Skip navigation

Pat Harrigan

Pat Harrigan is a freelance writer and author of the novel Lost Clusters. He is also the co-editor, with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, of First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004) and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives (2007), both published by the MIT Press.

Titles by This Editor

Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives

The ever-expanding capacities of computing offer new narrative possibilities for virtual worlds. Yet vast narratives--featuring an ongoing and intricately developed storyline, many characters, and multiple settings--did not originate with, and are not limited to, Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Marvel’s Spiderman, and the complex stories of such television shows as Dr. Who, The Sopranos, and Lost all present vast fictional worlds. Third Person explores strategies of vast narrative across a variety of media, including video games, television, literature, comic books, tabletop games, and digital art. The contributors--media and television scholars, novelists, comic creators, game designers, and others--investigate such issues as continuity, canonicity, interactivity, fan fiction, technological innovation, and cross-media phenomena. Chapters examine a range of topics, including storytelling in a multiplayer environment; narrative techniques for a 3,000,000-page novel; continuity (or the impossibility of it) in Doctor Who; managing multiple intertwined narratives in superhero comics; the spatial experience of the Final Fantasy role-playing games; World of Warcraft adventure texts created by designers and fans; and the serial storytelling of The Wire. Taken together, the multidisciplinary conversations in Third Person, along with Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin’s earlier collections First Person and Second Person, offer essential insights into how fictions are constructed and maintained in very different forms of media at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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.

Second Person—so called because in these games and playable media it is "you" who plays the roles, "you" for whom the story is being told—first considers tabletop games ranging from Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs with an explicit social component to Kim Newman's Choose Your Own Adventure-style novel Life's Lottery and its more traditional author-reader interaction. Contributors then examine computer-based playable structures that are designed for solo interaction—for the singular "you"—including the mainstream hit Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the genre-defining independent production Façade. Finally, contributors look at the intersection of the social spaces of play and the real world, considering, among other topics, the virtual communities of such Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) as World of Warcraft and the political uses of digital gaming and role-playing techniques (as in The Howard Dean for Iowa Game, the first U.S. presidential campaign game).

In engaging essays that range in tone from the informal to the technical, these writers offer a variety of approaches for the examination of an emerging field that includes works as diverse as George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards series and the classic Infocom game Planetfall.

Second Person features three complete tabletop role-playing games that demonstrate some of the variations possible in the form: in John Tynes's Puppetland, players take on the roles of puppets in a land ruled by the villainous Punch; Greg Costikyan's Bestial Acts imports the techniques of Bertolt Brecht's theater of alienation into a dark role-playing structure; and in James Wallis's The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the gameplay revolves around spinning elaborate tales in the style of the famous raconteur.

New Media as Story, Performance, and Game

Electronic games have established a huge international market, significantly outselling non-digital games; people spend more money on The Sims than on "Monopoly" or even on "Magic: the Gathering." Yet it is widely believed that the market for electronic literature—predicted by some to be the future of the written word—languishes. Even bestselling author Stephen King achieved disappointing results with his online publication of "Riding the Bullet" and "The Plant."

Isn't it possible, though, that many hugely successful computer games—those that depend on or at least utilize storytelling conventions of narrative, character, and theme—can be seen as examples of electronic literature? And isn't it likely that the truly significant new forms of electronic literature will prove to be (like games) so deeply interactive and procedural that it would be impossible to present them as paper-like "e-books"? The editors of First Person have gathered a remarkably diverse group of new media theorists and practitioners to consider the relationship between "story" and "game," as well as the new kinds of artistic creation (literary, performative, playful) that have become possible in the digital environment.

This landmark collection is organized as a series of discussions among creators and theorists; each section includes three presentations, with each presentation followed by two responses. Topics considered range from "Cyberdrama" to "Ludology" (the study of games), to "The Pixel/The Line" to "Beyond Chat." The conversational structure inspired contributors to revise, update, and expand their presentations as they prepared them for the book, and the panel discussions have overflowed into a First Person web site (created in conjunction with the online journal Electronic Book Review).