rpg studies, on/off

Our lab will soon put out a call for a seminar in RPG studies (taking place in March 2006 over here), and tonight I again came across this CAR-PGa list of RPG studies. It is curious how disconnected the RPG studies field actually is. There is the English language newsgroup discussion which led to the three-way model. There is the interactive drama stuff (e.g. these pages by Brian David Phillips). There is the Scandinavian larp theory, put forward in the Knutepunkt/Solmukohta conventions and related book projects. And there must be so many other subfields out there. You might do well by following things like Markus Montola’s reading diary.

Much is being hidden/revealed through the craft of table-top RPG game masters, or digital RPG designers (or online world designers & producers). This evening I also watched (well, mostly only listened) through the GDCTV recording of Bioware’s Greg Zeschuk giving presentation “Storytelling Across Genres“, captured during this spring’s GDC. Nice points about character creation, the (artificial character) “uncanny valley” and many other different fascinating issues. Also some interesting Jade Empire demos. But as a player principally educated among various table-top RPGs, I keep thinking whether interacting with a computer-driven NPC is actually phenomenologally same thing as “role-playing” in the sense I understand it. When it is a simulated conversation agent, or “robot”, this fact always somehow affects the suspension of disbelief, and downplays the “role-playing” part (“What can these people come up with together?”), while emphasising the systemic aspect (“How can I solve this puzzle, which is offered to me in the form of “dialogue”, or “story?”). But, that said, many of these character or story-driven games are immensely enjoyable, and I respect the effort. RPGs, after all, are so much more my cup of tea than a typical FPS, for example.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

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