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Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives [Paperback]

by Jeff Howard
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 24, 2008 1568813473 978-1568813479
This unique take on quests, incorporating literary and digital theory, provides an excellent resource for game developers. Focused on both the theory and practice of the four main aspects of quests (spaces, objects, actors, and challenges) each theoretical section is followed by a practical section that contains exercises using the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset.

Howard has created a Syllabus, designed for a college-level course, that instructors can use and modify as desired.

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Editorial Reviews


Certain scholars like Jeff Howard ... and Matt Barton ... have written rich, analytical, and well-annotated books on the subject, and I will use both in my course.
—Michael Abbott, Brainy Gamer, April 2008

It's an unusual book, but an illuminating one within these areas.
—Clay Spinuzzi, May 2008

According to Jeff Howard ..., 'a quest is a journey across a symbolic, fantastic landscape in which a protagonist or player collects objects and talks to characters in order to overcome challenges and achieve a meaningful goal.' The most important part of this definition comes at the end, as I believe the foundation of the quest journey is 'to overcome challenges and achieve a meaningful goal.' Developing a successful quest means creating a meaningful interaction for the player.
—Andrew Dobbs at Design(ish), May 2008

Quests is an excellent tool ... for teaching games, media, writing, or other areas that include theory and application. ... Quests would also be an excellent choice as a supplemental text for more advanced classes, helping graduate students or faculty connect their research areas to new ways to represent, research, and teach using games.
—Gameology, February 2008

Quests is an incisive and highly accessible book that leads the reader on an exploration of literature, computer games, and a connection between them.
—grand TEXT auto, February 2008

Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narrative is an exploration of ... quests in both literary and gaming contexts, comparing and contrasting their appearances in each medium and striving to bring the two worlds closer together by imbuing game quests with more meaning. ... I look forward to the dialog his book will inspire. He would have us re-examine the game quest in terms of the narrative quest, and apply those lessons to gaming. The book is well worth a read, both as a lesson plan for making the activity of questing more meaningful, as well as a first step towards giving games that rely heavily on quests—especially MMOS—more meaningful goals.
—Michael Fiegel, Slashdot, September 2008

You might be surprised as to the breadth of material covered by the book, and indeed just how much needs to be covered in order to comprehensively understand [quests]. ... For me, this book is an invaluable resource, as it poses many questions that I haven't considered, and then continues to answer them.
—Steve Vink, The Game Creators Newsletter, October 2008

About the Author

Jeff Howard received his BA from the University of Tulsa (2000) and his MA (2002) and PhD (2007) from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently an assistant instructor in the English department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press (January 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568813473
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568813479
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,154,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bridging the gap between the academic and the practical February 8, 2011
Howard's book is a refreshing departure from the usual focus of gaming texts, which give you the option of hands-on coding tutorials or lofty academic screeds. The middle-ground presented here is full of details from literary analysis to gameplay mechanics, and proves that Howard has actually PLAYED his share of games (the same cannot be said of many university gaming professors who are often squeezed in to existing literature or computer science programs). You won't see arguments about ludology vs narratology (i.e. gameplay vs story), or a deconstruction of gaming through a narrow lens like gender politics or whatever academic focus is in vogue at the moment. Rather, Quests provides a holistic view of how to use the vast cultural repositories of myth and folklore to craft better gaming experiences.

In short, Howard is an academic seeking to improve the quality of video games. That's a noble quest indeed!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice ballance betwen theory and practice October 2, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
(First of all, English is not my language... so I will try to write this review the best I can.. sorry for mispellings) I bought this book for my master degree studies and I was surprised with the theoretical analisis mixed with practice... the author get a nice mix of both and made a great analisis of quest's history and theory.
The only thing I don't like too mutch is the design of text that used just a portion of the paper... there is too mutch blank area in this print... but could be nice to someone who likes to make annotations over the text...
The book I've bought was a used one, but the conditions are very good... just like a new one... so... that's it... a good book for those who want to learn more about quests, or who want to design better quests...
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Light on Actual Instruction October 24, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was surprised by the university endorsements for this book (my motivation for buying the book). As a retired university professor, I found two issues with this book that made it a fail. The problem with the type of instruction contained in this book is that if you are not an insider to the information presented (e.g., knowledge of old English found in the 'Faerie Queen,' the toolsets from 'Neverwinter Nights2' or 'Elder Scrolls,' etc.), the lesson is lost, or the learning curve for the peripheral subject matter is counter productive to the learning of the subject at hand (i.e., designing a quest system for games). Students have more than one class and need more accessible resources than this book suggests or provides. It does provide an instructor with a path for mapping out a semester course in game design, but the book does not deserve high ratings.
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