I picked this book up a little while ago, partly intrigued by the fact that the writer lives here in my little town. I finally starting reading it today being a little under the weather and having some extra time... From the back cover:
"Performance is a major part of fantasy role-playing games, and this book is about role-playing as a performance art. This work introduces an appreciation for the performance aesthetics of such games, and it 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 games relates to the 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 the aesthetic structure, concerned with the emergence of role-playing as an art form."
Very academic, but I do find this type of take on RPGs interesting - I've briefly mentioned here before (blog name change since) how role playing is very much like improvisational theatre, and how it reminds me of an exquisite corpse, provoking a short discussion on a Canon Puncture podcast. I'm sure there are players that might find academics describing them as artists or actors to be silly or even somehow find such remarks offensive (hey, we're just playing our favorite game here!), but I think there's a lot of insight that can be gained from stepping back a bit and framing things in this manner, that may actually enhance our game experience.
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