RPP-000: RPG Theory Bibliography

Roleplaying Philosophy Series:

There has been a recent surge of interest in the study of Roleplaying Games as an academic subject.  I have also seen quite a few questions arise that are rooted in defining quintessential elements of Roleplaying Games.  For the faithful zealots that follow the Labs (are there any?), it is well established that I have a great interest in the theory behind my beloved hobby.

This entry in the Roleplaying Philosophy series is a bibliography of sources I have come across during my research.  I do not claim to agree with any of the mentioned resources, nor do I even vouch that they have well constructed arguments or accurate observations.  However, for the seriously interested, I recommend reading as much prior study as possible.  To know where we are going we should probably know where we have been.

New Blood: The IJRP

One of the recent publications that have graced several blogs of note is the International Journal of Role-Playing, which was released on December 30th of 2008.  The IJRP is definitely distinguishing itself by offering collegiate level essays.  The aim and scope as defined by the IJRP follows:

The aim of The International Journal of Role-Playing is to act as a hybrid knowledge network, and bring together the varied interests in role-playing and the associated knowledge networks, e.g. academic research, the games and creative industries, the arts and the strong role-playing communities.

Edwardian Theory

Another journal style approach can be seen with Push: New Thinking about Roleplaying.  I was hesitant to even read it at first because it looked like it was heavily influenced by Ron Edwards‘ GNS model.  Still, it provides some food for thought and is probably one of the better things to be spawned from that cesspool.

And there are also the Oracle Essays from RPG.net.  These are the surviving copies of some of the original essays written on the subject that appeared in now defunct magazines.  You can find a handful of articles written by Robin Laws, Greg Costikyan, and Chris Pramas there.

Then of course, there is the infamous The Forge.  Though not a publication, and currently closed to new threads and comments, the archive of the RPG Theory, GNS Model, and Game Design forums are still there to read.  These forums are strongly influenced by Ron Edward’s System Does Matter, Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist, and Big Model theories.

Nordic Meeting Points

The annual Knutepunkt conference, first held in 1997, is the bastion of Scandinavian (Nordic) Live Action Roleplay.  Event hosting alternates between the nations of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.  Every year since 2003 (along with a booklet in 2001) Knutepunkt/Solmukohta releases a collection of essays presented at the convention.

2003: As LARP Grows Up
2004: Beyond Role & Play
2005: Dissecting LARP
2006: Role, Play, Art
2007: Lifelike
2008: Playground Worlds

The Scandinavian stuff is focused primarily on LARP (which is far difference from American style LARPs), but I think many of the ideas can be applied at the table where theatrics and roleplay are concerned.  If you would like to read more on LARP, I suggest looking through the Journal of Interactive Drama and these university papers: LARP Environments as Information Systems and MIT’s Tensions in LARP.

Spinning Theory on the Web

Though it is found in the lonely corners of the web, there is much RPG Theory that exist right here on the internet, sneaking around in hypertext.  Of course, there are my articles right here at the Labs on Roleplaying Philosophy.  Brian Gleichman from Whitehall ParaIndustries, while a new-comer to the blogosphere, is an old hat in the realm of RPG Theory and has many excellent posts on the subject.

Wikipedia has a short entry on RPG Theory, too bad it doesn’t link to full treatises on the theories it mentions.  Perhaps the final resting place of the Threefold Theory and much of the early, flame ridden, debates about theory is the Google Group for Rec.Games.FRP.Advocacy.  There are probably a few gems of theory in there if you can stomach searching through all the junk.

There are a few websites that collect some of the homeless theory out there.  John Kim’s website has various collections of older material and links to offsite resources (though many are now broken).  RPGStudies.net has an excellent bibliography of publications, dissertations, essays, and case studies for research.

Interdisciplinary Papers

With various overlapping genres, there is no doubt that theory will apply across different categories.  GameStudies.org, a computer game research journal, published a paper on pen & paper RPGs and rules while this essay looks at connecting ritual acts with roleplaying.  The Daedalus Project has nice collection of works focusing on the psychology of MMORPGs.  The Questing GM even looked at how RPGs could be an academic study, and it is interesting to see how RPGs can actually require a strong foundation in the liberal arts.

Moldy Tomes

There are a number of books that explore heavier subjects surrounding RPGs, and it would take a month of proper researching to find any worth looking at, but I am going to present the few I have encountered, sans description.  A warning, many of these books focus on video games, but I think we can still take a lot from their approach and even from what they have to say:

Future Research

I think my future research will include a trip to the alma mater to look through the university’s database of journals and periodicals.  But until I can set aside some time to sit in the library, Google has a new search engine called Google Scholar that might be of use.  Sometime in the near future I want to compile this into a downloadable document that just lists the links and names of the resources.

If you have some interesting theory floating around on your blog or know some that I missed, please place it in a comment!

Listening to: Dethklok – The Dethalbum – Bloodtrocuted

9 thoughts on “RPP-000: RPG Theory Bibliography

  1. @Questing GM: Yeah, there is some stuff sitting on my desktop from this list begging to be read… but I haven’t had a lot of time, so I can sympathize!

    @Jonathan: *pout* I never signed up to be an affiliate! I guess I should do that sometime.

    EDIT: Muwhahaha, now I am an affiliate! Thanks Jonathan, for giving me some incentive!

  2. 1. I think your depiction of RPG.Net is quite mistaken, historically. Indie Games, and especially the later-titled “Story Games” have often been divorced from Ron Edwards, especially on RPG.net, where people tend to be quite contradictory.

    2. Several people who are in Push were not as Forge-supportive as it may seem. Though I do think that in the end most of them were members of RPG.Net, and later on, Story-Games(.com).

    Guy Shalev’s last blog post..Competitive Games and Handicaps.

  3. @Guy: Perhaps I was a bit harsh, but that is the perception I had from the few times I visited RPG.net… I’ve edited to not be so harsh.

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