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Academic persona and fantasy character aren’t so different, says English professor

Chris LeCluyse, English professor and director of the Writing Center, speaks with The Forum in his office on Jan. 22. LeCluyse says a writing consultant is comparable to a Dungeon Master. (Gwendelyn Salazar)

The student is the character. The consultant is the dungeon master. The piece of writing is the campaign. Together they make Dungeons and Dragons—or a trip to the Writing Center.

Christopher LeCluyse, the director of the Westminster Writing Center, said students develop academic personas, particularly in their writing. When students get a consultation at a writing center, the consultant serves as a Dungeon Master and helps guide the character through a project.  

LeCluyse recently wrote an article called “The Writing Consultation as a Fantasy Role Playing Game” about the similarities between a good Dungeons and Dragons campaign and a well-run writing center. LeCluyse submitted his piece to a book collection on game studies approaches to writing center work.

Dani Almansouri, the assistant director of the Writing Center, said she understands how the student could be seen as a character, with a writing consultant as their Dungeon Master. 

“We focus on the argument and the way you’re organizing your ideas, so that’s one way we build this world,” she said. “We help them build as a character by helping them gain confidence in themselves and as a student.”  

LeCluyse also teaches a May Term class about role-playing games. William Harvey, an economics and philosophy major, said students in his class used their characters to explore.

“I think most people, when first getting into the hobby, play a character that is similar or idealized to who they are as a person,” Harvey said. “As time goes on, they may choose to explore different kinds of characters. One of my players chose to play a deeply religious character despite being an atheist. That wasn’t uncommon. We actively chose to try to act as other people.” 

The Forum sat down with LeCluyse to get to know the director of the Writing Center, figure out what game studies are and understand how the two connect. Answers have been slightly changed for clarity and conciseness. 

Q: What do you do at Westminster?

A: I do a lot of things at Westminster. I’m an English Professor, but I also direct the Writing Center and I’m also the director of the W-Core. As far as teaching, actually most of my teaching is outside of the English program. I’ve taught in Honors, last semester I taught a W-Core class, I teach for the McNair program, a little bit of everything. 

Q: What made you interested in game studies?

A: I grew up playing role-playing games, but I got away from it, got back into it in college, got away from it, and got back into it about five years ago. Three years ago I started offering my May Term Role-Playing Games in Society class. 

Q: What can you learn from studying role-playing games?

A: My class looks specifically at Dungeons and Dragons in a social context on a macro and micro level. We talk about how role-playing involves people informing social groups, what social interactions are involved in role-playing and the logical dimension of how people who are role-playing negotiate different frames of reference. On the macro level, we look at the satanic panic over D&D that happened in the late 70s and early 80s.

Q: What do role-playing games and a writing center have in common?

A: Drawing on the readings I assign for my class I decided to try to apply some of that to my own scholarship. Game studies is a big term, but I’m occupying a little corner of the study: role-playing games. In my article, I talk about the kinds of personas students have to cultivate when they write academically, which are akin to characters in a fantasy role-playing game. On the flip side, the consultant in a writing consultation is playing a role like a dungeon master. They’re helping a student build a world and create a character within it. 

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Gwenna Salazar
Gwenna Salazar is a junior honors student studying communication. She loves to try new things, which has led her to discovering passions in writing, yoga, climbing and consuming media. She hopes to forge a fulfilling career in public relations and media analysis, leaving time on the side for adventures.

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