Monthly Archives: January 2012

Very Short Review: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, by Michael Tresca

While there are quite a few books in the game studies field now, many are highly theoretical, considering whether games can be read as literature, how online games fit into network theory, what games say about human cultures, etc.  There are fewer people writing about games from the perspective of an active and experienced gamer, and focusing on the games themselves.  –I know this might provoke some to say what about X, Y, and Z?

I’ve read Bonnie Nardi’s excellent book on playing WoW and will likely review it here.  I’ve also seen research by Tanja Sihvonen that covered her experience with the Sims and other games.  If there are other similar pieces out there, please tell me!

Anyway, Tresca analyzes role-playing games into 8 types and devotes a chapter to exploring the history or each, as well as looking at how they compare in terms of:

  • Fellowship
  • Narrative
  • Personalization
  • Risk
  • Roles
  • Status

I found this way of organizing the chapters really helpful, because it allows not only for easy comparison between game types, but also let’s me think about the games I know and consider how they would fit into this grid.  For example, in Clan Lord characters face fairly high risk from wandering creatures when out hunting; the spawns in each area vary far more than they seem to in other games. But, CL has no PvP, so you need never worry about pickpockets or player-killers.  So it can be high risk, but I think less stressful.  🙂

Tresca also shares his own experiences with various games to illustrate his discussion.  While some might argue that including individual experience invites criticism that it’s analysis based on anecdote, I found it quite helpful.  Reading these experiences gave me a much clearer idea of the kind of player Tresca is and the kinds of games he prefers and so on. That knowledge makes his analysis easier for me to interpret.  Knowing his extensive background also strengthens his authority, so that if he says something is frustrating, I know he is no newbie gamer getting hung up on something we all deal with, but critiquing something that many players might find tiresome.

If you are interested in Game Studies, or are a fan of role-playing games, I recommend this book.  It provides a valuable comparison of game types and games, and is an interesting read besides.

Easing back in..

I finally feel like reading and writing again.  After the stresses of last year, I was seriously burnt out, and ever since have shied away from my research, at least from reading and writing.  I’ve been very absorbed in Clan Lord and some other games, and that’s not without benefit (researchwise) but I was feeling a bit worried about my lack of motivation toward academic production.

Happily, the game studies books I got for Christmas motivated me to read and that is motivating me to write. I do feel that my perspective is much richer now that I’ve been playing CL for almost two years.  Plus my character has become pretty well-respected, which certainly helps my research as well, when it comes to interviewing other players.  And my kids have started playing–2 girls aged 8 and 8.5.  They are really enjoying themselves, and other players are spoiling them rotten sometimes.  🙂  I find playing with them fun, but also frustrating, because they still don’t really listen very well!  But I look forward to how it will all develop.

Now… more reading.