I wanted to publicly post my dedication and acknowledgments for the dissertation.
I dedicate this dissertation to the ubiquitous gamers.
Through their collective and playful performances, they have embodied and embraced a more intimate relationship between gameplay and everyday life.
This dissertation would not have been possible without the exceptionally valuable guidance and support I have received from my co-chairs, Professor William B. Worthen and Professor Gregory Niemeyer. They have broadened and deepened my understanding of performance and play immeasurably, while helping me develop the critical perspective necessary to balance my games research with my game design practice. This dissertation also has benefited enormously from the critical review of committee members Professor Ken Goldberg and Professor Peter Glazer, who have informed greatly my understanding of where art practice meets research, while helping me to clarify the technological, social and political stakes of this project.
I want to thank the innovative game designers and developers who invited me to be a part of the playful experiments that inspired this dissertation. In the fall of 2001, Ian Fraser and Finnegan Kelly at The Go Game (Wink Back, Inc.) gave me my first opportunity to participate in experimental game design. Since the summer of 2004, my colleagues at 42 Entertainment have given me a home to continue exploring and inventing new platforms and contexts for gameplay. I especially am grateful to Elan Lee and Sean Stewart, who supported this research project even before there was a 42 Entertainment.
Some ongoing design and research dialogues over the past few years have also been quite important to this dissertation’s development. I especially want to acknowledge Ken Anderson, Eric Paulos, and Joseph McCarthy, all of whom I first had the pleasure of meeting through Intel Research workshops and colloquia. My conversations with each have expanded, tremendously, my understanding of the relationship between technological innovation and play.
Looking back over the course of this dissertation’s development, two particular moments stand out as having led, quite unexpectedly but fortuitously, to its final shape and subject matter. In the spring of 2002, Professor Mark Sandberg organized the most enriching seminar I have had the pleasure of participating in, and guided me in developing my first digital games paper: a study of The Beast (Microsoft, 2001) as interactive back story. Through Professor Sandberg’s support and interest in that seminar paper, I came to realize that I had something important to say about games. Without his early attention to this project, this dissertation would not exist. And in the fall of 2003, Professor Gregory Niemeyer invited me to collaborate on a playful installation at the Fifth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing. Without this opportunity and my subsequent exposure to the field of ubicomp research, I never could have conceived of this project in its current form. I am most grateful to Professor Niemeyer for trusting me as an artistic collaborator, and for being the first person to introduce me to a field of research that has changed the way I think about how and why we interact with computer systems.
I thank everyone who read, supported, and commented on my “Best Sentence of the Day” dissertation blog. Having a live audience for the writing process was a great motivation for me. I especially thank fellow games researcher and game designer Ian Bogost, whose daily support and critical feedback online gave me the momentum to keep writing.
Finally, a few important personal acknowledgements: I want to thank my twin sister, Kelly McGonigal, who was born six minutes before me, but who finished her Ph.D. two years before I did. Her success was an inspiration to this dissertation, and her insights were essential to its completion.
I thank my parents, Judith and Kevin McGonigal, for their love and support, and for sharing their intellectual curiosity with me.
I thank my husband Kiyash Monsef, because of whom I think more clearly, play more often and live more fully.