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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 61 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Role-playing in academia  (Read 6188 times)
Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« on: October 27, 2005, 01:13:20 AM »

Okay, I have to clear this up a bit: though Frans Mäyrä looks forward to one in Beyond Role and Play foreword, no faculties of role-playing studies exist yet.

But that is not an unpenetrable barrier. There are no MMORPG institutions yet either, and the virtual reality doctors are just popping up from various places. Personally, I'm doing my stuff at cultural studies, and it forces me to consider some things in my work -- like applying also some perspectives from that field. Game studies, computer game studies, performative arts, TV & cinema studies, literature studies, narratology, communication, mathematics, organization, culture... whatever. It all depends on how you are going to study role-playing.

Game researchers had the same issue 10 years ago, where they all studied games from different approaches. They ended up having this ludology movement going, and are quite far in establishing ludology as a separate academic discipline: studying games as games, as opposed to studying games as narratives or whatnot. Of course it has taken them years of work.

I visited Vancouver last summer, and immediately we ended up having informal talks about putting up a special interest group for role-playing studies within the international Digital Games Research Association. When we get that SIG up, it's a step again. The seminar on role-playing we are throwing is a small step, but yet another.

Role-playing research is often smuggled into larger projects. In the project I work for is largely technology-oriented, but one of our case studies deals with larp, since technologically augmented larp is an interesting business prospect and a testing platform for many new technologies. What I'm going to do after the project ends in 2008 is that I'm going to apply a pretty regular PhD grant for the dissertation work.


Tabletop role-playing is not in high boom at the moment, but you can further it if you only think broader. In DiGRA 2005 I presented Designing Goals for Online Role-Players which rises from tabletop understanding of role-playing and (hopefully) is also very applicable there -- even though the focus in the particular paper is MMORPG. Or like my colleague Petri Lankoski does, in his research on characters in digital games, where he still produces things like Character Design Fundamentals for Role-Playing Games.

In order to have role-playing studies, you must give it birth from other disciplines.


Best,

 - Markus
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lankoski
Guest
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2005, 05:02:21 AM »

Quote
Game researchers had the same issue 10 years ago, where they all studied games from different approaches. They ended up having this ludology movement going, and are quite far in establishing ludology as a separate academic discipline: studying games as games, as opposed to studying games as narratives or whatnot. Of course it has taken them years of work.

The ludology movement is about digital games. People studying board games started gathered up their effort and started
International Society for Board Game Studies, which publish Board Game Studies journal (see http://www.boardgamesstudies.org/). People behind society and journal seems to be mainly from the field
of anthropology.

To gather up inertia for developing Role-Playing Studies as academic field would require people to start publishing in existing academic forums or forming new ones that comply academic standards.

One example about this is seminar (http://gamelab.uta.fi/rpg-seminar/) that Markus and I are arranging. By the way I have seen extremely interesting analyses on e.g. how rules can be studied and it would be really great to get submissions from Forge theorists to the seminar (hope that this shameless ad does not offend anybody).

/Petri


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Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2005, 05:18:54 AM »

I have nothing of substance to add except that the information in this thread is great.  Also, a brief suggestion -- if you want an article from a Forgie, like someone who has ideas in threads that you'd like to see developed for your conference, the best thing to do is probably PM them and ask if they'd be interested in writing an article.  I know that isn't the way it's usually done, but the casual atmosphere here makes people go "oh, well, I couldn't possibly submit an academic article" when, of course, they've pretty much already written several first drafts.

Keep up the good work!

yrs--
--Ben
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Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2005, 05:56:07 AM »

The careers centre at the university where I work is doing a seminar in December and some research on " games and simulations which help enhance employability skills in our students." I'm going to mooch along to it and see if there's anything relevant.

There seem to have been a few  papers on this (mainly relating to web-based RP or groupwork actitivities), such as:

http://www.simplay.net/papers/E-Learning.html

http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw01/papers/refereed/ip/paper.html

http://www.ausis.com.au/Papers/suppose.html

It'll be interesting to see what they're doing at any rate. I suspect that a lot of their work on how to organise such RP in a cohesive way mirrors Forge work in some ways.

-Matt
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Blankshield
Member

Posts: 407


WWW
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2005, 07:37:08 AM »

A good friend of ours, Tom Cantine, wrote his MA Thesis based off of role-playing experience several years ago:

The Role of Detection in Rule Enforcement

It's strongly informed and focused on LARP play, not tabletop, but it's a formal acedemic paper on role-playing; specifically a Masters Thesis in Philosophy.

Worth noting for those that do follow and read that it's many years old; Tom has since moved on to get his PhD, work for a while, go back to school, and is currently articling as a lawyer, I believe.

James
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I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

http://www.blankshieldpress.com/
Eirik Fatland
Member

Posts: 8


WWW
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2005, 01:37:39 AM »

A recent MA thesis (in sociology), also about larp but with some perspectives that translate well to tabletop rpgs:
http://fate.laiv.org/pub/gtb_opp.htm

.eirik.
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hullu norjalainen
Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2005, 04:01:50 AM »

A good friend of ours, Tom Cantine, wrote his MA Thesis based off of role-playing experience several years ago:

The Role of Detection in Rule Enforcement

Can you give a year to this book?


Some people have liked the reviews in my reading diary where I discuss books relevant to role-playing studies, also.

 - Markus
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pekkok
Member

Posts: 21

Googletary phrases: "3-iron", "sky above hell"


« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2005, 01:25:29 PM »

Okay, I have to clear this up a bit: though Frans Mäyrä looks forward to one in Beyond Role and Play foreword, no faculties of role-playing studies exist yet.

But that is not an unpenetrable barrier. There are no MMORPG institutions yet either, and the virtual reality doctors are just popping up from various places.

I was not in Vancouver myself, but I heard that there was a pandemic of "working on an MMORPG paper, using WoW as a case study" (read: poor junkies explaining away while they shoot up) cases - some were even stealing playtime from the conference :).

Hence, I think it's fairly safe to assume that we get a plethora of MMORPG academics in the near future - the quality of papers might be a different issue; but let's hope for one or two good ones. Personally I'm not worried at all of the presence of digital games in academia, at least in the long run.

Roleplaying (I personally think that we are ready to drop the hyphen - that would be a small step forward), on the other hand, cannot safely assume that it will be picked up by academia to a significant extent (and this would be a loss - academic discourse has its benefits, outweighing its problems, I think): There's no big money in traditional roleplaying (this affects academia much more than it admits), there's no acceptance for it in the mainstream cultural consensus etc.

As you mention later in your post, roleplaying is often present in academic projects as a part of larger whole (mostly digital games projects) - I'm actually a bit worried about this phenomenon. As solitary instances these are quite ok, but if roleplaying becomes characterized as a co-habitant with other areas such as digital gaming, it may well become academized in a fairly constrained manner - I think this is a real danger, actually. In academic projects the money bringing parts will draw the lines and set the goals - and in this kind of scenario, roleplaying might well end up as the persistent side-issue (roleplaying in MMORPGs, using character forms from roleplaying in digital game design etc.).

But then again, I'm a somewhat of a sceptic: If you would have asked me, I would have guessed that Ben would be eaten by post-communist bears during his travels through Russian back-country - violently, with lot's of weak Californian blood splattered over the Siberian tundra :). And apparently that estimation would have been in error.

Most of the time being a sceptic seems to pay off, though, especially as regards to modern academia - I would surmise that developing a fertile academic basis for roleplaying is a tough nut to crack (for the reasons I outlined, among others), and needs more than a little activism in order to make such a thing happen. Of course, your conference is a welcome instance of such activism.

Cheers,
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pekko koskinen
project: [kind of hard to pronounce, really]
Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2005, 01:22:54 AM »

I was not in Vancouver myself, but I heard that there was a pandemic of "working on an MMORPG paper, using WoW as a case study" (read: poor junkies explaining away while they shoot up) cases - some were even stealing playtime from the conference :).

Hence, I think it's fairly safe to assume that we get a plethora of MMORPG academics in the near future - the quality of papers might be a different issue; but let's hope for one or two good ones. Personally I'm not worried at all of the presence of digital games in academia, at least in the long run.

Incidentally, I presented one of those papers in DiGRA: Designing Goals for Online Role-Players. :-) Not to explain my WoW-addiction, but my earlier Star Wars Galaxies -addiction. Currently I'm also doing "ethnographic field studies" in WoW. As every second ludologist seems to be doing.

But those MMORPG papers can be useful when discussing tabletop and larp as well. At least that's the way I wrote mine; smuggling general role-playing under the guise of digital role-playing.

Quote
As you mention later in your post, roleplaying is often present in academic projects as a part of larger whole (mostly digital games projects) - I'm actually a bit worried about this phenomenon. As solitary instances these are quite ok, but if roleplaying becomes characterized as a co-habitant with other areas such as digital gaming, it may well become academized in a fairly constrained manner - I think this is a real danger, actually. In academic projects the money bringing parts will draw the lines and set the goals - and in this kind of scenario, roleplaying might well end up as the persistent side-issue (roleplaying in MMORPGs, using character forms from roleplaying in digital game design etc.).

It might be that I'm whoring here, but I rather take studies of MMORPG role-playing than no studies of role-playing at all. But indeed you are correct, the funding structures are bound to cause bias. (Just go imagine how much of engineering-driven game studies are funded by companies and tech funds -- and done my gaming enthusiasts -- and try to figure out why there is no serious critical academic study of games out there). Of course, I'd rather take some cash with no strings attached, but in practice that's hard to get, even if you are a doctor.

 - Markus
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Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2005, 05:17:32 AM »

My dissertation plan was accepted!

http://users.tkk.fi/~mmontola/rplan2005.html

Now I only need to do the work! :-)

 - Markus

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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2005, 07:23:33 AM »

Wow, that's excellent news. Looking forward to the results, and being able to call you Dr. Montola. :-)

Also I have to say that this thread has been excellent in terms of showing some things that have happened, and may continue. It might be interesting to note that some of the "Detection" paper influenced my design contributions to Universalis, and how I think about other designs. So they are having a practical impact in addition to the academic interest they generate.

Mike

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