World Building

"Personal Effects" Is Required Reading For College Course by J.C. Hutchins


Color me gobsmacked: Personal Effects: Dark Art, the transmedia supernatural thriller novel I wrote with Jordan Weisman, is required reading for an English course at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The class is ENGL 376MM: World Building, and is taught by Zach Whalen, an assistant professor in the department of English, Linguistics and Communication. More on Whalen in a moment -- first, get a taste of what this class is all about:

Our goal will be to [explore] world building within the expressive practices supported by New Media technologies, and we will proceed by examining texts that imagine Virtual Reality technology or Alternate Worlds. The culmination of this will be to collaboratively design and deploy an Alternate Reality Game of our own.

Students are also required to become active bloggers during the course, build and describe a virtual world, and research -- and make a class presentation about -- a specific ARG campaign.

Dude, I so want to be in college again, just to take this class.

Dr. Whalen definitely has the chops to rock his students' socks: He teaches in the area of New Media Studies, and his research focuses on videogames. According to his website, he earned his Ph.D. "by completing a dissertation on the textuality of videogame typography. Also, in 2008, Vanderbilt University Press published Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games, the collection of essays I co-edited with Laurie N. Taylor."

His book looks awesome. I just bought it on Amazon.

Especially flattering is that Personal Effects is required alongside Neal Stephenson's classic, Snow Crash. (SC is one of my favorite novels.) Also on the reading list is the very insightful This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming by Dave Szulborski.

I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that my novel will be read in a college classroom -- but I'm absolutely jazzed by the news. I'm very proud of Personal Effects and the "out of book" experience we created for it, and am humbled Dr. Whalen felt it was worthy to include in his curriculum.

Most important, I'm delighted that teachers like Whalen understand the cultural significance of this emerging form of storytelling, are embracing it, and are sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with their students.

Pardon me. I must do the Snoopy dance now.


(A grateful shout goes to ARGNet's Michael Andersen for tipping me to this on Twitter!)