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This dissertation extols the benefits of collaboration, which is fitting giving that it only came into being through the help and support of many people. First and foremost is my wife, Amy Mueller, who has offered unflagging love and support throughout these many years of study, and whose belief in me often eclipses my own. To say I could not have done it without her is hardly hyperbole. I also must recognize the boundless support I received from both sets parents, Robert and Marsha Hergenrader and Robert and Karen Mueller. I am lucky to have so many people eager and able to help me fulfill my dreams. My two sons, Grey and Anders, provided their own kind of inspiration; without them I would have completed this project more quickly, but it would not have meant nearly as much.

Secondly I wish to thank my committee members, most importantly my adviser, mentor, and friend, Professor Stuart Moulthrop who was always quick to help me shape my fledgling ideas into something so much better. I also must thank Professors Liam Callanan, Peter Sands, and Anne Wysocki for their wisdom and guidance throughout my entire graduate career, and for always encouraging me to push on to the next challenge. I would also like to thank Professor Thomas Malaby for bringing his unique perspective on games and gaming to my project. I feel extremely fortunate to have such a diverse set of brilliant minds on my dissertation committee.

Third, I wish to thank the students enrolled in my “Gaming, World Building, and Narrative” course. They took my theories and gave them life in the shape of Rivertown and its many inhabitants, a place I found so fascinating that it had to be the setting for the creative portion of this dissertation. I doubt I will ever have as an intense and intimate teaching experience as the one we shared that semester as we hurtled from one unknown to the next. So a hearty thanks to Kyle Arpke, Chelsie Barnes, Joshua Barnes, Kent Benson, Juan Cabrera, Amanda Coy, Lindsay Davenport, Ben Delaney, Jordan Eiff, Kelsey Frohna, Tobias Fudge, Kat Grudowski, Derek Hansen, Alisha Hochschild, Mackenzie Johnson, Camrin La Fond, Julianna Lisser, Mike Macans, Adam Perry, Justin Rahm, Shaun Ranft, Joe Schmaling, Mike Schultz, Nick Sikora, and Ashley Sprangers for letting me play in your world for awhile. I’ll never forget it.

Special thanks are also due to my friends and colleagues at UWM who let me bounce my ideas, theories, complaints, and rants off them, especially the members of the 250 Words Dissertator Support Group on Facebook. Without the constant encouragement and joking from Kelly Centrelli, Sarah Etlinger, Ron Felten, Colleen Booker Halverson, Nick Miller, Holly Fulton Osborn, and Sarah Schutze, I still would have finished the dissertation but with far fewer laughs.

Finally, I must give thanks to the literally hundreds of strangers who made significant contributions to the creative dissertation without even realizing it. This work draws heavily from artwork published with Creative Commons licenses from artists listed below; I also relied heavily on the programming expertise shared by members of community sites like Stack Overflow; and I also appreciate the free tools and bits of code I found to help make Calypsis tick. I am particularly indebted to: