Games Research Network

Researching analogue and digital games

Book Review: Zones of Control

Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming

Edited by Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

MIT, 2016. ISBN: 9780262033992

Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Zones of Control (2016) is the first book in MIT’s ‘Game Histories’ series edited by Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins whose own volume in the series, Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon, was published in June 2016.

While the book inaugurates Lowood and Guins’ new series, Zones of Control is the fourth of Harrigan’s collection on games and gaming to be published by MIT (following in the footsteps of First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004), Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007), and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives (2009), all edited with Noah Wardrip-Fruin). While the latest volume sees Harrigan joined by a new co-editor the general scope and ambition of the collection will feel familiar to readers of the ‘Person’ trilogy. Zones of Control is a large and impressive volume that brings together a wide range of contributors from diverse backgrounds, writing on a topic that is itself wide ranging and diverse – namely wargaming – both tabletop and digital.

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Play Beyond the Computer

Mark R. Johnson on Bloomsbury’s new game studies series.

Following my recent post about Bloomsbury’s forthcoming series ‘Play Beyond the Computer,’ I contacted the series editor Mark R. Johnson to ask if he could tell us more about his plans for the series.  Here’s what he had to say about the rationale for the series, its impressive editorial board, and the first volumes that they’ve got lined up.

The rationale behind the series is the realisation that there are a lot of game scholars out there doing great work – both within “game studies”, and in other domains – in all kinds of non-digital areas, but such scholarship tends to be highly distributed and sparse, harder to find, with fewer major foundational texts, often winds up published in lower-impact journals, and generally overlooked, in contrast to video games. The main aim of Play Beyond the Computer is to be a foundational series of texts that will bolster research in game studies beyond video games, and bring a range of domains traditionally outside game studies into game studies for the first time.

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Historia Ludens Conference – 19 May 2017

Registration is now open for the Historia Ludens conference to be held at the University of Huddersfiled on May 19th.

This conference follows up on the workshop “Playing with History” that has been held in November 2015 in Huddersfield. Gaming and History is gaining more and more traction, either as means to “gamify” history education or museum experiences, or as computer games as prism into history like the popular History Respawned podcast series (

Besides discussing gamification or using (computer) games, we also want to explore gaming and playing in a broader historical-cultural sense. Can “playing” be used as category for historical scholarship, maybe alongside other categories such as gender, space or class? Historian Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens from 1938 looked at play and its importance for human culture. Can historians make similar cases for more specific histories? In recent publications historians have pointed to the connection between cities and play. Simon Sleight, for example, has worked on the history of childhood and urban history, i.e. young people appropriating public urban spaces for their ludic activities and their struggle with authorities over this. Archaeologists, as another example, have shown that much of the urban infrastructure of Ancient Rome was dedicated to games, playing and gambling, as it had such a big role in Roman life.

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CFP: Casino Games and Classic Card Games

Followers of the blog may be interested in the cfp below. Just as interesting is the news that this is part of a what sounds like a really exciting new series coming from Bloomsbury Academic.

We are soliciting chapter proposals for a volume tentatively entitled The Casino Games and Classic Card Games Reader: Communities, Cultures, and Play. This volume would be the first in a new series under consideration at Bloomsbury Academic entitled Play Beyond the Computer.

Series Description

Play Beyond the Computer is proposed as a new series of edited collections examining traditional card games, casino games, puzzles and riddles, board games, live-action roleplay, urban games, and so forth – all games that are not dependent on a computer for their play. The series is designed to move game studies in a particular direction beyond “self-contained” studies of games and play, and towards an engagement with the political, social, cultural and economic contexts of gameplay practices, with a particular focus on how communities and cultures arise around specific game-playing forms. Each book will have essays not just from academics and scholars, but also from leading practitioners in the relevant field (professional poker players, Rubik’s Cube champions, designers of IQ tests, casino game manufacturers, trading card game designers, circus managers, urban game organizers, and so forth). These will give unique first-hand insights into these domains of play, offering autoethnographic perspectives on game practices and communities that will complement the academic analyses in each book.

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How to REALLY Win at Gloom: an Interview with Keith Baker

In a recent session, members of the Games Research Network met up to play Gloom, a card game designed and created by Keith Baker and distributed by Atlas Games. Following the game, we put some questions to Keith, which he very kindly agreed to answer, and which we share here for your reading pleasure.

We began by asking Keith to describe the game.

Imagine a few people sitting around a table debating whose family has had things worse:

“I had to walk to school barefoot in the snow.”

“That’s nothing. I was cursed by the Queen and shunned by society.”

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