The Role-Playing Society

Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs


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About the Book

Since the release of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, role-playing games (RPGs) have spawned a vibrant industry and subculture whose characteristics and player experiences have been well explored. Yet little attention has been devoted to the ways RPGs have shaped society at large over the last four decades.

Role-playing games influenced video game design, have been widely represented in film, television and other media, and have made their mark on education, social media, corporate training and the military.

This collection of new essays illustrates the broad appeal and impact of RPGs. Topics range from a critical reexamination of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, to the growing significance of RPGs in education, to the potential for “serious” RPGs to provoke awareness and social change. The contributors discuss the myriad subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways in which the values, concepts and mechanics of RPGs have infiltrated popular culture.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Byers is a visiting assistant professor of history at Duke University. His research interests include popular culture, biopolitics, and the history of geek culture. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Francesco Crocco is the associate director of the online writing lab at Excelsior College. His research interests include game-based learning, gamification, and utopian studies. He lives in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Andrew Byers and Francesco Crocco

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 320
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9883-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2348-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Part I. The Player’s Guide: The Psychological and Cultural Impact of a Game Genre
The Satanic Panic and Dungeons & Dragons: A ­Twenty-Five-Year Retrospective (Andrew Byers) 22
Psychological Effects of Fantasy Games on Their Players: A ­Discourse-Based Look at the Evidence (Andreas Lieberoth and Jonas ­Trier-Knudsen) 46
Building the Culture of Contingency: Adaptive Choice in Ludic Literature from ­Role-Playing Games to Choose Your Own Adventure Books (Tim Bryant) 72
Part II. The Tome of Knowledge: Playing to Learn in and across the Disciplines
Raiding the Last Frontier: Overcoming the Language Barrier in the ESL Classroom (Timm Woods) 98
“Do you want to be Dr. Frankenstein or Edna Pontellier?”: How Getting into Character Enhances Literary Studies (Jonathan M. Bradley) 122
Playing Between the Lines: Promoting Interdisciplinary Studies with Virtual Worlds (Reneta D. Lansiquot, Candido Cabo and Tamrah D. Cunningham) 143
Part III. The Book of Change: Enacting Social Transformations
Teacher as Dungeon Master: Connected Learning, Democratic Classrooms, and Rolling for Initiative (Antero Garcia) 164
Playing for Change: FreeMarket and the Rise of Serious Tabletop ­Role-Playing Games (Troy Leaman) 184
Leveling Influence: Klout and the Introduction of Social Leveling (Joseph B. Meyer) 208
Part IV. The Manual of Play: Seeding New Avenues of Gaming
Shapers, Portals and Exotic Matter: Living Fiction and Augmented Reality in Google’s Ingress (Kai-Uwe Werbeck) 234
Descent to Munchkin: From ­Pen-and-Paper to Board and Card (Cathlena Martin and Benton Tyler) 256
The RPG Classroom: ­Re-Purposing Game Mechanics for the Gamification of Education (Francesco Crocco) 278
About the Contributors 303
Index 307

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Byers and Crocco have put together a volume that both moves the field of RPG studies forward and increases its value to scholars of American culture.”—The Journal of American Culture
  • “Engaging and easy to read”—Analog Game Studies
  • “Examines how role-playing games, and especially Dungeons & Dragons since its introduction in 1974, have changed or affected individuals behaviors, lifestyles, educational growth and more…some of the articles, especially ones focusing on education, have significant ideas to impart and make for fascinating reading”—Bookgasm
  • “Examines the impact role-playing games (RPGs) on society”—ProtoView