I'm always wary of collections of essays, if only because the quality of writing can be so uneven. First Person takes the many dissonant voices of its collected authors and goes one step further, allowing them to disagree with each other in a running commentary along the bottom of each page.
First Person starts out very promising, beginning with Janet Murray on cyberdrama and Espen Aarseth's ergodic literature. The lovefest is interrupted by Markku Eskelinen who, contrasting the earlier authors, seems particularly cranky about the whole field. Eskelinen then becomes the nemesis for much of the rest of the book as different authors obliquely and directly take him on. If there's one consistent theme throughout First Person, it's that there's a lot of passive-aggressive hostility between scholars.
Unfortunately, First Person suffers from several problems. Some of the academics use jargon that only other game scholars would understand. On display in First Person is a battle of survival for the various authors, who are attempting to invent new words to describe what may or may not be a new medium. As a result, each essay disagrees with the next on how to describe key concepts. This makes reading First Person a challenge. Some authors seem dead-set on not being comprehensible except by other experts in their field, which makes their inclusion painful to read.
The responses, which could provide a really interesting point and counterpoint, are often snide brush-offs that amount to, "that's not what I said," or "we agree." That's nice, but it doesn't make for compelling reading and certainly doesn't justify the space these counterpoints take up in the book. I found the division between lower and upper portions of the book difficult to follow.
The essays vary in their relevance and scholarship. Sack's discussion of large-scale conversations is prescient of social networks; Vesna and Juul's discussion of game time are revelatory in how we approach any form of fun; Montfort's discussion of interactive fiction neatly sums up the entire gaming medium. Other essays read like published dissertations. And some essays, like Walker's review of Online Caroline, are entertaining but contribute little to game theory.
In short, First Person is promising but wildly uneven. It feels like a web project that should have stayed online.