Design by Raegan Kelly
If your research were a superhero, what kind of superhero would it be? This provocative question forms the foundation of Jane McGonigal's PlaceStorming, which begins with the seemingly dubious union of academic writing and pervasive, mobile gaming. Not only does the game put the "site" back into "cite," but it perforates the walls dividing academia and the world at large, inviting academicians to relinquish the sanctity of their written texts and gamers to play with those texts, transforming their meaning through an unlikely process of disassembly, recombination and discovery.
McGonigal's work poses perhaps the most challenging reconfiguration of scholarly practice contained in this issue of Vectors, but it is not to be dismissed out of hand. Those who are involved in game studies have been fighting an uphill battle for legitimacy during the past decade or so of this nascent field's development. Most have attempted to position games on a safe continuum with related forms such as cinema, literature or performance, laboring to retool the conceptual frameworks from those fields to bring insight to the structural, narrative and social dimensions of gaming. McGonigal's approach differs in that it insists on being both formally and conceptually innovative; suggesting that, indeed, the theorization of emergent gaming practices is most productively enacted through a "playful" mode of engagement as well as a serious one.
McGonigal dares her users to dismiss this method, which takes literally academia's often-stated but seldom-realized goals of collaboration and relevance outside the walls of the university. For those who are willing to traverse these familiar boundaries, PlaceStorming serves as a reminder that spaces are also places and that abstract coordinates are rooted in physical locations, which are both culturally diverse and geographically specific. Ultimately, McGonigal's argument offers a convincing counterpoint to conventional wisdom regarding mobile and pervasive technologies, which would have us believe in the spatially dislocated nature of life in an increasingly mobilized world.