Could you also analyze Wide Sargasso Sea (a prequel to Jan Eyre)? It works just like a fanfiction. My professor likes to read Wide Sargasso Sea after Jane Eyre to comment on race representation in literature. It is well written and has changed my perspective on Jane Eyre. Have you read Wide Sargasso Sea?
Hi Susan -
Yes - I use fanfiction as a model for first year rhet/comp students at George Washington University (our template is here: http://writingprogram.gwu.edu/first-year-writing-uw1020-template). Your observation is exactly what I find - that writing fanfiction is a very effective tool for understanding how all writing works. I design an entire research assignment around it, though, not just a workshop. I have students rewrite a scene from Jane Eyre and then produce an persuasive defense of the choices and research they used in the rewrite. They write in multiple voices and modes, and (hopefully) come to understand the different ways that research works in academia and beyond.
Are you suggesting to use fanfiction in a rhetoric and composition classroom? If so, that would be an interesting workshop. It definitely works in breaking down the process of writing for academia.
While you (rightly so) point to fanfiction as a transformative writing practice for those working through LGBT (and more) identities, I think the power of identification may also work the other way—that by reading and then writing about familiar characters who fail to fit neatly into norms, students who are not questioning their identities may come to be more empathetic and sympathetic toward those who are.
Fic "works" because it is based in an established universe that we're comfortable with (even if we don't fully understand it, as my students are struggling through Hamlet); that comfort with the rules of that universe allows us to transgress the norms more easily than original fiction. Students who on some level "get" Gatsby can use fic to test out other possible identities and the cultural problems he might have run into. Because, as you say, the characters are fictional, it is a safe space to discuss issues that I know my students wouldn't ordinarily touch with a ten foot (very straight) pole. [Particularly those of us teaching in the Bible Belt].
I think this idea can and should be extended, but very carefully. Fic seems to naturally question gender, sex, and sexual orientation, but we fans seem to be somewhat less adept at handling questions of race, class, and ability (falling into sometimes harmful tropes in the case of blind!character or disabled!character genres). Fic isn't immune from ideologies, so while I agree that we can and should use fannish moves in the classroom, I struggle with how to safely manage teaching issues of identity with fic without falling into these pitfalls. We want them to be comfortable, but not too comfortable.
I would also offer than fandom as a community (in my experience) is very welcoming of LGBT issues and exploration of identity, so the ability to utilize that safe space as a means of exploration outside the classroom structure is also valuable.
Deleting my comment, as I did just what the handy posting video said to avoid.
This is actually a good idea because you don't have to use any other instruments to record your audio projects. You upload them to SoundCloud and voila, the only thing you wait is the review of your teacher. Thus, your classmates can review too! Also, SoundCloud uses modern technologies that enhances the clarity and quality of your audio. On the other dimension, know how to get SoundCloud followers to ensure your image to improve and uploaded tracks will be played and listened! Easy pizzy, no hassle or waiting in vain! ;)
I really appreciate your thoughtful response. I hope I am able to answer your concerns in a way that you find satisfactory.
First off, the 'Play culture' idea you referred to from Montola is actually one of the problems that I think House Rules are meant to solve. These kinds of rules, the unspoken tweaks and interpretations of rules become part of the word-of-mouth rules. A codified house rules should, in an ideal world, put these sorts of things into a single place, so that an outsider (a visiting player, a new player, etc.) isn't at a disadvantage simply for not having an established place within the culture of the game.
Similarly, your second definition presents difficulties, in particular with the idea of 'precedent.' A GM may need to make rules calls dynamically, as you said, but if those calls are not then recorded, we run back into those 'invisible rules.'
When I talk about house rules, I am speaking of something that would come to solve both of the issues that you bring up. Something that will be codified as an addendum or revision of the codified rules. There will still be 'invisible rules,' and there will still be 'dynamic rulings,' but when these things are identified, they should be added to the house rules as soon as possible. To my interpretation, house rules are meant to make sure that everyone is on an even playing field in terms of how the world they are taking part in works.
I have particular issues with precedence, and you have hit the reasoning very clearly. You wrote "they may have been settled at the level of the player using "rules lawyering" to advocate for an advantageous position for him/herself and his/her character." That is exactly the problem; when the two players come to get arbitration from the GM, there is a chance (even likelihood) that the on-the-spot decision will not be entirely fair. If precedent is a common practice, then these unfair rules will continue to compound one another. But that is an issue for another discussion.
Now, as for the distinction of recreational larps v edularps and goals beyond entertainment. I have to be clear that while I believe the goals of recreational larps are focused around entertainment, they are not the only achievements possible. Within the game there are always a set of goals (become the prince, defeat the wyrm, win the battle, etc.) that exist within the game world. But a player may come to the game with the intent of getting more than simple entertainment out of the game. A player may come with the intent (conscious or not) of learning public speaking, or conflict resolution. Or maybe the goal is simply to engage in a social community. In my own experiences with larps, there are always social circles that develop and easy friendships for those who share this interest. A player may come with the goal of understanding how politics works, or for training for the rock-paper-scissors championship, or even to gain a better ability to think on one's feet.
But those other goals, while important, are not the focused goals of the game itself. But I think you make an important point: saying that the goal of recreational larps is just entertainment is unfair. Better, perhaps, to consider it the primary goal.
The edularp's primary goal is education. Entertainment is a part of the technique, and any number of other sub goals may be achieved, but I think each type is defined by their primary (but not exclusive) goals.
I understand the umbrage you take to my view of language and clarity. I am not suggesting that clear wording will solve all problems. I am suggesting that the clearer the wording, the easier it will be to ensure that everyone involved in the game has the same understanding. They are more likely to be able to identify (in the sense of Kenneth Burke) with one another. Certainly, language has a multivalence of meanings, as Derrida, Wittgenstein, and (to an extent) Merleau-Ponty suggest. And certainly, there are moments of learning the rules and tactics of the game (in the sense of deCerteau). But my point in this context is that it will be easier for those involved in that particular game to agree to be bound to a set of rules when those rules are written as clearly as possible.
As you point out, the negotiation of meaning between different audiences does pose a problem for a generally positivistic view of language. And one set of house rules, if given to an entirely different game with a separate gaming culture, may have different meanings. But the situation I am presenting is one where the audience is well known and well represented. The negotiation of audience has already been completed before the house rules are written; this is part of the first step, developing the culture of the game. One the rules are being codified, the unique situationality of the audience has already been handled.
That said, I'm not sure it's possible to ever design 'perfect' rules. As the game grows and changes, gaining new players, losing old players, etc., the audience of the game moves away from the audience that the rules were originally written for. In this case, revision is called for, and a renegotiation to ensure, as you suggest, that the players still have agency. I agree; no two games are (or should be) the same. And I would take it further to agree that the same game over time is not the same game, nor should it be considered as such. Heriklitus was not talking about gaming when he told us we can't step in the same river twice. But it's a valid point nonetheless.
I hope this helps clarify things for you.
Once again, thank you for your great comment.
Thanks for the links. I'm still amazed that so many people are willing to look at these interactions through academic lenses.
I'm in the a small area of California a little south of Modesto. I've found some groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, but as of yet no one nearby.
As for the pejoration of RPGs in the U.S. I hope that we'll see a significant bettering to this in our lifetime. I'm sometimes amazed at how well events like ComiCon and other "nerd" conventions are doing in the public domain. We still don't see a lot of positive coverage, but it's not as forgotten and shunned as it used to be.
I love that people are as willing to talk about this as has been shown through their comments and posts. It's fantastic. In regards to age groups for RPGs in the classroom, I know that I wasn't able to get it into my original post very well, but I was thinking that you would start around the fourth grade mark. These would be the games where you might focus very much on the role-playing aspect of discussions with very little dice-rolling and some of the other elements of gameplay. As students progress into more complicated forms of math and enter into secondary education, I would suspect that this might be the "sweet spot" for these games. This is all theory at this point, and it is mostly based on my childhood memories and experiences as a substitute in a Middle School that contained 5th-8th grade students. I agree that this would be a much more effective method of teaching history than has been previously in vogue. Instead of names, locations, and dates, the kind of edu-larp and table-top RPG that focuses on history would really be able to find a willing audience. For high school students, I would think that constructing their own games would be sufficiently challenging for them, as well as allow them to experiment with culture, math and logic, and other elements of gameplay. Perhaps, I would start off with it being a suggestion for a semester long project?
After seeing the documentary on edu-larps in Europe, I think role-playing social issues might be one of the most important opportunities teachers of the Humanities could have. English and History teachers seem to often double as instructors in social justice and current events, something RPGs could instruct in a more realistic and complete experience. Still, I think that gathering the resources, especially time, would be difficult unless you can convince parents, administrators, and other instructors of the viability of this form of instruction. These strategies would definitely create students of whom Quintillion might be proud, but perhaps not do as well in testing.
Creating guilds and parties who would work together on multiple assignments or on a semester long series of games would be interesting to say the least. Especially in cases where students would reenact history. Cooperation and constructed knowledge could determine the success of their projects. I hope this answers some of your main points.