be proof that the book can play new and interesting roles in new media studies.
Best of all, I think the book will be one that people read not to plunder it for citations or to expose an individual’s point of view for precision attacks, but in the way they attend a really influential conference or have transforming discussions with faculty and students in a great class.
So, congratulations to Noah and Pat!
March 17th, 2004 at 8:58 pm
I got to see a copy today, as Joe Tabbi was in town speaking. (Definitely worth a blog entry, but I am exhausted.) The book looks great. Surprisingly small, thanks to a compact and familiar layout. (Surprisingly similar to The New Media Reader typographically, too!) I am looking forward to reading the essays in the book and to following up on that reading in ebr.
March 21st, 2004 at 6:53 pm
Congrats to all! Looking forwards to seeing a copy at GDC!
March 22nd, 2004 at 11:05 am
… and it looks like it’s finally starting to show up “in stock” at online retailers:
March 23rd, 2004 at 9:01 pm
Is there a table of contents available online somewhere? I’m sure I’ll pick this up eventually, but it would be nice to see the names of the articles.
March 24th, 2004 at 10:22 am
Ah – good question! I realize it’s a little long for a comment, but here’s a TOC for the book:
Janet Murray: From Game-Story to Cyberdrama
Response by Bryan Loyall
From Espen Aarseth’s Online Response
Ken Perlin: Can There Be a Form between a Game and a Story?
Response by Will Wright
From Victoria Vesna’s Online Response
Michael Mateas: A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games
Response by Brenda Laurel
From Gonzalo Frasca’s Online Response
Markku Eskelinen: Towards Computer Game Studies
Response by J. Yellowlees Douglas
Note Regarding Richard Schechner’s Response
Espen Aarseth: Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation
Response by Chris Crawford
From Stuart Moulthrop’s Online Response
Stuart Moulthrop: From Work to Play: Molecular Culture in the Time of
Response by Diane Gromala
From John Cayley’s Online Response: Playing with Play
III. Critical Simulation
Simon Penny: Representation, Enaction, and the Ethics of Simulation
Response by Eugene Thacker
From N. Katherine Hayles’s Online Response
Gonzalo Frasca: Videogames of the Oppressed: Critical Thinking, Education,
Tolerance, and Other Trivial Issues
Response by Mizuko Ito
From Eric Zimmerman’s Online Response
Phoebe Sengers: Schizophrenia and Narrative in Artificial Agents
Response by Lucy Suchman: Methods and Madness
From Michael Mateas’s Online Response
IV. Game Theories
Henry Jenkins: Game Design as Narrative Architecture
Response by Jon McKenzie
From Markku Eskelinen’s Online Response
Jesper Juul: Introduction to Game Time
Response by Mizuko Ito
From Celia Pearce’s Online Response
Celia Pearce: Towards a Game Theory of Game
Response by Mary Flanagan
From Mark Bernstein’s Online Response: “And Back Again”
Eric Zimmerman: Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four Naughty
Concepts in Need of Discipline
Response by Chris Crawford
From Jesper Juul’s Online Response: Unruly Games
V. Hypertexts & Interactives
Mark Bernstein and Diane Greco: Card Shark and Thespis: Exotic Tools for
Response by Andrew Stern
From Ken Perlin’s Online Response
Stephanie Strickland: Moving Through Me as I Move: A Paradigm for
Response by Rita Raley
From Camille Utterback’s Online Response
J. Yellowlees Douglas and Andrew Hargadon: The Pleasures of
Immersion and Interaction: Schemas, Scripts, and the Fifth Business
Response by Richard Schechner
From Henry Jenkins’s Online Response
VI. The Pixel/The Line
John Cayley: Literal Art: Neither Lines nor Pixels but Letters
Response by Johanna Drucker
From Nick Montfort’s Online Response
Camille Utterback: Unusual Positions — Embodied Interaction with
Response by Matt Gorbet
From Adrianne Wortzel’s Online Response
Bill Seaman: Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics —
Media-Element Field Explorations
Response by Diane Gromala
From Jill Walker’s Online Response
VII. Beyond Chat
Warren Sack: What Does a Very Large-Scale Conversation Look Like?
Response by Rebecca Ross
From Phoebe Sengers’s Online Response
Victoria Vesna: Community of People with No Time: Collaboration Shifts
Response by Stephanie Strickland
Natalie Jeremijenko: If Things Can Talk, What Do They Say? If We
Can Talk to Things, What Do We Say? Using Voice Chips and Speech
Recognition Chips to Explore Structures of Participation in
Response by Lucy Suchman: Talking Things
From Simon Penny’s Online Response
VIII. New Readings
N. Katherine Hayles: Metaphoric Networks in Lexia to Perplexia
Response by Eugene Thacker
From Bill Seaman’s Online Response
Jill Walker: How I Was Played by Online Caroline
Response by Adrianne Wortzel
From Warren Sack’s Online Response
Nick Montfort: Interactive Fiction as “Story,” “Game,” “Storygame,”
“Novel,” “World,” “Literature,” “Puzzle,” “Problem,” “Riddle,” and
Response by Brenda Laurel
From Janet Murray’s Online Response
I’m at GDC, along with Andrew and Michael, and just got to interact with Facade for the first time yesterday!
March 27th, 2004 at 2:51 am
Hey! The book’s been sighted over at ludology.org:
We didn’t manage to post anything from GDC, but we expect to do some post-GDC blogging soon. The GDC bookstore, by the way, was already sold out of First Person when I went to ask about it yesterday. I was glad to hear it!
April 10th, 2004 at 11:07 am
Jill mentions First Person in a post today, and paints a tri-generational image: showing the book to her mother, then reading it while her daughter reads a book to herself. There’s no generation after mine in my (immediate) family — and neither my brother nor I seems in a hurry to change that — but I think I experienced a somewhat-similar moment with my mother and First Person. My first copy of the book was delivered to my mother’s house (I’m visiting California this spring) and when it arrived, and she called, I asked her to open the envelope and describe it to me. We were both smiling, I could tell even over the phone. Later, at her house, she said, “You’re old enough, you can post it on the refrigerator yourself.” Ah, but where do we find magnets strong enough for hardback books?
April 10th, 2004 at 12:59 pm
Oh, I love the idea of posting it on the refrigerator!
April 19th, 2004 at 8:56 am
What a pleasure to find this book on the table at GDC! When will the site be up at electronic book review?
April 19th, 2004 at 4:45 pm
Margaret, thanks for your kind words. All of the URLs printed in the book are “live” now. However, we haven’t publicly launched the ebr incarnation of First Person yet. When exactly that launch will take place is a current topic of conversation — but it won’t be too much longer.
April 29th, 2004 at 1:40 pm
Click to see Joe Bates enjoying First Person.
(I’d embed the image here if I could, but it appears Movable Type doesn’t allow images in comments)
May 6th, 2004 at 6:10 pm
Greg Costikyan begins reacting to the book here.
May 14th, 2004 at 2:47 pm
Two First Person links of note today.
Mark Barrett’s got a note up at his site (looking forward to that rant!).
And as Gonzalo and Ian note here’s an article about computer games with a political message at The Guardian titled “The role of play.” In addition to quoting those two bright fellows extensively, the article’s author also makes the pleasing move of mentioning First Person.
Andrew, thanks for noting those other links above!
June 11th, 2005 at 7:01 am
by andrew @ 3:01 am
Echoing the debate we had two years ago in both book and blog, Mark Bernstein has recently restated his argument, with the coda, “ […]
October 22nd, 2004 at 10:09 am
There’s an Italian review of First Person over at neural.it (and a translation is currently at the top of their English page).
May 7th, 2009 at 7:31 am
[…] POV series: Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives. Following the first two volumes (First Person and Second Person) this project broadens our scope yet again. While the first volume was mostly […]