Unlimited Players

Edris Afsharkohan / University of Findlay

Part I

Chapter One

The first Chapter of the first part introduces Elliott Freeman’s idea of the writing center as a place for play. Freeman skillfully merges the concepts of Paidia and Ludus with Roger Caillois’s (1961) four-part play framework to investigate how writing centers can benefit from play. Next, Freeman builds on Beth Boquet’s Noise from the Writing Center (2002), arguing that we can think of play as a useful tool in writing center scholarship not just a way of creating noise, and suggests thinking of noise as a means to empower our work in the writing center and direct our energy.

Beginning this Chapter with the interesting idea of noise as productive chaos and play as a tool for creating and maintaining noise encourages every reader to continue reading through the end (p. 31). Later, when the Chapter uses big names like Andrea Lunsford along with realistic metaphors, which Lakoff and Johnson (1980) argue build our human cognition, to discuss various gaming and writing concepts and their relation to each other, I deeply understood what the author meant by calling writing centers liminal zones where chaos and order coexist (p. 35). Freeman metaphorically mentions playing poker to illustrate the argument that there is no guaranteed winning at writing, and neither is it for our students, but we all play at our best (p. 41). Also, I enjoyed reading about the two writing instructors who used Paidia and Ludus concepts to teach their students to write thesis statements and create writing outlines.

Chapter Two

Chapter 2 begins with the story of Libbie, a writing center tutor, who faced many challenges in her consultant role and learned how to apply game studies-based heuristics to overcome those challenges. Neil Baird and Christopher L. Morrow then look at heuristics as a tool familiar to writing center practitioners through game studies concepts, believing the “dynamic nature of game studies heuristics offers a new way of conceiving heuristics within the context of writing centers” (p.21). Overall, I found this Chapter informative; however, the treatment of concepts was slightly uneven; some were covered with detailed description while others were only briefly mentioned.

Nevertheless, the concept of heuristics, which means to find or discover, helps the authors to better explain what “dynamic heuristics” mean in game studies (p. 48), and they use this concept effectively to show how inexperienced tutors can learn from their errors and make progress in their new role. I personally liked reading about their comparison of experienced gamers and writers, suggesting how experienced gamers employ a series of top-down heuristics developed from experience to adapt to a new challenge, something that the tutors can also benefit from. There are also illustrative examples of writing center work and challenges that give an in-depth understanding of working in such a place.

Chapter Three

In Chapter 3, Jason Custer also tries to show the overlapping interests of game studies with writing center and composition studies. However, he begins with a historical overview of process, a familiar concept to writing studies, demonstrating the interconnection of composition and game studies when the former’s concept of process influenced the latter’s concept of procedurality–procedurality explains the whys and hows of how game technology operates, and how games can aspire, as designed objects, to funnel behaviors for reflection (gamestudies.org). From Custer’s perspective, “seeing process across these fields presents an exigence for writing center practitioners and pedagogy to consider how focusing on concepts such as play and process may help students become better writers” (p. 21).

Custer’s approach to reviewing the history of process, highlighting where these fields overlap, gave me a deep and solid understanding of interdisciplinary work and supplemented my previous knowledge of key concepts in writing studies. He first talked about the development of process theory and how it was marked as the most influential movement of composition studies. Then Custer further discussed North’s (1984) “The Idea of a Writing Center,” a foundational piece of writing center and scholarship, to explain how North’s “Idea” shaped writing center practice for decades (p. 69). In the end, by patiently describing the concept of process and showing how closely these fields are connected by introducing Peter Elbow and Linda Flower as the pioneers of “teaching writing as a process-centered activity,” Custer did a solid job of developing a brief yet comprehensive plan to educate new writing center tutors.

Chapter Four

The final Chapter in this section is a heavy read. From Elizabeth Caravella and Veronica Garrison-Joyner, this Chapter covers a range of topics across the spectrum of the writing center and game studies. The authors explore the work writing centers, or multiliteracy centers as they call it, can do in “interrogating and dramatically restructuring the parameters of typical or conventional forms of multicultural discourse in writing center practice” (p. 22); they believe making these connections enables tutors and students to experiment and play productively with language and mode.

David M. Sheridan’s (2010) “ideal multiliteracy center” and Jane McGonigal’s (2016) conceptualization of gameful design along with the Gutierrez, Rymes, and Larson (1995) study of the third space make this Chapter rich, giving one’s mind food for thought and stimulating your creating thinking to figure out how they relate; however, I did not find everything the authors discussed in this Chapter easy and clear to understand; some of the examples required more explanation, and new revelations the authors expect the audience to come to leaves readers with many questions, requiring a second read before things make sense. That being said, this Chapter is an eye-opener, approaching many familiar concepts like teaching “ethos and logos” from a new perspective (p. 94) and showing how the concept of third space relates to Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development by exploring where and how students’ learning occur (p. 93). Despite the dense content, it’s a valuable addition.