I'm starting to settle on a list of lecture and discussion topics for the RPG course.
Here's some of the introductory material followed by a list of topics I hope to address. As you can see, I try to create titles that will help encourage attendance :) I also try to link keywords from the readings into the lecture titles.
This course focuses on tabletop role-playing games, specifically Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). We will approach the course from the dual perspective of cultural history and cultural studies. In addition to the critical analysis of academic research on RPGs, we will review popular material (texts and films), video-conference with gamers and authors, and conduct tutorials of RPG play and basic game design.
Although its antecedents have a much longer history, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson first published the game in the early 1970s. Over the last 40 years, D&D has given rise to the RPG industry, been revised into several editions, withstood a moral panic in the 1980s, the advent of computer RPGs in the 1990s, and the creation of massively multi-player online games in the 2000s.
What makes this game unique? Why do people continue to play this “strange” game with nothing other than with paper, pencils, their imagination, and oddly-shaped dice?
The majority of gamers play RPGs for social reasons. They play for group interaction and affiliation, and enjoy the cooperative style of play the game engenders. Some use RPGs to escape from an increasingly fast-paced modern existence – and to break their sense of the everyday. Set within a hyper-mobile, technology-based society, they express an anti-modern sentiment by eschewing computer games and consoles in favour of face-to-face human interaction. We will examine these questions, and many others, through an analysis of academic and popular sources, as well as experiential learning.
I approach this subject from the perspective of what American fandom scholar Henry Jenkins calls the “Aca-Fan” – an academic who identifies as a fan (or in this case, gamer). I have played D&D since the early 1980s, attended gaming conventions, and participate in online fandom. My academic background, alongside my familiarity with this gamer subculture, allows me to bring a unique perspective to this course.
1. Course Introduction: What is an RPG?
2. Out of the Basement: Where Did D&D Come From?
3. Early Research on RPGs: Fantasy Games as Social Worlds
4. Satan’s Game?: Moral Panic and D&D in the 1980s
5. Liminality and the (Invisible) Rules and Roles of RPGs
6. Quantifying (and Colonizing) the Imagination: Governmentality and RPGs
7. RPG Gamers: Fandom, Fanzines, and Fan Communities
8. RPGS: Women, Animals, and the Environment
9. Why RPGs?: The Heroic Life, De Certeau, and the Everyday
10. Back to the Future: D&D and the Old School Renaissance
There you have it. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.