DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Forward to the Past: Nostalgia for Handwriting in Scribblenauts and The World Ends with You

I might be able to use this in my “Media and Culture” class next term.

The handwritten word or the hand-drawn line is a material object as well as a sign — as is whimsically demonstrated in the silent cartoon “Comicalamities” (1928), where Otto Messmer draws Felix the Cat in pen, and Felix then starts to behave independently and interact with his creator. By writing with pen and paper, one creates permanent material traces which are as real as the pen and paper. Thus, in Scribblenauts, when the player writes “shovel,” a simulated shovel comes into existence and, within the diegetic world, has at least as much solidity and permanence as the written word “shovel” would in the real world. The game suggests that this simulated object does not merely replace, but is instead identical to, its handwritten name. (By toggling an onscreen icon, the player can tap any object to see its name. When this is done with a player-created object, the game displays the name that was used to create that object, even if it has other possible names.) In Scribblenauts, to write by hand is literally to create objects, and this is presented not as a drastic alteration of the meaning of handwriting but as an unleashing of a magical potential that was always already present in handwriting. — Aaron Kashtan, DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Forward to the Past: Nostalgia for Handwriting in Scribblenauts and The World Ends with You.