Although writing is a solitary pursuit, the influences of others are constantly present. I was fortunate in the guidance, advice, and encouragement generously extended by colleagues, friends, and family.
At the University of Michigan Press, I am grateful to Tom Dwyer, who helped shaped the manuscript from our earliest conversations. Series editor Mimi Ito suggested useful means of restructuring the flow of the book and provided sound advice about what to leave out as well as in. Heather Newman and Christopher Lehr produced images used in the book.
Anonymous reviewers made invaluable suggestions on reworking critical arguments and improving the prose. Many, many thanks—you know who you are.
I very much appreciate the feedback on various chapters provided by Trina Choontanom, Russell Crispin, Christopher Darrouzet-Nardi, Jeanette Darrouzet-Nardi, Scott Ditch, Alison Fish, He Jing, Yong Ming Kow, Wenjing Liang, Thomas Malaby, Linda Polin, and Celia Pearce.
Participants at the Productive Play Workshop hosted by Jason Ellis, Celia Pearce, and me at the University of California, Irvine, in May 2008, engaged in lively debate and discussion from which I profited.
I thank the Intel Corporation, which, at the behest of Eleanor Wynn, provided funding for the research I conducted in China. The National Science Foundation funded a separate study in China conducted by my student Yong Ming Kow (grant no. 446680-21260), as well as sponsoring the Productive Play Workshop.
I have many guildmates to thank—for good times as well as insights about game play. The guilds in which I conducted research must remain anonymous, but Terror Nova, a guild of colleagues with whom I play, was a source of scholarly input as well as friendly mayhem. My family guild, the Hoodoos, blasted through Azeroth with the tight coordination of people who know each other very well.
I would like to thank the players who agreed to be interviewed. They offered thoughtful commentary on their play experiences and called my attention to important matters that I did not pick up on from observations of game play. Many undergraduate students at the University of California, Irvine, where I teach, talked to me informally about their play, and I learned from, and very much enjoyed, those conversations.
Throughout my career, nearly all of my research has been about the use of technology at work. Moving to play, with its elements of whimsy, fantasy, freedom, and fun, was a pleasing turn to a novel arena of activity. But it entailed facing an unfamiliar literature going back 80 years. Surprisingly, very little of what I read was trite or uninteresting. I acknowledge with appreciation the analysis and theorizing of scholars from older traditions whose work remains fresh and pertinent, as well as those on the contemporary scene who are picking up and extending foundational work and moving ahead to lay out new paths of investigation.
At the present moment, we may well be in a golden age of games scholarship. Some amazing social scientists, computer scientists, educators, philosophers, media scholars, legal scholars, and journalists, many of whom you will meet in the pages of this book, have turned their attention to elucidating the import and meanings of play and games. I appreciate the quality of the work they have produced and their remarkable efforts to shape concerns about play and games into a rich multidisciplinary stream of scholarship.
Finally, I am grateful to the complex assemblage that is the World of Warcraft— players, designers, corporate purveyors, software artifacts—which has proved an endlessly fascinating object of discovery and inquiry.