The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art
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Many of todays hottest selling games--both non-electronic and electronic--focus on such elements as shooting up as many bad guys as one can (Duke Nukem), beating the toughest level (Mortal Kombat), collecting all the cards (Pokmon), and scoring the most points (Tetris). Fantasy role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Rolemaster, GURPS), while they may involve some of those aforementioned elements, rarely focus on them. Instead, playing a fantasy role-playing game is much like acting out a scene from a play, movie or book, only without a predefined script. Players take on such roles as wise wizards, noble knights, roguish sellswords, crafty hobbits, greedy dwarves, and anything else one can imagine and the referee allows. The players dont exactly compete; instead, they interact with each other and with the fantasy setting. The game is played orally with no game board, and although the referee usually has a Performance is a major part of role-playing, and role-playing games as a performing art is the subject of this book, which attempts to introduce an appreciation for the performance aesthetics of such games. The author provides the framework for a critical model useful in understanding the art--especially in terms of aesthetics--of role-playing games. The book also serves as a contribution to the beginnings of a body of criticism, theory, and aesthetics analysis of a mostly unrecognized and newly developing art form. There are four parts: the cultural structure, the extent to which the game relates to outside cultural elements; the formal structure, or the rules of the game; the social structure, which encompasses the degree and quality of social interaction among players; and theaesthetic structure, concerned with the emergence of role-playing as an art form.
performing a character, a player will often suggest his character’s actions through gestures and facial expressions. A player may also assume an accent or add a distinctive lilt to his voice, which can serve to distinguish when the player is speaking in-character from when he speaks out-of-character.The effect of this exchange is the collective creation of a story through the mutual play of all participants: [This is a] “what if” with rules.... In turn, the players are responsible for deciding
grotesque:“The essential principle of grotesque realism is degradation”(1965:205).Bakhtin elaborated that “degradation here means coming down to earth, the contact with earth as an element that swallows up and gives birth at the same time. To degrade is to bury, to sow, and to kill simultaneously, in order to bring forth something more and better” (1965:206). That something “more and better,”born of the repression of a›ective human qualities in the game-mechanics nature of convention
The audience-performer separation that Schechner identifies as necessary for the aesthetic performance (1988:138) is not absent in the conflation of roles of the role-playing game. Rather, it merely occurs at di›erent times. The participant playing the character is the performer, while the player after the fact, or even during the event within a downkeyed frame,is his own spectator.I have already covered the frame switching in which the players play both a spectator and a commentator role in
the British military attributed the tactical savvy of Prussian soldiers to the game. Following the Franco-Prussian War, the British developed their own version of Kriegspiel to train their soldiers. Thus began a tradition in officer training that continues to this day. This first war game, Kriegspiel, simulated miniature battle terrain. In this game, opposing players strategically arranged counters—representing various troop formations—while an impartial umpire determined the outcome of mock
particular being the most frequent frame of game play. Other spheres, the gamemaster’s constative frame of the theater sphere in particular, are underrepresented. Online role-playing game—The online role-playing game (MUDs, MUSHs, etc.), originally developed in ¡980, has grown considerably in popularity. Also dealt with in this book, the online role-playing game spends most of its time in the theater sphere, with the constative frame being the most frequent frame of game play. Play-by-mail