e-Lit Resource
First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature

First published on the Electronic Book Review as a riposte to Pat Harrigan’s and Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s “The Pixel/The Line,” “First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature” is Scott Rettberg’s musings on the academic study of video games and how electronic literature can fit into the burgeoning field of “new media studies.” In many ways, Rettberg’s essay expounds upon the Editor’s introductory statements to the First Person thread as a whole, as well as “The Pixel/The Line” subsection.

In “First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature,” Scott Rettberg discusses how the First Person project has influenced his own pedagogical practices, encouraging him to teach computer games in his introductory course on narrative in new media. Rettberg is careful to iterate that computer games have not, and will not, push electronic literature out of the new media curriculum. Rettberg states that computer games do not tell better stories than other forms of narrative (print novels, hypertext fiction), but instead “offer an interesting counterpoint to the questions of agency and authorship that we deal with in discussions of hypertext, interactive fiction, digital poetry and other media forms.”

Rettberg’s essay discusses both the academic future for video games and electronic literature. “There is little reason to worry about the future of computer game studies,” Rettberg asserts, as “the academy follows the marketplace.” Video games are a larger industry than movies, and “it will have needs for practitioners, for theorists, for research and development, and it will turn to universities to fulfill those needs.” However, unlike computer games, the future of electronic literature is left hanging in the balance. The future of English programs, and how these programs approach electronic literature and digital textuality, is of primary concern in Rettberg’s essay. “The study of electronic literature,” Rettberg writes, “might help us to understand what is becoming of our language and our culture as our lives are increasingly mediated by network communication.”

Essentially, Rettberg concludes that the future of electronic literature relies heavily on academic support, and currently these electronic endeavors receive little of this sort of support. Rettberg observes that practitioners of electronic literature may not continue, because “without an institutional context, their efforts cannot be sustained in the way that they should be.” In the end, Rettberg sees electronic writing living where academia shelters it, ultimately surviving not in creative writing programs, but in studio art programs. Rettberg believes that “something will be lost if this turns out to be the case.” Finally, Rettberg writes that organizations like the Electronic Literature Organization, trAce, Turbulence, and the Institute for the Future of the Book continue to act as critical sites for the dissemination and accessibility of electronic literature.

More from Scott Rettberg on ebr:

The Pleasure (and Pain) of Link Poetics

New Media Studies

Evangelizing the Everyday Web

&Now Conference Review (with Rob Wittig and William Gillespie)