McGonigal, EBR & I: “[META] The Designer-Academic Problem”

A few months ago I was invited to give a ‘riposte’ to the online edition of Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s edited collection: Second-Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media.

Games and other playable forms, from interactive fictions to improvisational theater, involve role playing and story–something played and something told. In Second Person, game designers, authors, artists, and scholars examine the different ways in which these two elements work together in tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), computer games, board games, card games, electronic literature, political simulations, locative media, massively multiplayer games, and other forms that invite and structure play.

Continuing their tradition (from the first book in the series, First Person), the Electronic Book Review has published the essays online and invited contributors to continue the conversation.

The ebr publication of the texts will not only open the book to readers across the Internet, but will also offer a site for continued conversation as readers respond to the texts through ripostes.

Luckily, I was invited to deliver a riposte. Out of the essays in the publication, I chose pervasive game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal‘s essay: ‘The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming‘. Whilst writing my ‘riposte’ (which could be a review, criticism, anything), I found myself fascinated with a sub-text and context of McGonigal’s essay. My piece transformed, then, into a metadiscussion about what I called ‘The Designer-Academic Problem’.

This ‘riposte’ does not directly address the subject matter of Jane McGonigal’s essay, ‘The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming’ in Second Person. Instead, this article is a rumination of one of the subtexts of McGonigal’s piece, a subtext that (to me) pervades some of the quotes McGonigal cites, informs her arguments, and is part of the context of her and others’ writings: the designer-academic problem. What is the designer-academic problem? Obviously, being a designer as well as an academic is not intrinsically a problem. Being a designer-academic does, however, present its own challenges, for designer-academics and their readers.

  • This riposte is now online. I would love to hear your views!
  • All of the essays and ripostes from Second Person and First Person are online here.