Dungeons, Dragons, & Digital Denizens

If you’re immersed in game studies long enough—or just interested in videogames in general—you’re bound to pick up certain acronyms. FPS. RTS. MMO (or, if you’ve really been around long enough, MOO or MUD). And RPG, the abbreviation for role-playing game. In consideration of the quotation above, just what does the RPG have to offer us in terms of thinking about contemporary living? The answer may be a negative one; on the one side, the RPG has its roots in Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy stories, and those roots in turn lead to J. R. R. Tolkien, who famously declared that the use of fantasy was escapism. And on the other side of the Dungeons and Dragons relation, you have statistics and numbers, which lead to horror stories of obsessive grinding and wasteful time commitments. In their anthology on RPGs, Dungeons, Dragons, and Digital Denizens: The Digital Role-Playing Game, editors Gerald A. Voorhees, Joshua Call, and Katie Whitlock provide no definitive answers, and, indeed, any definitive answers for such a complex question should be suspect. What the book offers instead is three sections, sixteen chapters, some four hundred pages on how games commonly labeled as RPG are “designed, played, and made relevant to contemporary society and culture” (18). And while the book tends to dwell on particular areas of the RPG catalog more than others, the quality of the essays make it worth reading for anyone working on a game that fits under the RPG umbrella—and their variety offer several very interesting yet very different potential answers to our question. Continue Reading