mercredi 20 septembre 2017

Defence wargaming handbook [excerpt]

Defence wargaming handbook is a very good and open-access introduction to what is a wargame and how to design it for training and learning purposes. Wargames were at the origins of the first role-playing game (D&D).

About the determining the outcomes of players decisions (free, rigid, semi-rigid or minimal/consensual adjudications), role-playing is cited as a tool and a technique that can be used to support adjudication (p.44) :
« Role play. Defence wargames sometimes include an element of role play, but are rarely role-play-only. Role play can exert a strong influence towards free, or even consensual/minimal, adjudication. Constraining role-play actor interactions can reduce the influence, but that risks lessening the benefits of role play (free thinking creativity). The ultimate expression of role play is completely open-ended games featuring consensual adjudication. There is some evidence,[footnote] when considering human conflict situations, that role play is a better predictor of outcomes than either a single ‘expert’, or game theory, or simulated interaction and unaided judgement for forecasting decisions in conflicts. »
[footnote = Green, K. C. (2005). Game theory, simulated interaction, and unaided judgement for forecasting decisions in conflicts: Further evidence. International Journal of Forecasting, 21(3), 463–472. You can download an earlier open-acces version here on SSRN]

vendredi 15 septembre 2017

D&D in prison... which kind of escapism ?


For inmates, tabletop role-playing games can be an important leasure activities.
  • « Above all, without fail, any gang ties, religious obligations or racial affiliations are superseded by the game. (...) Dungeons and Dragons is my rehabilitation that I can deal with to escape into my own reality to solve my own problems. » (1)
  • An inmate's justification of pencil-stabbing an inmate who was repeatedly interupting his game: « In the facility, we have three hours a day of pod time where we have access to the tables and we're not locked down. So we have very little time to game and this time has to be shared with phone calls, showers, etc. » (1)
  • Inmates can be ingenious to build DIY dice (2).

For the US penal system, TRPGs can be an activity that :
  • can lead to gang behavior, the « players looking at the Dungeon Masters, rather than to the prison's own carefully constructed hierarchy of authority.» (3)
  • « games like D & D can impede rehabilitation (...) could foster an inmate's obsession with escaping from the real life, correctional environment » (3)
  • can promote « competitive hostility, violence, and addictive escape behavior, which can compromise not only the inmate's rehabilitation and effects of positive programming » (3)
  • can be banned because « punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations. » (3)


If escapism is a strategy of avoidance, in this case « distraction from the suffering one has caused » (1), boreness of the prison,...  Frode Stenseng (4) found out it can lead to negative outcomes. He named this strategy self suppression escapism. [NB : Others comment it can also lead to positive outcomes, especialy in prison where boredom can lead to psychopathologies (5)]
If escapism is a framework for seeking new skills and improving personality, in this case
developing cooperative behavior, communicating, practicing simple math skills, using active imagination, playing the role of a character who experiment personal growth,... it can lead to positive outcomes. Stenseng named this strategy self-expansion escapism.



(1) Dragons in the Department of Corrections
(2) How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband
(3) source: US Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit; with Google Scholar, search Case Law with "Singer v Raemisch". Context: in 2010, the court affirmed a judgement about the ban of D&D game and material in prison.
(4) U Oslo, Psychology.
(5) How to survive solitary confinement.  
Other sources used : When Dragons Plays Dungeons + Zotero database > History of RPG > RPG bashing and defense > prison.

Social Workers’ Perceptions of the Association Between Role Playing Games and Psychopathology [peer reviewed article]

Ben-Ezra, Menachem, Eric Lis, Agata Błachnio, Lia Ring, Osnat Lavenda et Michal Mahat-Shamir. « Social Workers’ Perceptions of the Association Between Role Playing Games and Psychopathology ». The Psychiatric Quarterly, 2017, 1‑6. doi:10.1007/s11126-017-9526-7.
The more social workers (n=130) know about RPGs like D&D, the less they see a connection between the use of RPGs and any psychopathology listed in the DSM-IV-TR.

This study follows 2 previous studies: Psychiatrists’ Perceptions of Role-Playing Games & Psychiatrists’ Perceptions of World of Warcraft and Other MMORPGs. The 2 studies were made from the same survey targeting psychiatrists practionners of the McGill U hospital network. They could have a response bias : 48 responded on 160. 22% of the psychiatrists who answered perceived a link between RPGs with mental health problems (such as depression, social anxiety...).23% once played RPGs, 6% in the last 6 months.

vendredi 8 septembre 2017

Role Immersion in a History Course: Online versus Face-to-Face in Reacting to the Past [peer-reviewd article]

Buchanan, Thomas C. and Edward Palmer. « Role Immersion in a History Course: Online versus Face-to-Face in Reacting to the Past ». Computers & Education 108 (2017), 85‑95. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2016.12.008.
Reacting to the past (RTTP) is a teaching technique based on historical non-costumed role-playing characters in debate scenarios.
It is costy because its a face-to-face technique. Authors find out making the role-play online has the same effect on learning, but the students like it less. For better students satisfaction, they suggest a mixed format, blending online techniques (preparation for the scenarios, video presentations, discussions) with face-to-face techniques (sophisticated negociations and decision-makings).
Notes: 2nd & 3rd year university students in Australia (n=51+87); a very good literature review.

jeudi 24 août 2017

Height vs. Depth in Badging Framework Design [chapter]

Beattie, Scott. « Height vs. Depth in Badging Framework Design ». Dans Foundation of Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials. Sous la direction de Dirk Ifenthaler, Nicole Bellin-Mularski et Dana-Kristin Mah, 307‑24. Springer International Publishing, 2016. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-15425-1_17.


D&D was the first game to include a permanent portfolio following the player character through different sessions of play. This portfolio is represented by the character sheet. It lists and quantifies the abilities of the character and it follows his evolution through time. D&D system is height-oriented (with class level as main measure) whereas the Basic Roleplaying system is depth-oriented (with differents skills evolving separately).

To design efficient badging educational frameworks, the character sheet can be an artefact that help structuring the numerous badges collected by the learners. A heigh-based system is more simple, motivating, based on competition and can satisfy new learners. A depth-based system is more complex to design but it can satisfy learners less motivated by competition and more motivated by collecting and curating achievements. The 2 systems are not exclusive and can be combined.

jeudi 20 juillet 2017

As if: modern enchantment and the literary pre-history of virtual reality [book]

Saler, Michael T. As if: modern enchantment and the literary pre-history of virtual reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/as-if-9780195343168




Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth are early examples of “empirically detailed” fantasy world-making. Their readers engages primarily with the made-up world instead of a character. They explore it, experiment it, interact with it and map it. They add or modify new elements through interactive immersion. And they build fandom communities around it (“public sphere of the imagination”).

It reveals a modern thinking conceptualized as “ironic imagination”:
  •  "As If" imagining (open-minded & receptive) instead of "Just So" believing (constraining & essentialist)
  • willing adoption of pretense instead of suspension of disbelief 
  • being delighted instead of being deluded (or escapism or regression)
  • just the positive/rational side of enchantment (“animistic reason”)
  • emotional engagement, playfulness and ironic detachment
These early virtual realities are precursors of today's avatar-based virtual worlds. They are reactions against the Weberian "disenchantment of the world" (the loss of meaning created by the forces of modernity: rationalization and bureaucracy). They are “Disenchanted enchantments”.

 * * *

A citation of Arjun Appadurai (anthropologist) :
« Until recently... fantasy and imagination were residual practices, confined to special moments or places. In general, imagination and fantasy were antidotes to the finitude of social experience ... As the deterritorialization of persons, images, and ideas has taken on a new force, this weight has imperceptibly shifted. More persons throughout the world see their lives through the prisms of possible lives offered by the mass media in all their forms. That is, fantasy is now a social practice ... »
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 53–54 .

mardi 18 juillet 2017

The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering [peer-reviewed]

Mizer, Nicholas J. 2014. “The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering.The Journal of Popular Culture 47 (6): 1296–1313.
D&D is a paradoxical mix of "free narrative imagination and complex rule-based limitations".

D&D follows the development curve of wargame designs. It becomes more and more rationalized and, when it's are too dull or unplayable, an innovation is introduced to re-enchant it. Wargame rules for Middle Ages were dull, too complex and not satisfying, so Arneson "re-infuse [them] with a play spirit".

D&D game designs reflect the values
  • of America: imagination, flexibility, limitless possibilities
  • of puritanism : character advancement, accumulation of XP and treasure (wealth and divine favor)
  • of actuarial science (Gygax profession): scores, ratings, charts,...
  • of modern standardization (ex: McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control): "prepackaged fantasy characters and sending them into ready-to-explore adventures".