Week 8: Tabletop Gaming


5:00 – 6:00PM ARTS 237 (In order to have time to play D&D: Please arrive 15 minutes early if you are able)

6:00 – 8:00PM ARTS 103

Tabletop gaming is a term generally used to describe (unsurprisingly) games played on a tabletop – board games, pen and paper roleplaying games, etc. As its own popular medium, there are so many potential themes we could discuss in this week’s seminar that it seems a disservice to expect to talk about it as a whole. Therefore, we are treating this week like a semi-introductory week: the reading below has been provided in order to focus on certain themes prevalent in tabletop gaming, but we’d be happy to explore other concepts if something else capture’s people’s interest.

The reading is structured around three interlinking themes: while there appears to be more reading than usual it is mixed media and each piece is relatively short.

Theme 1: Tabletop Gaming and Videogames:

Dungeons and Dragons Documentary clip: “D&D’s influence on Modern RPGS” (2012) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6T98ogLMlU

Why Dungeons & Dragons video game miss the point, Geek.com (2015) – http://www.geek.com/games/why-dungeons-dragons-video-games-miss-the-point-1640740/

  • Tabletop gaming – and pen and paper RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons – is often seen as an origin point for the evolution of certain videogame genres (eg. videogame/computer RPGs). Why is it seen as an origin point?
  • Is the relationship between tabletop gaming and videogaming remediative? If so, in what ways? How do they appear to be irreconcilably different?
    • By remediative, I use Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s seminal work Remediation to ask whether tabletop gaming is influenced by videogames in the same way that videogames are influenced by tabletop gaming:
      • “In addressing our culture’s contradictory imperatives for immediacy and hypermediacy, [futuristic film Strange Days] demonstrates what we call a double logic of remediation. Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them. In this last decade of the twentieth century, we are in an unusual position to appreciate remediation, because of the rapid development of new digital media and the nearly as rapid response by traditional media. Older electronic and print media are seeking to reaffirm their status within our culture as digital media challenge that status. Both new and old media are invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their efforts to remake themselves and each other.” (emphasis in original – Bolter and Grusin, Remediation, 1999, p.5)


Theme 2: Narrative in Tabletop Gaming

“‘Critical Role’ and ‘HarmonQuest’ prove watching role-playing games can be fun. But 4 hours?”, LA Times (2017) – http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-role-playing-online-games-20170222-story.html

  • The medium we’re talking about this week can lend itself to dynamic storytelling and narrative building with friends in a face-to-face environment. However, the evolution of certain digital platforms (the pen-and-paper RPG emulator Roll20, and video distribution and streaming websites Youtube and Twitch are just a few examples) has encouraged vicarious participation – an arguable oxymoron – through the watching of tabletop gaming shows such as Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and playing tabletop games online, without the need for a physical tabletop.
  • Do you think these digital tabletop platforms can change the way that tabletop gaming is societally perceived? In-keeping with remediative ideas, can they encourage different attitudes and playstyles in a face-to-face environment?


Theme 3: Tabletop Gaming in Western culture

“Why Tabletop Games Thrive and the Lesson for Video Games”, [a]list (2015) –http://www.alistdaily.com/strategy/why-tabletop-games-thrive-and-the-lesson-for-video-games/

“It’s not just video games — tabletop gaming has a harassment problem too”, Vox (2016) – http://www.vox.com/2016/4/7/11371194/tabletop-harassment-malifaux-controversy

  • This theme explores tabletop gaming’s place in a larger culture, both as an industrial product (made to make money) and as a historically male-dominated area.


Supplementary Reading:

If you’re unfamiliar with tabletop gaming and/or how pen-and-paper RPG Dungeons and Dragons can work, I would recommend viewing the following videos just to get an idea of the possibilities that can be drawn from the medium. Please keep in mind as you’re watching how the vicarious nature of watching people play might relate back to theme 2 and narrative.

Tabletop Board Games: Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop [pick any video on the playlist]

Dungeons and Dragons (roleplay-heavy): D&Diesel with Vin Diesel (Extended Version)

Game of the Week:

This week our game will be a one-shot adventure in Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition, for those who were wondering). In order to account for this, we will be starting the seminar an hour early (so 5-8pm), starting in Arts 237 and moving to 103 at 6pm. There will be a break in the 3-hour period!


Looking forward to seeing you there, rolling some dice (bring your own if you have them), and talking about tabletop games!

Becky, Vicki, and Richard


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