jeudi 12 avril 2018

Tabletop role-playing games as hospitality and hosting rituals (introduction)

It seems the first exchanges of board games were part of transaction rituals of diplomatic gifts between social elite of the Antiquity. First, as luxury objects,

« Many of the first board games appear to have been diplomatic gifts to signify status (…) » (Mark Hall, interview with Discovery News)
British Museum Royal Game of Ur
British Museum Royal Game of Ur
But also, thanks to the intrinsic functions of games, as a source of social interactions.
« As an arena of performance they [the games] can both foster interaction and exchange and sublimate competition. They can be taken readily from one cultural context to another with or without changes of meaning, which do not have to be immediate. » (Hall et Forsyth 2011, 1335)
Recently, on the french podcast of La Cellule, a person said :
« 00:55:00 (...) I think what upset me is that this kind of people came to my living room and its was very invading. And having jerks in other activities outside is okay: the day after we forget them and next time we avoid them. [But] the fact of inviting them [it's different], maybe also because it's a small group, that there is engagement, that the game is well prepared, we invest maybe a lot in this kind of things (...) » (Briand, 2018)
The gamemaster of TRPG can be associated to the roles, expectations and status of a host. We said « inviting our players », « welcoming them at the table », « playing my own campaign », « managing the characters »,... By extra-diegetic set-ups (ie. around the game played) or by ludic mecanisms (mainly around the role of gamemaster), I propose that tabletop role-playing games be analyzed as a variant of the ritual of hospitality (for unknown peoples) or hosting (for familiar people).

Indeed, in my opinion (reading and listening about TRPG since 1985), a lot of moments of game fun, of annoying situations, or of problems can be analyzed through the lens of hospitality/hosting.

A series of posts will follow.
Briand, Romaric, Jérôme S, Pierre Rozier, Adrien Cahuzac, Frédéric De-Nève Leroy, and Emmanuelle Meffray. “Podcast JDR : Pourquoi les rôlistes ont-ils une mauvaise opinion des rôlistes ?” Podcast. La Cellule (blog), March 22, 2018.
Hall, Mark A., and Katherine Forsyth. “Roman Rules? The Introduction of Board Games to Britain and Ireland.” Antiquity 85, no. 330 (November 2011): 1325–38.

jeudi 5 avril 2018

Mind mapping with role-playing topics

I created a mind map on role-playing with the partially free online service There is a lot of online services like this. The free licence of allows to create a map, export it in PDF and in PNG and share it online.
Mind map on role-playing (with
Mind maps are quite popular pedagogical tools in the universities. They help memorize, organize and spacialize notes and ideas. I am dreaming of a tool combining this spacializing function with advanced bibliographic functions like the ones in Zotero.

mercredi 4 avril 2018

Jeu de rôle et expérience de soi [recordings, in French]

Video recordings of the Alithila study day « Jeu de rôle et expérience de soi » [Role-playing and experience of the self], organised by Danièle André, Laurent Déom and Alban Quadrat. Université de Lille 3, March 29, 2018.
  • Brunson, Geoffroy et Jérémy Lambert. « "Soi-même comme un autre." Construction narrative et enjeux identitaires dans le jeu de rôle ».
  • Chelabi, Christophe. « En quoi le personnage du jeu de rôle est-il un facteur d’apprentissage pour les joueurs ? »
  • Deudon, Pierre-Louis. « Jeu de rôle : rencontre entre sciences humaines et neurologie ».
  • « Dialogue avec Nicolas Dessaux aka Snorri ».
  • « Jeu de rôle et expérience de soi: Table ronde ».
  • Stijve, Sanne et Arnaud Tardy. « Le jeu de rôle comme système de simulation favorisant le développement interpersonnel ».

mercredi 21 mars 2018

What if... TRPGs were created before 1971 ?

Tabletop role-playing games allow us to explore counterfactual thinking, ie. asking ourselves « what if… » and simulating the consequences of a modified fact in the past.

Olivier Caïra asked the question « why was it not invented during the Antiquity or during the Renaissance, but instead in the middle of the 1970, during the boom of the audiovisual leisures. » (Caïra, 2007, p.143-144).

His hypothesis (OC), with the one of McKay he cites (Mc) and mine (PM), are that a culture needs :
  • to be deeply embedded with common cultural references shared in a community (OC)
  • to accept to play with these references (OC, Mc) :
    • By absorbing them, accepting them, recycling them, putting a distance with them (ie. being active and not passive) (OC, Mc, PM)
    • By serializing them (Mc, PM)
  • to support a pleasant and entertaining sociability among equal peers (PM)

So « Let’s Have a Dream » (purely counterfactual)

Year -379, at the bottom of the Aeropagus, some old philosophers who knew Socrates are replaying the events that led to his poisoning. They are using a free-form system solely based on rhetoric to honor their master. After 37 simulations (all ended by a TPK, a total philosopher kill), they finally agree that if Socrates has not been that stubborn, he would be 90 years old by now.

Year 803, in the gardens of Isfahan, law school students are playing One More Night where they continue the 1001 Nights of Scheherazade with rules derived from Tavla boardgame.

Year 1236, in the Lérins Abbey, four monks are passing their recreation time to chivalry search for the Holy Grail. The abbot is not officially informed but he is listening them from the next room because he was a fan of Chretien de Troyes in his youth too. He would like to interrupt them to tell them they are all wrong on Perceval.

Year 1612, in a tea house of Nanjing, bookstore owners are gathering to play Further to the West because they want to keep going on the hexcrawl adventures of the Monkey King and his party. They are often arguing on the use of I Ching as randomizer: is it narrativism or simulationism ?

Year 1883, in London, young insurance traders are meeting at Gryffin Club to solve new cases of Sherlock Holmes with statistical and actuarial tables. Their Crime Master is inventing mysteries much more complex than the ones in the magazines but they don’t give up. They come back home late, it's much more interesting than the family parlour games.

« In real life » (purely factual)

May 22, 1971: Dave Arneson threw an invitation to his wargaming friends to play at his place an heroic fantasy game based on the principles of Braunstein.
(source: Three Line Studio blog, Kuntz, 2017)

Caïra, Olivier. Jeux de rôle: les forges de la fiction. Société. Paris: CNRS, 2007.
Mackay, Daniel. The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001.

jeudi 15 mars 2018

Schedule for the Role-Playing and Simulation in Education Conference 2018

Which will take place at Northeastern University directly before the Living Games Conference.
When: Thursday, May 17, 2018, 9am – 4pm
Where: Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Price: Free for Living Games attendees, price TBD for non-Living Games attendees
Note that registration is capped at 50 people

9:00-9:45am: Introduction
  • Celia Pearce, Northeastern University
  • Sarah Lynne Bowman, Austin Community College
  • Evan Torner, University of Cincinnati
  • Elizabeth Fein, Duquesne University
  • Kellian Adams Pletcher, Northeastern University
10:00-11:15am: Theories and Principles (Sam Anderson)
  • Maury Brown, “Edu-Larps, Experiential Learning, and Affective Domain Outcomes”
  • Samara Hayley Steele, “Understanding Larp Literacy: Noise Filtering, Direct Diegesis, Extradiegetic Statement Exchange, and Intradiegetic Objects”
  • Katherine Castiello Jones, “Encouraging Perception through Playfulness and ‘World’-Travelling: Feminism, Larp, and Learning”
  • Andrew Harris, “What Makes a Game an Effective Tool for Developing Social Skills?”
Techniques and Innovations (Will Osmond)
  • Rian Oliveira Rezende, “Wonder Cards Storytelling: Imagination, Storytelling, and Role-playing in the Creation of Objects, Spaces, and Experiences”
  • Amanda Siepiola, “Who Would Win? Edu-Larp vs. Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert”
  • Susan Weiner, “Case Studies as Tabletop RPGs”
  • Lux Faros, “Immersive Narratives, Personas, and Multi-intelligence Scaffolding”

12:45-2:00pm : Adult Education (Jason Morningstar)
  • Celia Peace and Lizzie Stark, “Teaching Video Game Design (and Feminism!) Through Larping”
  • Clio Yun-su Davis, “War in the Magic Circle”
  • Magdalene Loh, “Edu-Larping for Career Design”
Youth Outreach (Rebecca Slitt)
  • Mikael Hellström and Ken Keziej, “Year Zero Economics: Using edu-larps to exploring economic systems in the Ninth Grade”
  • Anna V. Konovalenko, “The Noon Project: Methodological Aspects of Socialization”
  • Andrew Lacanienta, “Creating a New World at Summer Camp”
  • Krysten Callina, “The Educational Micro-LARP: Redefining Live Action Role-play for Social, Academic and Therapeutic Applications”
2:15-3:45pm : Public Speaking Workshop (Kate Hill)
Edu-Larp Construction Workshop (David Simkins)

3:45-4:00pm : Closing Ceremonies: Celia Pearce, Sarah Lynne Bowman, and Evan Torner

mardi 6 février 2018

Role-playing games : Basic bibliometry with PsycNET (draft)

Martinolli, Pascal. « Role-Playing Games : Basic Bibliometry with PsycNET (Draft) », Feb. 2018. (open access and reuse : CC BY)

Number of peer-reviewed publications
about TRPG in PsycNET
This draft paper is a basic bibliometric analysis of the topic of tabletop role-playing games with the PsycNET databases. It also extends the bibliometric analysis to several related topics: role playing, pretend play, psychodrama, etc.

Additional informations (csv data, references, source code...)

vendredi 2 février 2018


For a long time, analyzing stories and their functions was limited to humanities (literature, linguistics,...). Recently, social sciences (anthropology, psychology, evolutionary psychology,...) and sciences (neuroscience,...) invested more in the research of this topic.

Bibliometry 101

Searching Scopus, a multidisciplinary database representative of the publications in science in the world, we observe an increasing number of articles with storytell* in a selection of search fields: for example in Title and Keywords. Finally, we compare with two other terms: a common term like analysis and a top-fashion term like machine learning.

 Two recent articles

« Telling stories: more sex and better cooperation »

  • Anthropology survey of Agta hunter-gatherers tribes in Philippines:
    • Smith, Daniel, Philip Schlaepfer, Katie Major, Mark Dyble, Abigail E. Page, James Thompson, Nikhil Chaudhary et al. « Cooperation and the Evolution of Hunter-Gatherer Storytelling ». Nature Communications 8, no 1 (5 décembre 2017), no. 1853. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02036-8. [open access]
  • The evidences lead to correlations allowing to claim : 
    • Good storytellers have more kids and receive more ressources ;
      • elder individuals are significantly more skilled storytellers ;
      • women are slightly better storytellers than men ;
    • Telling stories in group reinforce values of these stories, mainly cooperation, and social and sex equality.

« Reading stories: coded in our brain deeper than language »

  • A neuroscience study : Dehghani, Morteza, Reihane Boghrati, Kingson Man, Joe Hoover, Sarah I. Gimbel, Ashish Vaswani, Jason D. Zevin et al. « Decoding the Neural Representation of Story Meanings across Languages ». Human Brain Mapping 38, no 12 (1 décembre 2017), 6096‑6106. doi:10.1002/hbm.23814.
  • Human brain is universally structured in the same way to be able to understand stories whatever the language or the culture.
    • MRI scan of readers brains in 3 languages (english, chinese and farsi) : the researchers can determine which stories which brain in reading.
    • It takes place in the default mode network, known for « searching for narratives, retrieving autobiographical memories, and influencing the way we think relating to the past, present, and future, and our relationships with others.» s
    • Stories help us making sense of the world we live in.