An Ivanhoe example and guidelines for getting started

As I mentioned previously, any Ivanhoe game can be played on any topic.  Being interdisciplinary ourselves (Classical Archaeology, English, Religious Studies, and Sociology), our group has naturally tended toward interdisciplinary games: the suffragette journalism game, the Elgin Marbles debate game, a sci-fi game, etc.  We all had a great time on these games, and I think it was because we could all find something to relate to in them within our respective fields.  However, this intense interdisciplinarity often made finding topics for games difficult, and we all agreed that a shared knowledge or experience base would help players in conceiving and playing an Ivanhoe game.  This seems to have been borne out in Ivanhoe testing; we had many testers volunteer, but few ended up playing extended games.  I think the reason for this is that our volunteers were individuals from different disciplines who signed up over the internet and had no face-to-face time.  Given this, I suspect that testers had a difficult time connecting with one another and having shared interests.

If you’re interested in playing Ivanhoe, I would suggest gathering either a group of colleagues (shared knowledge base) or friends (shared experience) and selecting a topic which you all find exciting.  Personally, my primary field of interest is book history and textual studies.  A game which I recently came up with was a game on Poe’s “The Raven.”  In this game, one person would be Poe, one person his editor, another his compositor (type-setter), etc.  Each week, “Poe” would make a move which would contain only the text of one stanza from “The Raven.”  Then, the editor would copy the text out of Poe’s move, change it as he saw fit, and that would be his move.  This would continue, until all roles had messed with Poe’s text, and the final versions is what the published result would be.

In order to play this game, players would need to learn about Poe’s publishing practices, the publication history of “The Raven” specifically, the publisher’s house style, etc.  Or, players might want to play such a game from a more theoretical standpoint: the editor might decide to take a Freudian stance and edit Poe’s text from that perspective.

The multimedia possibilities for this game are marvelous.  Players could post videos demonstrating typesetting, images of later editions and illustrations, a sound clip of an aria the editor might have heard at the opera the evening before and which may have impacted his work on Poe’s poem, etc.  The sky’s the limit with Ivanhoe!

This is just one example, but keep an eye on our blog this week and hear from my fellow Praxers about their ideas!

This past May, 2014, I completed my M.A. in English at the University of Virginia. As a graduate student I focused on American literature, textual studies, and learning as much about digital humanities as possible. I served as project manager for the 2013-14 Praxis cohort, rebuilding the Ivanhoe Game. I now work at Rare Book School and the Washington Papers doing bibliographical research and social media. In my spare time I enjoy jamming on my violin, researching family history, and having movie nights with friends. I love ballroom dance, can't get enough opera, and enjoy making gourmet pizza at home.

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