Brilliance rarely, if ever, happens alone.
We celebrate those that advance new ideas and often forget the context from which they came. Usually these brilliant thinkers are surrounded by students, communities, friends, and patrons that support their work, push them in new ways, and help with construction. What seems elegant in the end was actually the result of many, many hours and people pooling energy, grinding work, enthusiasm, creativity, and passion.
What would it be like to look inside these workings? How would it feel to clean stables out for Frank Lloyd Wright, to collect paints for Da Vinci, or to work endlessly as a member of the New York Philharmonic? Even for a day or two, what would it be like to work side by side with fun, smart people of expertise in their fields? How do they solve problems, ask questions, laugh, and explore new ideas? What if we brought together experts and novices in a given field and provided them with playful “work “ to do together and then captured these experiences for anyone to read? This would be something to see. This would be something to read - something brilliant.
You are about to read chapter after chapter of people gathering in their spare time to work at what they love in the topic that they love - for fun. This chance to see inside their world is an opportunity for which I owe them thanks. All of the work you are about to see, (and the hours it took to assemble), is a contribution from people that care enough about their field to find time to play at it and share it with us.
The beauty of RTR, for insiders and observers, is that it captures community in a captivating way. Whether or not you are particularly interested in games and learning or game design, RTR is more about the process of playful investigation because we had a community of people willing to play for you. This is not a normal book. It is more of an orchestration that captures the expertise of educators, scientists, and designers as they work together. It’s not what they found, but how they found it that stands out to me.
This project began as the brainchild of Eric Zimmerman, Constance Steinkuehler, and Kurt Squire. In the first chapter they outline how it came to be and how to conduct an RTR session yourself. They dreamed it up, ran the initial sessions, and even tell me they may come as participants in RTR sessions to come. RTR is the passion of these three and any vibrancy you see in the following pages is a shadow of their own.
This book was first published as an article in E-Learning http://www.wwwords.co.uk/ELEA/ in 2009 - Volume 6, Number 1. The editorial board welcomed this fairly non-traditional work because of topics, the influence of game design for learning, and the vision and encouragement of Colin Lankshear, Michele Knobel, and James Paul Gee.
Finally, Drew Davidson from ETC Press has been the shepherd that has guided it from article to an expandable online book. He has set up a book that can grow with the RTR projects to come in the future. Drew is part of a new vision for publishing that brings the written word to more people in more places in more current ways than we’ve even seen. Frankly, I’d like to see him write a book on this dream, but for now it’s a privilege to work with ETC Press and be part of their growing stable of stud titles.
RTR is essentially the work of its players however. The ‘music’ you hear is because we had experts invested in the work, lovingly recording and writing sections, and patiently responding to the constraints of the book format we have here. Moreover, these are busy people. When we first began to think of this book happening, our expectation was that we’d only get three or four of these groups wanting to return to their ‘work’ groups to collaborate on this. They had games to produce, data to collect, dissertations to finish, books to write, and awards to prepare speeches for. We only hoped they’d spare time for RTR, yet of the twelve groups we were able to contact, all twelve are presented here with only a few not able to return to their groups. This I find simply remarkable and a testament to the power of playful work. Not only are these good people, they are charitable with their most valuable resource of time.
A special thanks for the GLS and GDC communities and conference staffs that first hosted RTR. They graciously put up with the demand oddities of time, printing requests, post-it note walls, sock interviews, boxes of assorted supplies, posters, and myself - none of which are the expected needs when running a conference. Without their patience, RTR isn’t on these pages.
For my part, my family has been a constant support and help. Grant and Katie bring treats and “tip-toe while I type” and my wife Stephanie puts up with, even loves, my eccentricities in planning and editing for RTR. I also thank my advisor, Kurt Squire, along with Constance and Eric for bringing me on board. I’m still along for the ride and appreciate every confidence and allowance they have offered along the way. It’s been a joy to work towards sharing experiences that have since evolved into ‘real’, larger research projects and game designs.
If you are reading this book, you are now a part those experiences that we found inspiring, challenging, and maybe even... brilliant. You are part of the RTR world, so thank you.