May 7, 2009

Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 7:31 am
Third Person Cover

Pat Harrigan and I are pleased to announce the publication of the final volume in our 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 (though not exclusively) focused on computer games and electronic literature, and the second injected tabletop gaming, performance-oriented play, and other kinds of systems that create meaning through play, this new volume greatly increases the range of narrative forms considered, while continuing to keep our previous concerns in play.

Given this, it’s probably no surprise that this is the biggest volume yet (more than 400 pages, though not, as the catalog currently states, more than 600). We continue to include the voices of practitioners and critics — for example, both Rafael Alvarez, who wrote for The Wire, and critic Jason Mittell reading The Wire‘s structure in game-like terms. We also continue to bring together popular arts (e.g., The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Watchmen, and Doctor Who) with experiments that will only be directly experienced by a select audience (e.g., Tamiko Thiel’s culture-crossing VR installations and Richard Grossman’s three-million-word, four-thousand-volume novel). And we also continue to connect the present and past, bringing in writing on vast narratives ranging from the early female superhero Miss Fury to Thomas Mann’s masterwork Joseph and His Brothers.

But shifting the focus to vast narrative also, of course, introduces discontinuities with the previous volumes. As the above paragraph already indicates, these essays draw in examples from television, comics, film, and novels more fully. But rather than a random selection of examples and approaches, Pat and I have sought out the projects and the authors we think can help make the connections with topics established in the previous volumes. And this also lays the groundwork for considering cross-media phenomena, such as the various ways that universe building and continuity function (or break down) in examples “managed” as differently as Doctor Who, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, and Star Wars. Finally, within computational media, Grand Text Auto readers may be particularly interested in this volume’s more extensive treatment of MMOs and virtual worlds. Richard Bartle provides a new typology of such worlds (complementing his influential player typology), Matthew P. Miller discusses his work on City of Heroes, Tanya Krzywinska compares the narrative strategies of World of Warcraft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ren Reynolds looks at the narratives through which we understand such worlds, and Henry Lowood talks about player-produced replays and machinima in WoW.

Of course, as with prior volumes, things won’t end with the paper publication. With electronic book review we’ll be publishing “ripostes” to the essays, drawing in a wider variety of perspectives. And the time is also coming to reflect on the project overall, something I’m excited to see happening in Troy S. Goodfellow’s review on Crispy Gamer — the first I know of to take in the whole project. For more info now, you can check out the online table of contents. Thanks to those who have followed us for the journey.