The Postmodern Joy of Role-Playing Games

Agency, Ritual and Meaning in the Medium


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About the Book

Historian Johan Huizinga once described game playing as the motor of humanity’s cultural development, predating art and literature. Since the late 20th century, Western society has undergone a “ludification,” as the influence of game-playing has grown ever more prevalent. At the same time, new theories of postmodernism have emphasized the importance of interactive, playful behavior.
Core concepts of postmodernism are evident in pen-and-paper role-playing, such as Dungeons and Dragons. Exploring the interrelationships among narrative, gameplay, players and society, the author raises questions regarding authority, agency and responsibility, and discusses the social potential of RPGs in the 21st century. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

René Reinhold Schallegger is an associated professor for British-, Canadian-, and game studies at the University of Klagenfurt (Austria).

Series editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell teaches American studies, anthropology, and writing at Pace University in New York.

Bibliographic Details

René Reinhold Schallegger

Series Editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 258
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6493-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3146-2
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Studies in Gaming

Table of Contents

Preface: Joyful Games of ­Meaning-Making 1
1 The Power of Words: Postmodernism in a Nutshell 11
2 Homo Ludens: Theories of Play and Games 45
3 Of Dice and (Wo)Men: What Are ­Role-Playing Games? 69
4 Generations: The Origins and Development of RPGs 104
5 Constructing Understanding: RPG Theory 141
6 Metalanguage: Critical Literature on RPGs 164
7 Reframing: Alternative Theoretical Perspectives 181
Conclusion: Making Connections 215
Abbreviations Used 233
Chapter Notes 235
Bibliography 238
Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title
  • “In this groundbreaking study, Schallegger argues that critical and scholarly study of role-playing games (RPGs) reveals crucial insights about how collaborative participation in storytelling contributes to cultural progress…. required reading…essential”—Choice
  • “Pulls out key concepts of postmodernism as well as basic stories of play and games and maps them against tabletop roleplaying…I could easily see this being used as a highly serviceable text”—The Green Man Review