Geoffrey Sirc (2002) defines composition -- the process, practice, and pedagogy of -- as "an opportunity to reflect on textuality, its craft, wonder, problems" (p. 8). However, rather than take on "all the trappings of traditional academia -- canonicity, scientism, empiricism, formalism, high theory, axioms, arrogance, and acceptance of the standard university department-divisions" (p. 7), Sirc argues for composition as a happening, as "about blurring the boundaries between art and life," as useful "kookiness," as "verbal risk and writing-as-life" (p. 9,7,8). A consummate bricoleur, Sirc hand-twists together art history, popular and political culture, and composition studies, particularly drawing on the 1960s Happenings artists who "wanted to produce a truly different composition" (p. 5), to practice art "which interrupted the passivity of the spectator...that frustrated conventions in order to allow other meanings to complicate the distinction between art and life" (p. 5). It is in this spirit that this bricolage of composition, video games, and technocultural studies comes together to show "how alternative technologies and strategies can change fundamental compositional questions" (p. 35).


Jorge Luis Borges (1941) wrote, "I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths." Taken from the revelatory center of his eponymous short story "The Garden of Forking Paths," the line was taken up as a key metaphor for narrative, for reading, for the hypertextual nature of the Internet. Clicking link after link produced an experience, a journey "forking in time, not in space." Borges continued, "In all fictional works, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others...He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork." For Borges, the novel of Ts'ui Pên is a labyrinth, a puzzle, a way to understand thought, creativity, knowledge, and possibility. The garden of forking paths can be backward engineered and repurposed as a way to understand not only storytelling and reading but writing as well. Moreover, the choices, the alternatives, the paths readers and writers choose is like playing a choose-your-own-adventure game. The garden of forking paths is here an apt metaphor and allegory for reading, writing, and playing video games -- all three are about exploring, explicating, and configuring "diverse futures, diverse times."


A recent article in The New York Times entitled "Taking Play Seriously at the Public Library With Young Video Gamers" (2008) articulates the growing acknowledgement, if not begrudging acceptance of the cultural and educational place and purpose of video games. "Game On," a new project of the New York Public Library, expands the traditional collection and curation of books, periodicals, maps, music, and film to include video games. The space and goals of the library itself, stereotypically silent, stuffy, and stodgy, is transformed, animated, digitized. James Martin, the library’s assistant coordinator for young adult services, argues, "What we’re seeing is that in addition to simply helping bring kids into the library in the first place, games are having a broader effect on players, and they have the potential to be a great teaching tool" (Schiesel, 2008, p. A23). In other words, play can be serious, and it is high time to be serious about play. What follows is an articulation of, a meditation on three lines of inquiry into video games, writing, pedagogy, and play: first and most important is the homology between gaming and writing, the ways and means, the connections and codes between playing, reading, analysis, and composition; second is the unpacking of common and uncommon sense arguments about why video games are valuable texts worth studying and worth teaching; and finally, a further honing of the points one and two, is the argument that video games and writing as technologies and cultural productions are socially and politically relevant and exigent.

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