Monographs & Co-authored Works

Emily K. Johnson and Anastasia Salter

Playful Pedagogy in the Pandemic: Pivoting to Game-Based Learning

Educational technology adoption is more widespread than ever in the wake of COVID-19, as corporations have commodified student engagement in makeshift packages marketed as gamification. This book seeks to create a space for playful learning in higher education, asserting the need for a pedagogy of care and engagement as well as collaboration with students to help us reimagine education outside of prescriptive educational technology.

Virtual learning has turned the course management system into the classroom, and business platforms for streaming video have become awkward substitutions for lecture and discussion. Gaming, once heralded as a potential tool for rethinking our relationship with educational technology, is now inextricably linked in our collective understanding to challenges of misogyny, white supremacy, and the circulation of misinformation. The initial promise of games-based learning seems to linger only as gamification, a form of structuring that creates mechanisms and incentives but limits opportunity for play. As higher education teeters on the brink of unprecedented crisis, this book proclaims the urgent need to find a space for playful learning and to find new inspiration in the platforms and interventions of personal gaming, and in turn restructure the corporatized, surveilling classroom of a gamified world.

Through an in-depth analysis of the challenges and opportunities presented by pandemic pedagogy, this book reveals the conditions that led to the widespread failure of adoption of games-based learning and offers a model of hope for a future driven by new tools and platforms for personal, experimental game-making as intellectual inquiry.

Order from Routledge

Anastasia Salter and Stuart Moulthrop

Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives

Hypertext is now commonplace: links and linking structure nearly all of our experiences online. Yet the literary, as opposed to commercial, potential of hypertext has receded. One of the few tools still focused on hypertext as a means for digital storytelling is Twine, a platform for building choice-driven stories without relying heavily on code. In Twining, Anastasia Salter and Stuart Moulthrop lead readers on a journey at once technical, critical, contextual, and personal. The book’s chapters alternate careful, stepwise discussion of adaptable Twine projects, offer commentary on exemplary Twine works, and discuss Twine’s technological and cultural background. Beyond telling the story of Twine and how to make Twine stories, Twining reflects on the ongoing process of making.

Available Open Access from Amherst / Fulcrum

Anastasia Salter and Mel Stanfill

A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy

Increasingly over the past decade, fan credentials on the part of writers, directors, and producers have come to be seen as a guarantee of quality media making—the “fanboy auteur. ” Figures like Joss Whedon are both one of “us” and one of “them. ” This is a strategy of marketing and branding—it is a claim from the auteur himself or industry PR machines that the presence of an auteur who is also a fan means the product is worth consuming. Such claims that fan credentials guarantee quality are often contested, with fans and critics alike rejecting various auteur figures as the true leader of their respective franchises. That split, between assertions of fan and auteur status and acceptance (or not) of that status, is key to unravelling the fan auteur.

In A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy: The Construction of Authorship in Transmedia Franchises, authors Anastasia Salter and Mel Stanfill examine this phenomenon through a series of case studies featuring fanboys. The volume discusses both popular fanboys, such as J. J. Abrams, Kevin Smith, and Joss Whedon, as well as fangirls like J. K. Rowling, E L James, and Patty Jenkins, and dissects how the fanboy-fangirl auteur dichotomy is constructed and defended by popular media and fans in online spaces, and how this discourse has played in maintaining the exclusionary status quo of geek culture.

Order from Mississippi Press

Aaron A. Reed, John T. Murray, and Anastasia Salter

Adventure Games: Playing the Outsider

The genre of adventure games is frequently overlooked. Lacking the constantly-evolving graphics and graphic violence of their counterparts in first-person and third-person shooters or role-playing games, they are often marketed to and beloved by players outside of mainstream game communities. While often forgotten by both the industry and academia, adventure games have had (and continue to have) a surprisingly wide influence on contemporary games, in categories including walking simulators, hidden object games, visual novels, and bestselling titles from companies like Telltale and Campo Santo.

In this examination of heirs to the genre's legacy, the authors examine the genre from multiple perspectives, connecting technical analysis with critical commentary and social context. This will be the first book to consider this important genre from a comprehensive and transdisciplinary perspective. Drawing upon methods from platform studies, software studies, media studies, and literary studies, they reveal the genre's ludic and narrative origins and patterns, where character (and the player's embodiment of a character) is essential to the experience of play and the choices within a game. A deep structural analysis of adventure games also uncovers an unsteady balance between sometimes contradictory elements of story, exploration, and puzzles: with different games and creators employing a multitude of different solutions to resolving this tension.

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Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett

Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media

This book examines changing representations of masculinity in geek media, during a time of transition in which “geek” has not only gone mainstream but also become a more contested space than ever, with continual clashes such as Gamergate, the Rabid and Sad Puppies’ attacks on the Hugo Awards, and battles at conventions over “fake geek girls.” Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett critique both gendered depictions of geeks, including shows like Chuck and The Big Bang Theory, and aspirational geek heroes, ranging from the Winchester brothers of Supernatural to BBC’s Sherlock and the varied superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through this analysis, the authors argue that toxic masculinity is deeply embedded in geek culture, and that the identity of geek as victimized other must be redefined before geek culture and media can ever become an inclusive space.

Order from Palgrave

Anastasia Salter

Jane Jensen: Gabriel Knight, Adventure Games, Hidden Objects

In the 1990s, the Personal Computer (or PC) was on the rise in homes, and with it came new genres of play. Yet most of the games in these new genres featured fantasylands or humorous science fiction landscapes with low stakes and little to suggest the potential of the PC as a serious space for art and play. Jane Jensen's work and landmark Gabriel Knight series brought a new darkness and personality to PC gaming, offering a first powerful glimpse of what games could be as they came of age. As an author and designer, Jensen brought her approach as a designer-writer hybrid to the forefront of game design, with an approach to developing environments through detailed research to make game settings come to life, an attention to mature dilemmas and complex character development, and an audience-driven vision for genres reaching beyond the typical market approaches of the gaming industry. With a brand new interview with Jensen herself, Anastasia Salter provides the first ever look Jensen's impact and role in advancing interactive narrative and writing in the game design process.

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Anastasia Salter

What is Your Quest? From Adventure Games to Interactive Books

What is Your Quest? examines the future of electronic literature in a world where tablets and e-readers are as common as printed books. As devices optimized for the consumption of content of all media forms, iPads and their counterparts place books, games, and films on the same playing field, accessed through the same interface. The touch screen acts as a chameleon, imitating on-screen controls, keyboards, and even the flipping of a page as appropriate to the content. The convergence of media forms alongside the relative transparency and adaptability of the touchscreen interface became a core part of Apple’s initial iPad campaign emphasizing the device’s magic. But the magic of the iPad is drawing upon a history of convergence in digital storytelling that has evolved alongside computing itself, as new tools and models for interactive narrative and the increased accessibility of those tools have allowed for a broad range of storytellers to build on these emerging models for literary interaction. The beginnings of so-called “interactive” books on the iPad can be found not only in print but in a legacy of playful storytelling shaped by fans and online communities, creating and sharing their own stories through games. The genre of adventure games, or games centered on quests and characters overcoming obstacles and puzzles, holds the early patterns for the type of playful storytelling that is now bringing the strengths of different media together and demonstrating the power of games to share personal and communal stories.

Order from Iowa Press

Anastasia Salter and John Murray

Flash: Building the Interactive Web

Flash evolved as a browser extension allowing developers to escape the confines of foundational web infrastructure, becoming the first widely-adopted tool for online multimedia. Flash aspired to bridge divisions between operating systems and web browsers: a universal language for interactive and creative web experiences. Using the lenses of media studies, critical code and software studies, and digital humanities, we will examine Flash’s rise and fall in the landscape of online media and its role in defining web genres, including “Flashimation,” browser-based gaming, and Internet-enhanced applications. Unraveling Flash’s history and the role of competing interests of performance, security, developers and users also offers insight into the fate of the next universal languages that hope to supersede its relevance. We’ll also trace the history of user and developer involvement through periodicals, forums, wikis and newsgroups. Flash’s evolution is particularly useful in understanding the transformations inherent in any non-fixed platform: its context moved from hypertext to web 2.0, from game arcade to social gaming’s cornerstone and from web plug-in to internet application operating system. Our study will illuminate the critical role of Flash’s duality of aesthetic and procedural affordances in shaping the participatory web and online multimedia, alongside the limitations that ultimately prevented the platform from remaining a dominant “universal” standard.

Order from MIT Press