What is Your Quest?

Dr. Anastasia SalterToday we welcome Dr. Anastasia Salter, assistant professor of digital media at the University of Central Florida. I met Dr. Salter recently at an academic symposium where she gave the keynote address and spoke about gamification of the classroom. Her career in digital media and game creation stems from her childhood love of reading and playing heroic fantasy. Her new book, which comes out in a couple of days, is about how technology is changing storytelling. We’ll send an e-copy to one commenter (or you can choose a book from our stacks).

If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up twenty years ago, I probably would have answered Raistlin Majere. Former (and current DRAGONLANCE fans, try not to look at me too suspiciously. Raistlin struck me as the perfect antihero: just enough cynicism and weaknesses that I could imagine myself in his shoes, questing for magical power and saving the world for the most selfish of reasons.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOf course, one of the voices behind the creation of Raistlin – Terry Phillips – got to take Raistlin on that journey, as he played the character in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games that preceded and inspired the writing of the DRAGONLANCE novels. That tie between story and game fascinated me, and my copy of Super Endless Quest Adventures #4: The Soulforge (a “choose your own adventure” style version of Raistlin’s test to join the ranks of wizards) is falling apart at the seams. My journeys playing Raistlin in that gamebook and Dungeons & Dragons games were the beginning of a lifelong love of playable stories, and the different ways we play at heroism.

My new book, What Is Your Quest? From Adventure Games to Interactive Books, is a survey of the fantastical quests we play and the characters we accompany, from Sir Graham and Princess Rosella in the heroic King’s Quest series to the book-flying Mr. Morris Lessmore of the Moonbot Studios iOS app. Such fantastical journeys can spawn genres, platforms, technologies and mediums.

Whose story do you wish you could play, and perhaps change or take over with your own actions? Where would their paths lead if you had your way?

Readers, we’ll send an e-copy of What Is Your Quest? to one commenter (or you can choose a book from our stacks).

Publication Date: November 1, 2014. What Is Your Quest? examines the future of electronic literature in a world where tablets and e-readers are becoming as common as printed books and where fans are blurring the distinction between reader and author. The construction of new ways of storytelling is already underway: it is happening on the edges of the mainstream gaming industry and in the spaces between media, on the foundations set by classic games. Along these margins, convergent storytelling allows for playful reading and reading becomes a strategy of play. One of the earliest models for this new way of telling stories was the adventure game, the kind of game centered on quests in which the characters must overcome obstacles and puzzles. After they fell out of fashion in the 1990s, fans made strenuous efforts to keep them alive and to create new games in the genre. Such activities highlight both the convergence of game and story and the collapsing distinction between reader and author. Continually defying the forces of obsolescence, fans return abandoned games to a playable state and treat stories as ever-evolving narratives. Similarly, players of massive multiplayer games become co-creators of the game experience, building characters and creating social networks that recombine a reading and gaming community. The interactions between storytellers and readers, between programmers and creators, and among fans turned world-builders are essential to the development of innovative ways of telling stories. And at the same time that fan activities foster the convergence of digital gaming and storytelling, new and increasingly accessible tools and models for interactive narrative empower a broadening range of storytellers. It is precisely this interactivity among a range of users surrounding these new platforms that is radically reshaping both e-books and games and those who read and play with them.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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18 comments

  1. I don’t know off hand whose quest I’d take over or how I’d change it in specific ways (I’d have to give that more thought than I have before class is about to start). But I think generally of all the coming-of-age fantasies—Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series for instance, or Narnia, and others—and how you want to as a reader offer up some of your gained wisdom (true wisdom or “perceived” wisdom—either one) to them to speed their way on their journeys—the internal rather than the external ones, to save them those moments of pain and sadness and awkwardness: “Oh, don’t say that to her,” or “Are you sure that arrogance is the best route here?” or “Is Turkish Delight really worth it?”. You want to “be” them but smarter, wiser, but that of course would mean that much of the story doesn’t happen, and so then would it really be as fun to be them? (if that makes any sense)

    On the topic of games and story, Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, written along with Ian Cameron Esslemont, is an interesting example of a narrative much of which was “gamed” as they went along, including at least one or two pivotal points in the plot being determined by die rolls.

  2. Well, certainly not GAME OF THRONES because I would be dead in about an hour. I would like to tag along with Shadow in Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS, or any quest that involves a sacred object, stone monoliths and possible time travel, except for the Holy Grail — only because there are so many people searching for it, any quest would experience gridlock!

    I like the kind of quest where there are libraries and codes and clues to be deciphered, with sword fights in between.

  3. I don’t THINK I would take over, but then, I do know myself, so the odds are good I would be giving strong “suggestions” pretty early on.

  4. Sandy Ferber /

    I sure wouldn’t mind pretending to be Ged, in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea novels. It must be a real kick to bump clouds away from your vicinity by using your supermage powers….

    • Yeah Sandy, but then you’ve got that whole damned “balance of the universe” thing to worry about all the time. Stupid shadows . . .

  5. I would want to be Egwene al’Vere from the Wheel of Time series. I think the choices she makes are the most interesting and influential while also being the most “free.” Obviously Rand, Perrin, and Mat make important decisions, but to some extent, they are playing roles written for them by the Wheel, and their ta’veren luck guides them and shields them. Elayne, the ruler of Andor, also makes important political choices, but it is Egwene’s quest to reforge the White Tower, to be a strong Amyrlin Seat in what amounts to an apocalypse, that interests me the most.

    Her choices are large in impact, but sometimes small in action. She has to consider what tone to take with a rebellious sister, how to best convince another sister to join the rebel cause. She makes hundreds of tiny political decisions every day and they all amount to her victory. It must be challenging to know that every conversation you have, you have to be smarter and better than the people you’re talking to. And to juggle friendships with official responsibilities–to know when to be Amyrlin, and when to be just Egwene. I admire her a lot.

    I would, however, want to change her final outcome, which is the place where RoJo let us down the most, imho.

  6. I have to go with Wheel of Time too. Moiraine Damodred, to be precise. I would tell the group absolutely everything at the outset, shave off six books, and stamp on any instance of sexism until it curdled and died.

    Or, you know, maybe I’d just get eaten by Trollocs or something, lol. Marian has a good point that a lot of epic fantasy is high-danger, and I might just steer my poor character straight into a gruesome demise out of a misguided desire to fix something (or, you know, everything)…

    But actually, it’s tough for me to pick just one. I’d want to play Gawain in Le Morte D’Arthur, Roland Deschain in the Dark Tower, Catwoman in DC comics… all for different reasons, but I’d enjoy every one.

  7. Too easy. I would love to be the ruler of a noble family on K elewan (Jenny Wurts and Raymond Feist Empire Series ) or I would like to be an Order Mage exiled to Candar. They are both high risk but amazing worlds.

    Great topic.

    I am glad Kate didn’t choose Nyneave.

    • If I chose Nynaeve, my first course of action would be to cut my hair and chill the eff out. Smoke some Old Toby. Oh, wait, that’s hobbits.

  8. Trey Palmer /

    I must be feeling my age. The first quests that came to mind was The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.

    Beyond that, I keep harping back to David Drake’s Isle’s series, and some of the stories he tells in Northworld.

  9. Trey, it looks like you’re our winner! Let us know how to send you an e-copy of Anastacia’s book, or choose one from our stacks.

    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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