Wolf in White Van Reflection Post

Once your essay is published as a page on your site, also publish a post that links to your essay and also does the following:

  • Invites readers to read the full essay by conveying what is interesting about what you’ve said and/or why they should care about your argument. This invitation can take many forms, but the gist is that I want you to recognize what is most exciting about your own essay and to convey that to an imagined audience.
  • Articulates, in a concise way, the controlling idea for your essay. Ideally, your controlling idea will be part of what is exciting about your essay, so this might not be distinct from the first bullet point. But if you don’t state clearly in your invitation what your controlling idea is, then make sure you say it someplace in your post.
  • Explains how your essay fulfills one or more of the course learning outcomes.

KRZ Freewrite

Is Kentucky Route Zero a magical realist work?

Here’s a list of some of the elements of the genre:

  • Fantastical elements
  • Real-world setting
  • Authorial reticence
  • Plenitude
  • Hybridity
  • Metafiction
  • Heightened awareness of mystery
  • Political critique

There are descriptions of each of these elements at the wikipedia page on magical realism.

Choose one of the items from this list and write a paragraph or two about how that element is used within KRZ to invite players to think about and engage with the world around them.

Unpacking Manuel’s Reflection

Once you’ve completed your revisions on the Unpacking Manuel’s assignment, write a reflective blog post of about 250 words.

Begin your post by stating the controlling idea for your analysis. Then explain how you went about revising the final version in order to explain that controlling idea effectively. In what ways did you make the revised version stronger than the first draft?

How do you see your work on the Unpacking Manuel’s assignment helping you to achieve the learning outcomes for this course? Link to one or more of the specific learning outcome posts that applied to your work on this assignment, and explain how you met that outcome with your work on this assignment.

Make sure you address the sets of questions above and then also consider one or more of the questions below and address them in your reflection (you definitely won’t be able to answer all of these, so go through the list and pick some that seem to be most of interest for you and write about them):

  • Were the strategies, skills, and procedures you used effective for this assignment?
  • Do you see any patterns in how you approached your work on this assignment? How was your writing on this assignment similar to or different from writing more traditional essays?
  • What have you learned about your strengths and areas in need of improvement?
  • How are you progressing as a learner?
  • How can you apply the skills you used in crafting this analysis to future writing projects, in this class, other classes, or in other arenas? Where can you use these skills again?
  • What are you most proud of about the project?
  • How does the close reading analysis of your one object fit into the larger project of Unpacking Manuel’s, or at least of the readings of the Main North Wall that you and your classmates have produced?

Liveblogging Firewatch


As you play through Firewatch for class on Tuesday, I want you to liveblog your experience playing. Liveblogging is an informal  sort of freewriting — while you are in the midst of playing the game, just notice whatever seems interesting to you and pause periodically to note those observations in your blog post.

The game begins with a fairly long opening sequence that sets up a little background for the main character and serves as a simple tutorial for basic game mechanics, so launch the game and play through that opening section, then pause the game and open your dashboard. Write a new blog post which starts by announcing that your’e beginning to play through the game and links back to this post (not just the course site, but this specific post). Tag your post with “Firewatch” and “liveblog” plus whatever other tags you’d like. (You can add tags in the post editor page, in the section labeled Tags, which should be in the sidebar just beneath categories and just above the featured image area.)

Write a paragraph (or a few sentences) responding to that opening sequence. Again, whatever is interesting to you about it — visual style, emotional reactions, comparison with the opening of Gone Home or Dear Esther, making predictions or noting expectations for where this game will head, whether and how this game operates as “art” in the way Bogost defines art games, whatever seems worth noting. Publish the post. Once you’ve published your post, you might check out the other students’ posts and see how they responded to the opening sequence — please leave comments on their liveblog posts responding to observations they made!

When your’e ready, go back to the game and play on. When you find a scene that seems particularly cool or beautiful or interesting, screenshot it. Be on the lookout for moments that seem worth commenting on. Check in periodically with your peers’ responses to the game and pay attention to whether you have similar or different reactions. Periodically leave comments on your own post updating your progress through the game and recording those observations. Leave comments on your peers’ posts too, responding to their observations.

Gone Home Observations

As you play through Gone Home for class on Tuesday, please try to pay attention to your own thinking and emotional reaction as you play and take notes as you go. If we were a little later in the semester and you were more comfortable with publishing to your sites, I might have asked you to liveblog your game play — feel free to try that if you’re willing (see note below). Probably most of you will choose instead to play through the game, taking notes of the things you notice, and then when you’re finished write a blog post with 2-3 paragraphs worth of reflection on the experiences.

Pay careful attention to the start of the game. How does the game begin? How do you feel at the start? How does the game establish setting and time, both at the start of the game and then throughout? How does the game establish character? Especially think about how the game establishes character given that there is only one person present in the narrative and it’s the first person narrator — without dialog and other traditional methods of defining character, how do the game designers go about doing so? Finally, your first larger writing project will build from our discussion of Gone Home towards thinking about how games make use of objects and descriptions of those objects in order to shape narrative, so pay particular attention to all the various things that you pick up and examine and how the writing frames the meaning of those objects.

You do not need to address all of these questions. You do not even need to answer any of these questions, to be honest — if there is a different pattern that really captures your attention and you feel a burning desire to explore it in your blog post, then do that instead of answering the questions in the paragraph above.


There are a number of different ways that you might liveblog game play. If you want to try it but aren’t sure how to pull it off, my suggestion is to open up your site in a tab and then launch the game. Just look around at the start point of the game for a minute or two, then write a blog post in which you announce your intention to liveblog your experience playing the game and then write a couple of sentences about the start point and publish the post. Then whenever you notice something interesting or worth commenting on as you play, leave a comment on your own post with your observation. Boom, liveblogging.

Final Portfolio Outcomes Essay

Graffiti spelling out "look book"

Due: Your final portfolio is due Friday, December 9 between 3 to 5:30 P.M

(that’s when our final exam period is scheduled)

As the semester comes to an end, you will organize the work on your course site into a portfolio showing the work you have done this semester. Make certain that your entire course subdomain looks complete, coherent, and like you’ve given some thought to its overall design and aesthetics. As part of that process, you’ll write a portfolio cover essay about 750 – 1250 words (3-5 pages) in length, discussing your own learning and the improvement and progression you’ve made in the course.

Reflective Cover Essay

In this particular case, the reflective essay should take as its topic your relationship to the writing process and should explore the improvements or progression you have made in this course. Over the course of your essay, you will link to and discuss each of the major projects you’ve published this semester, along with some of the best of your other work.

You might ask and answer the following questions:

  • Has your process for writing changed over the course of the class?
  • What insights have you gained into yourself as a learner?
  • Are there new strategies you now employ that you had not previously?
  • Are there areas you have identified in your writing process that still need work?
  • What part of your exploration of your writing process do you feel has been the most successful?
  • What have you learned in this course about writing that you did not know before?
  • What have you learned about yourself as a researcher, as a person who engages in argument, as a person who cares about inquiry?
  • What have you learned about collaboration with others, or about giving and receiving feedback on your writing process this semester?
  • How has the work you’ve done this semester helped you to fulfill the learning objectives for the course?
  • How has the you’ve done this semester met the criteria for successful writing according to the terms we’ve established as a community?
  • What is your best work for the course? Why do you think it’s your best? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your other work?

Your reflective essay will address these kinds of questions in some way and will make use of the artifacts (your writing projects) you include in your portfolio as evidence to support your answers to the above questions. A reflective essay does not need to have a specific thesis but should have an organizational framework that takes the reader of your essay though your ideas effectively and clearly.

Writing a Reflective Essay

Because process is such a personal part of writing, in this reflective essay feel free to use first person and write a narrative of your experience, rather than an argumentative essay. You can present your discovery by:

  • Telling a story,
  • Exploring each piece of your writing process and the role it plays in producing a final product,
  • Discussing your failures and how they turned into successes, or
  • Starting with your successes and then discussing how you intend to improve in other areas needing further developing.

However you choose to structure this reflective essay, it still needs to have a purpose. That purpose need not be defined by a thesis but perhaps might have more to do with acknowledging what you have learned and what you are still learning.

What is most important is that you engage with your writing process in three ways.

  • First, engage with the process of writing some of the artifacts you included in your portfolio. Describe your writing process. An important part of composing a work whether in a digital space, on paper, or orally is figuring out the process you, as a composer, need to go through in order to effectively create a text, artifact, or presentation. It can include many of the techniques that your instructor may have mentioned: outlining, word webs, response paragraphs, and blogging. It can also be much more informal: emailing a professor about an idea, sketching out notes on a napkin at a coffee shop, or talking to a friend about your ideas. Ultimately, your writing process includes each step you take from the coffee shop napkin to an outline to a first draft and eventually, a final product. Discovering and being able to articulate your own writing process will help you become a more effective writer/composer as you progress through college.
  • Second, engage with the process of curating the portfolio as a whole (which pieces you chose, what order you put them in, and how they represent your learning/discovering your writing process over the course of the term).
  • Third, consider talking about the different genres or literacies in your final portfolio. How are they different from one another? How did you figure out the genre conventions that were appropriate to each artifact in your portfolio? What skills might you use to identify genres of writing beyond this course?

Because you are talking about the process of writing/composing each artifact and the portfolio as a whole, you should think of your portfolio and its artifacts as texts to be analyzed (like you would a piece of literature or an article not written by you). Quote from your writing. Use it to show your process and describe how the writing itself demonstrates your learning.

Imagine that the audience of your reflective essay has not read your writing before. You need to teach them about the artifacts themselves and how your writing process directly your portfolio.

Describe the assignments you composed in this course that allowed you to practice writing for an audience. Make sure to discuss what you learned in those assignments. Also, consider the challenges of writing to different audiences and how you managed those challenges.

Nuts and Bolts

New Index Page

The reflection should become the new index page for your course site and should begin with a note indicating that the site is an archive of the work that you completed as part of ENG181.06 at Emory University during fall semester 2016 and include a link back to your primary domain, should a visitor want to go see what you are up to currently, and a link to the site for this course, so that a reader who is going through your work can easily find out more information about the course you were in.

Student Learning Outcomes

Notice that each of the Student Learning Outcomes outlined in the course site is a separate blog post, with its own separate permalink. As you are going back through your site and writing your reflection essay, consider how each piece you worked on met one or more of those learning outcomes, and then add a link someplace on that page to whichever outcomes it applies to–feel free to follow the example in the previous sentence and simply add a small parenthetical note with links to whichever outcomes apply.

Adding those links will create pingback comments on the Student Learning Outcomes posts on this site, and will therefore become another nonlinear route for exploring the work we’ve all engaged in as a community this semester. In order to make sure this works, first log into your own dashboard and find Settings > Discussion and the first check box, which is probably unchecked, says “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article.” Check that box, then save your settings.


Your reflective essay should conform to the same hybrid of MLA guidelines and conventions for publishing on the web that you’ve used for your other writing this semester.

Your reflective essay must include visual elements. You have lots of freedom to decide the nature of these visuals, but one good choice available to you is to take screenshots of the projects on your site and use those as images for the major projects as you discuss them. You can also repeat images from your projects in your reflective essay. Or, you can use Flickr advanced searches to find CC-licensed images to use in your essay (make certain that you link back to the image properly if you do!). Just make certain that any images your include in your reflective essay are clearly identified with good captions.

Use links not URLs throughout your reflective essay and throughout your site.

In the process of reorganizing your site into a portfolio, you might consider changing themes for your course site. Your goal is to make certain that the entire site looks good, and shows that you’ve given thought to how the pieces all fit together. Think of the entire course site as an argument that you have met the learning outcomes for the class and that you know how to write, design, build, and publish an effective and thoughtful academic web site.


Due: 11/21

Once your Fiasco play group has finished playing, make sure as a group that you’ve filled out the Google sheet for your game session — note which playset you chose, the setup information, the dice rolls for Tilt and the Tilt details chosen, and the rolls for the Aftermath and the result from the Aftermath table. This information will help you to reflect on the game session.

Then each of you should write your own Fiasco reflection posts, in the form of an essay with complete paragraphs not as a list of bullet point answers (500 – 750 words total). I’ve divided up the questions below along two lines, but structure your essay however is best for your argument. Your essay does not need to start with part 1 and then move to part 2. Ultimately, your reflection essay should be an argument where you explicate what you observed in the process, rather than a narrative.

As you reflect on playing Fiasco, I want you to think about the game session itself as a kind of writing while also thinking about the reflection on the experience as a writing exercise. In other words, for this assignment the primary text that you composed is the Fiasco game session and now you’re writing a reflective essay about that writing. Think about and explain in your essay how the game session itself and the reflection you are writing about it bring you to fulfilling the learning objectives for this course.

Note that there are way too many questions below for you to address all of them. You should read over all of them and spend some time thinking about each, then choose to specifically address the ones that will lead to the most thoughtful reflective essay.

Describe the Experience

Without just recounting the narrative in briefer form, describe what the game session was like. Identify some of the key choices that you made (for example, you should definitely indicate which playset you chose and identify the relationships you defined with the two players to left and right, at least) and give a sense of the type of story that you created with the other players in your group. Instead of retelling the story that your group wrote collectively, step back and consider the shape of that story and describe it:

  • What sort of story did you tell?
  • What sort of characters and conflicts did it contain?
  • How did the plot unfold?
  • What sorts of narrative moves did you all make together?
  • How did your Aftermath montage play out?
  • Are you proud of the Fiasco story that you crafted?
  • Look over the list of literary terms on the course site and think about how your story employed these devices.
  • How did playing Fiasco give you insight into elements of fiction or narrative structures, and can you apply these insights to other types of literature (video games, comic books, movies, or traditional literary texts)?
  • How was the experience of playing a tabletop RPG similar to, or different from, playing a video game RPG?

As you describe the experience, you should also explain your own feelings and choices during the process:

  • How did you feel at the start?
  • What were you expecting and were you surprised by aspects of the game session?
  • What sorts of roles did you individually take on during the game session?
  • Were there certain times when you were more active or more forceful versus other times when you sat back and invited others to drive the plot forward?
  • Did you take on particular roles during game play (were you the one always turning the story towards comedy? or the one always bringing darker elements in? were you the one keeping the group focused on moving the plot forward or always pulling off towards digressions? were you consistently narrowing or broadening focus?
  • Were you more interested in role-playing your character directly (acting the part) or in describing scenes from an outside perspective?

Pattern Recognition and Learning Outcomes

In your reflection essay, you should also identify patterns that you noticed in your own behavior and thinking and the story that you created. Identify which of the learning outcomes you fulfilled during the process of game play — name and link to the specific outcomes, while providing at least a sentence or two explaining how this composition speaks to that outcome.

You might also address some of these questions:

  • Were the strategies, skills and procedures you used effective during gameplay?
  • Do you see any patterns in how you approached your role in the writing of this story?
  • How was playing Fiasco similar to or different from the other work you’ve done this semester?
  • What have you learned about your strengths and areas in need of improvement?
  • How are you progressing as a learner?
  • How can you apply the skills you used in crafting this Fiasco story to future writing projects? Where can you use these skills again?
  • What was the most interesting aspect of writing a Fiasco story?

Unpacking Manuel’s

Due: 9/22

For this assignment, each student will be taking part in the project to document and “unpack” Manuel’s Tavern. You’ll be choosing artifacts from the walls, researching more about what those objects depict or represent, and then composing texts that describe and play with the item. You’ll submit your entries to the folks at Unpacking Manuel’s and hopefully they will eventually be included in the site once it’s fully unveiled.

As you compose your Manuel’s text, I’ll ask that you be thinking about the process of such research and writing — what rhetorical situations does this sort of activity apply to? what sorts of audience(s) do you imagine for your text? how does writing your own descriptive text help you to think differently about similar texts you encounter in your own life, particularly in games but perhaps in other settings as well?

Some Context Unpacking Manuel’s

Last year, this project was described in the New York Times:

The artist and documentary filmmaker Ruth Dusseault calls the stuff that has found its way onto the walls of Manuel’s Tavern, a beloved Eisenhower-era dive bar here, an “organic archive” and a “60-year installation piece.”


Ms. Dusseault, a lecturer in the communications department at Georgia State University, is convinced that these items tell a rich and complex story of Atlanta. In an ambitious and slightly weird act of scholarship, she and a group of local academics have begun digitally documenting all of the curios and ephemera for an online research project they have titled “Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern.”

Ms. Dusseault likened the idea of examining the junk on the walls of a bar to the work of archaeologists. “They’ll go to a site, and they have a fascination with garbage,” she said, “because it can tell them so much about the civilization they’re studying.”

You can check these out to get a sense of where this is headed:

Assignment Details

Minnesota Braves Wall at Manuel's Tavern

detail from Minnesota Braves Wall at Manuel’s Tavern

You will each choose one object from the Minnesota Braves wall. I’ll loaded a spreadsheet in Google Drive that lists objects on that wall with some very basic information about each of them and you’ll each claim one item.

You will research that item and then write an entry of something like 500 to 1000 words. You’ll publish the entry as a set of pages (not blog posts, but pages) on your own site, with images, audio, and any other media as appropriate. You’ll also publish a piece of reflective writing in which you analyze your own process and learning as one of those pages. When you’ve finished your draft, you’ll write a blog post on your own site, linking to the splash page (introductory page) of your piece, and provided a bit of additional reflection on your work. When your post syndicates to the class site, that’s when your assignment is “turned in” to me.

I’ll expect each of you to read each other’s work and to comment on and to discuss with each other the work. There will be opportunities for review and revision, both formal and informal, before I officially grade your final draft.

Assignment Steps


Once you’ve chosen an object from the wall and signed up on the spreadsheet, zoom in as close as you can on the high resolution gigapan of the wall and grab a good screenshot of your object.

Based on your observation of the item you’ve chosen and the information provided in the spreadsheet, research that object and try to ascertain as much information as you can about the significance of the object and what it represents. Take notes for yourself of not only the results of your research but of the steps you go through and of your own thinking about the process.

As part of your research, make sure to perform a reverse image search using your screenshot to find other similar objects. The reverse image search will probably be most fruitful with advertisements but definitely perform the search with your object and pay attention to any interesting comparisons you get back.


Publish a page to your class site with a 500 to 1000 word entry on the object that you have analyzed and researched. This write up should include a fairly detailed description of the item itself as well as a discussion of the relevant details you have gleaned during your analysis. A student at Georgia State has produced an excellent example in her blog entry on object #21, the Dekalb Seed Company flying ear corn sign.

Your page should include at least the good screenshot you took from the wall. You might also include other images that you turned up during your analysis (make certain you provide captions for any images, with attribution information and links to the images).

You should also publish a second page, as a subpage underneath the one described above, in which you explain your research and thinking process as you analyzed the source. List the sites you went to as your researched your object and what you found useful or difficult along the way. How did you determine what sources were relevant in your search?

(Note that in class, I had raised the possibility that you might be allowed to write something fictional in your entry, but for now at least, stick to a strictly nonfiction account of the object.)

Once those two pages are published, make certain they show up in your menu and are accessible. Then publish a blog post, which should include a link to this assignment page and a link to the main page describing your object. That blog post should also include a paragraph which serves as preview of your discussion of the object — think of it as a brief teaser that a reader might see and be interested by, and thus follow your link and read the essay you’ve written. Make certain your blog post includes an image too (and image credit) too!

Next Steps

Once you’ve completed the first drafts of this work, there will be additional steps for revision and for building on these entries as a class, but let’s discuss those once you’ve made some progress on the drafts first.

Works Cited

Fausset, Richard. “Digital Dig Unpacks Atlanta Dive Bar Rich in History.” The New York Times 9 Nov. 2015. NYTimes.com. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Analyzing Wolf in White Van

Due: 11/13

Trauma and Thoughts

First consider these two texts about trauma and thoughts:

Trauma, in effect, issues a challenge to the capacities of narrative knowledge. In its shock impact trauma is anti-narrative, but it also generates the manic production of retrospective narratives that seek to explicate the trauma . . . culture rehearses or restates narratives that attempt to animate and explicate trauma that has been formulated as something that exceeds the possibility of narrative knowledge. . . . if trauma is a crisis in representation, then this generates narrative possibility just as much as impossibility, a compulsive outpouring of attempts to formulate narrative knowledge.
– Roger Luckhurst, The Trauma Question

And the Invisibilia episode “The Secret Life of Thoughts,” which asks the question, “Are my thoughts related to my inner wishes, do they reveal who I really am?” There are two parts to the episode: the story of a man gripped by violent thoughts, and how various psychologists make sense of his experience, and a man trapped inside his head for 13 years with thoughts as his only companion (the first part is more directly applicable, but the second part might also be of interest to you too):

Games in Wolf in White Van

We’ve spent a lot of time this semester playing and discussing video games that are in one way or another about trauma and its aftermath. And now we have read this novel which is, at least in part, about the ways in which the protagonist creates and runs a game as a response to his own trauma and the ways in which its players react to the game and its portrayal of a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

“[T]he way a role-playing game can parallel a person’s real life,” according to Carmen Maria Machado’s review, is one of the central themes of Wolf in White Van. “After all, what is life but a scrupulously detailed, real-time Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story with actual death at the end of its infinite plotlines, most of which you will never see?”

Perhaps surprisingly given the fact that the game Trace Italian is such a focus of most readers of the novel, John Darnielle explains in an interview with Gabriella Paiella at Electric Lit that the game was not present in the initial draft of the novel but was added later as its present shape came into view because he realized that Sean would go on with his life and Darnielle had to ask “what does this person then do in his life if he’s alive? […] and, you know, there’s all kinds of things you can do from home.” He goes on in the interview to describe the difference between playing Trace or other RPGsand video games: “It’s the engagement. When you play a computer game, even if it’s in the first person, you are moving some other creature around. If you do this thing, you are making a bunch of ‘I’ statements about what you’re doing. You’re kind of method acting.”

Essay Prompt

Write an essay of 750-1000 words (that would be 3-4 pages in a print format) in which you analyze Darnielle’s portrayal of trauma and games. Are there examples in the narrative of characters coping effectively with trauma? How does the structure of the novel (or the structure of Trace Italian) reflect that trauma at its core? Do you read this novel as ultimately about healing and recovery? Or do you read it as more of a “manic production of retrospective narratives,” in the words of Roger Luckhurst? Or is the novel doing something else with the way in which it portrays its traumatic events? Does the novel suggest ways in which gaming, in particular, arises from or helps to cope with or circles around or holds at bay traumatic experiences?

You do not need to refer to outside sources for your analysis, but feel free to pull in other texts when they are appropriate to your argument. In particular, feel free to bring in comparative examples from some of the other games we have played this semester. (Though ultimately your focus should be Wolf in White Van, so use other games to provide perspective on your primary text, where useful, but don’t use them to avoid grappling with the novel.)

Nuts and Bolts


Publish your essay as a page on your site. You will publish a reflective blog post once it’s up (reflection prompt to come soon).


Your essay must include direct quotes from the novel to support claims that you make. You can also quote from reviews or from the other games, where appropriate. You should always have at least as many of your own words discussing the significance of a quote as there are words in the quote itself. And you should always incorporate quotes into your own sentences — no dropped quotes. In other words, build quote sandwiches in your essay.

Make certain to include MLA-style in-text parenthetical page numbers for quotes from the novel and a Works Cited entry for each source you quote from.


You should assume an audience that has read Wolf in White Van and thought about it a little bit but who understands the novel not quite as well as you do.


Make certain you have at least one image on your page. I would prefer that the image not be the cover of the novel but that instead you take a phrase or term that your essay addresses and search Flickr to find a CC-licensed image that you can use to illustrate your essay. Make certain you have a good image credit citation on your page.

Works Cited

Luckhurst, Roger. The Trauma Question. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

Machado, Carmen Maria. “The Monstrous And The Beautiful Dance In ‘White Van.’” NPR. 16 Sept. 2014

Paiella, Gabriella. “INTERVIEW: John Darnielle, Author of Wolf in White Van.” Electric Literature. N.p., 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Spiegel, Alix and Lulu Miller. “The Secret Life of Thoughts.” Invisibilia. 8 Jan. 2015.

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