An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
Author: Ethan Gilsdorf
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Category: Social Science
An amazing journey through the thriving worlds of fantasy and gaming What could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world? In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes. For those who have not, it will educate and enlighten.” —Wired.com “Gandalf's got nothing on Ethan Gilsdorf, except for maybe the monster white beard. In his new book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf . . . offers an epic quest for reality within a realm of magic.” —Boston Globe “Imagine this: Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac's On the Road.” —National Public Radio's “Around and About” “What does it mean to be a geek? . . . Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks tackles that question with strength and dexterity. . . . part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky . . . playful . . . funny and poignant. . . . It's a fun ride and it poses a question that goes to the very heart of fantasy, namely: What does the urge to become someone else tell us about ourselves?” —Huffington Post
What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds
Author: Joseph Laycock
Publisher: Univ of California Press
The 1980s saw the peak of a moral panic over fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. A coalition of moral entrepreneurs that included representatives from the Christian Right, the field of psychology, and law enforcement claimed that these games were not only psychologically dangerous but an occult religion masquerading as a game. Dangerous Games explores both the history and the sociological significance of this panic. Fantasy role-playing games do share several functions in common with religion. However, religion—as a socially constructed world of shared meaning—can also be compared to a fantasy role-playing game. In fact, the claims of the moral entrepreneurs, in which they presented themselves as heroes battling a dark conspiracy, often resembled the very games of imagination they condemned as evil. By attacking the imagination, they preserved the taken-for-granted status of their own socially constructed reality. Interpreted in this way, the panic over fantasy-role playing games yields new insights about how humans play and together construct and maintain meaningful worlds. Laycock’s clear and accessible writing ensures that Dangerous Games will be required reading for those with an interest in religion, popular culture, and social behavior, both in the classroom and beyond.
Role-playing games seemed to appear of nowhere in the early 1970s and have been a quiet but steady presence in American culture ever since. This new look at the hobby searches for the historical origins of role-playing games deep in the imaginative worlds of Western culture. It looks at the earliest fantasy stories from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the fans--both readers and writers--who wanted to bring them to life, at the Midwestern landscape and the middle-class households that were the hobby's birthplace, and at the struggle to find meaning and identity amidst cultural conflicts that drove many people into these communities of play. This book also addresses race, religion, gender, fandom, and the place these games have within American capitalism. All the paths of this journey are connected by the very quality that has made fantasy role-playing so powerful: it binds the limitless imagination into a "strict" framework of rules. Far from being an accidental offshoot of marginalized fan communities, role-playing games' ability to hold contradictions in dynamic, creative tension made them a necessary and central product of the twentieth century.
This handbook collects, for the first time, the state of research on role-playing games (RPGs) across disciplines, cultures, and media in a single, accessible volume. Collaboratively authored by more than 50 key scholars, it traces the history of RPGs, from wargaming precursors to tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons to the rise of live action role-play and contemporary computer RPG and massively multiplayer online RPG franchises, like Fallout and World of Warcraft. Individual chapters survey the perspectives, concepts, and findings on RPGs from key disciplines, like performance studies, sociology, psychology, education, economics, game design, literary studies, and more. Other chapters integrate insights from RPG studies around broadly significant topics, like transmedia worldbuilding, immersion, transgressive play, or player–character relations. Each chapter includes definitions of key terms and recommended readings to help fans, students, and scholars new to RPG studies find their way into this new interdisciplinary field.
Since the release of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, role-playing games (RPGs) have spawned a vibrant industry and subculture whose origins, characteristics, cultures and player experiences have been well explored. Yet there has been little attention devoted to the meaningful ways RPGs have shaped society at large over the last four decades. RPGs were influential on video game design and have been widely represented in film, television and other media. They have made their mark on other areas of society, as well, including 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.
Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games. Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games. It offers original essays on key concepts in game studies, arranged as in a lexicon—from “Amusement Arcade” to “Embodiment” and “Game Art” to “Simulation” and “World Building.” Written by scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including game development, curatorship, media archaeology, cultural studies, and technology studies, the essays offer a series of distinctive critical “takes” on historical topics. The majority of essays look at game history from the outside in; some take deep dives into the histories of play and simulation to provide context for the development of electronic and digital games; others take on such technological components of games as code and audio. Not all essays are history or historical etymology—there is an analysis of game design, and a discussion of intellectual property—but they nonetheless raise questions for historians to consider. Taken together, the essays offer a foundation for the emerging study of game history. Contributors Marcelo Aranda, Brooke Belisle, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Stephanie Boluk, Jennifer deWinter, J. P. Dyson, Kate Edwards, Mary Flanagan, Jacob Gaboury, William Gibbons, Raiford Guins, Erkki Huhtamo, Don Ihde, Jon Ippolito, Katherine Isbister, Mikael Jakobsson, Steven E. Jones, Jesper Juul, Eric Kaltman, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Carly A. Kocurek, Peter Krapp, Patrick LeMieux, Henry Lowood, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ken S. McAllister, Nick Monfort, David Myers, James Newman, Jenna Ng, Michael Nitsche, Laine Nooney, Hector Postigo, Jas Purewal, Reneé H. Reynolds, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Marie-Laure Ryan, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Anastasia Salter, Mark Sample, Bobby Schweizer, John Sharp, Miguel Sicart, Rebecca Elisabeth Skinner, Melanie Swalwell, David Thomas, Samuel Tobin, Emma Witkowski, Mark J.P. Wolf
This book provides an introduction to the Forge, an online discussion site for tabletop role-playing game (TRPG) design, play, and publication that was active during the first years of the twenty-first century and which served as an important locus for experimentation in game design and production during that time. Aimed at game studies scholars, for whom the ideas formulated at or popularized by the Forge are of key interest, the book also attempts to provide an accessible account of the growth and development of the Forge as a site of participatory culture. It situates the Forge within the broader context of TRPG discourse, and connects “Forge theory” to the academic investigation of role-playing.
From fantasy and sci-fi to graphic novels, from boy scouts to board games, from blockbuster films to the cult of theatre, Shakespeare is everywhere in popular culture. Where there is popular culture there are fans and nerds and geeks. The essays in this collection on Shakespeare and Geek Culture take an innovative approach to the study of Shakespeare's cultural presences, situating his works, his image and his brand to locate and explore the nature of that geekiness that, the authors argue, is a vital but unrecognized feature of the world of those who enjoy and are obsessed by Shakespeare, whether they are scholars, film fans, theatre-goers or members of legions of other groupings in which Shakespeare plays his part. Working at the intersections of a wide range of fields – including fan studies and film analysis, cultural studies and fantasy/sci-fi theory – the authors demonstrate how the particularities of the connection between Shakespeare and geek culture generate new insights into the plays, poems and their larger cultural legacy in the 21st century.
Braving the Fire is the first book to provide a road map for the journey of writing honestly about mourning, grief and loss. Created specifically by and for the writer who has experienced illness, loss, or the death of a loved one, Braving the Fire takes the writers' perspective in exploring the challenges and rewards for the writer who has chosen, with courage and candor, to be the memory keeper. It will be useful to the memoirist just starting out, as well as those already in the throes of coming to terms with complicated emotions and the challenges of shaping a compelling, coherent true story. Loosely organized around the familiar Kübler-Ross model of Five Stages of Grief, Braving the Fire uses these stages to help the reader and writer though the emotional healing and writing tasks before them, incorporating interviews and excerpts from other treasured writers who've done the same. Insightful contributions from Nick Flynn, Darin Strauss, Kathryn Rhett, Natasha Trethewey, and Neil White, among others, are skillfully bended with Handler's own approaches to facing grief a second time to be able to write about it. Each section also includes advice and wisdom from leading doctors and therapists about the physical experience of grieving. Handler is a compassionate guide who has braved the fire herself, and delivers practical and inspirational direction throughout.
The study of online gaming is changing. It is no longer enough to analyse one type of online community in order to understand the plethora of players who take part in online worlds and the behaviours they exhibit. MacCallum-Stewart studies the different ways in which online games create social environments and how players choose to interpret these. These games vary from the immensely popular social networking games on Facebook such as Farmville to Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games to "Free to Play" online gaming and console communities such as players of Xbox Live and PS3 games. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of social gaming online, breaking down when games are social and what narrative devices make them so. This cross-disciplinary study will appeal to those interested in cyberculture, the evolution of gaming technology, and sociologies of media.
Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Modern Fantastic
Author: Curtis D. Carbonell
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Games & Activities
Dread Trident examines the rise of imaginary worlds in tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs), such as Dungeons and Dragons. With the combination of analog and digital mechanisms, from traditional books to the internet, new ways of engaging the fantastic have become increasingly realized in recent years, and this book seeks an understanding of this phenomenon within the discourses of trans- and posthumanism, as well as within a gameist mode. The book explores a number of case studies of foundational TRPGs. Dungeons and Dragons provides an illustration of pulp-driven fantasy, particularly in the way it harmonizes its many campaign settings into a functional multiverse. It also acts as a supreme example of depth within its archive of official and unofficial published material, stretching back four decades. Warhammer 40k and the Worlds of Darkness present an interesting dialogue between Gothic and science-fantasy elements. The Mythos of HP Lovecraft also features prominently in the book as an example of a realized world that spans the literary and gameist modes. Realized fantasy worlds are becoming ever more popular as a way of experiencing a touch of the magical within modern life. Reworking Northrop Frye's definition of irony, Dread Trident theorizes an ironic understanding of this process and in particular of its embodied forms.
It is estimated that 97 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 play video games. And often these games are played online, allowing for interaction with gamers from across the globe. But this comes with a downside when cyberbullying and hacking come into play. This guide to safe online gaming is a valuable resource for any teen gamer, as well as his or her parents. Written by a gaming blogger and longtime game enthusiast, it covers all of the bases of gaming safety.
Essays on the Intersection of Religion and Pop Culture
Author: Carole M. Cusack,
To the casual observer, similarities between fan communities and religious believers are difficult to find. Religion is traditional, institutional, and serious; whereas fandom is contemporary, individualistic, and fun. Can the robes of nuns and priests be compared to cosplay outfits of Jedi Knights and anime characters? Can travelling to fan conventions be understood as pilgrimages to the shrines of saints? These new essays investigate fan activities connected to books, film, and online games, such as Harry Potter-themed weddings, using The Hobbit as a sacred text, and taking on heroic roles in World of Warcraft. Young Muslim women cosplayers are brought into conversation with Chaos magicians who use pop culture tropes and characters. A range of canonical texts, such as Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sherlock—are examined in terms of the pleasure and enchantment of repeated viewing. Popular culture is revealed to be a fertile source of religious and spiritual creativity in the contemporary world.
Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality
Author: Michael Saler
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Literary Criticism
Many people throughout the world "inhabit" imaginary worlds communally and persistently, parsing Harry Potter and exploring online universes. These activities might seem irresponsibly escapist, but history tells another story. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, when Sherlock Holmes became the world's first "virtual reality" character, readers began to colonize imaginary worlds, debating serious issues and viewing reality in provisional, "as if" terms rather than through essentialist, "just so" perspectives. From Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and Tolkien's Middle-earth to the World of Warcraft and Second Life, As If provides a cultural history that reveals how we can remain enchanted but not deluded in an age where fantasy and reality increasingly intertwine.
The Presentation of Self in Contemporary Social Life covers the popular theories of Erving Goffman, and shows modern applications of dramaturgical analysis in a wide range of social contexts. David Shulman’s innovative new text demonstrates how Goffman’s ideas, first introduced in 1959, continue to inspire research into how we manage the impressions that others form about us. He synthesizes the work of contemporary scholars who use dramaturgical approaches from several disciplines, who recognize that many values, social norms, and laws have changed since Goffman’s time, and that contemporary society offers significant new forms of impression management that we can engage in and experience. After a general introduction to dramaturgical sociology, readers will see many examples of how Goffman’s ideas can provide powerful insights into familiar aspects of contemporary life, including business and the workplace, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and the digital world.
Magic, Monsters, and Make-Believe Heroes looks at fantasy film, television, and participative culture as evidence of our ongoing need for a mythic vision—for stories larger than ourselves into which we write ourselves and through which we can become the heroes of our own story. Why do we tell and retell the same stories over and over when we know they can’t possibly be true? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because pop culture has run out of good ideas. Rather, it is precisely because these stories are so fantastic, some resonating so deeply that we elevate them to the status of religion. Illuminating everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dungeons and Dragons, and from Drunken Master to Mad Max, Douglas E. Cowan offers a modern manifesto for why and how mythology remains a vital force today.
The World of Harry Potter-Inspired "Wizard Rock" and Its Fandom
Author: Paul A. Thomas
“Wizard rock”—music based on the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling—is an idiosyncratic subgenre, with band names like Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys and The Whomping Willows. Drawing on input from insiders and fans, and interviews with more than a dozen wizard rockers, this book explores the history and aesthetics of the movement. An appendix lists dozens of popular bands, members and discographies: a must-have for fandom scholars and wizard rock devotees alike.
Canon, Conservatism, and Fan Reception of Star Wars
Author: Ken Derry
Publisher: Wipf and Stock Publishers
Category: Performing Arts
The trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens made a strong impression on fans. Many were excited by what they saw as a return to the spirit of George Lucas’s 1977 creation. Others—including several white supremacy groups—were upset and offended by key differences, most notably the shift away from a blond, blue-eyed, male protagonist. When the film was finally released, reactions similarly seemed to hinge on whether or not The Force Awakens renewed the “mythic” aspects of the original trilogy in ways that fans approved of. The Myth Awakens examines the religious implications of this phenomenon, considering the ways in which myth can function to reinforce “traditional” social and political values. In their analyses the authors of this book reflect on fan responses in relation to various elements of (and changes to) the Star Wars canon—including toys, video games, and novels, as well as several of the films. They do so using a variety of critical tools, drawing from studies of gender, race, psychology, politics, authority, music, ritual, and memory.
Explores the latest beliefs about why people tell stories and what stories reveal about human nature, offering insights into such related topics as universal themes and what it means to have a storytelling brain.
Something big is happening. Virtual Reality is not only becoming the driving wheel of the new world economy, it is building a new cultural order. The "Age of Virtual Reality" is in its infancy, yet we already live in a virtual world. Through video games, iPods, iPhones, online social networking, and movies, we are migrating toward ""virtual space."" We must understand this moment in history. Through provoked discoveries, engaging artistic journeys, and creative dialogues with the "language" of virtual reality, this book explores both the pre-digital history of VR and its sobering-yet inspiring-future. Readers will learn to test, discern, and ground the ""evidence"" of their experience. In "The Age of Virtual Reality," they will discover where we're going by confronting where VR is going. More important, they will engage the skills necessary to participate constructively and creatively in an increasingly ""virtual"" world-a world that demands their participation. They will be stunned beyond disbelief.