Games Research Network

Researching analogue and digital games

Tag: Book Review

Book Review – Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D: Rise of the Dungeon Master

Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D: Rise of the Dungeon Master

Written by David Kushner and illustrated by Koren Shadmi

New York: Nation Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781568585598

From humble beginnings in basements and community centres, table-top roleplaying games have become a cornerstone of geek culture. Fantasy roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons, devised by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974 and now in its fifth edition, is one of the most recognisable and identifiable aspects of this culture, often referenced in mainstream pop culture, thanks to television shows such as Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), Community (2009 – 2015) and, more recently, Stranger Things (2016-2017). Indeed, Dungeons and Dragons is a cultural commodity that commands considerable Geek ‘capital’. Though it is still by no means a common pastime, the game has, as Michael Witwer argues, helped establish our dominant cultural moment: “We live in an era when it is chic to be geek.” Kushner and Shadmi’s graphic novel, Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D, published earlier this year, celebrates Dungeons and Dragons in this context, exploring its origins in the Indiana wargaming scene of the 1970s, through to its success as a global cultural product today. read more

Book Review – Mass Phenomena Computer Games

Massenphänomen Computerspiele: Soziale, kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Aspekte

(Computer Games as Mass Phenomenon: Social, Cultural and Economic Aspects)

By Jeffrey Wimmer

UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, 2013. ISBN: 978-3867640886

The major premise of this book is that since so many computer games are now networked, it is worthwhile studying them not merely as a form of entertainment but rather as a form of mass communication. Jeffrey Wimmer argues that the growth in popularity of computer games has resulted in a situation where they have come to form a significant element of people’s increasingly online interaction with the world. These games are therefore a complement to social media and other leisure-time and/or professional uses of digital media. This is particularly true of the younger generation and therefore means that computer games must be seen as a significant factor in young people’s socialisation. It is no longer a question of whether computer games influence people’s social behaviour but how. Naturally, this has led to some concerns, principally with regard to computer game addiction and the depiction of violence. read more

Book review: Gewalt im Computerspiel: Facetten eines Vergnügens

Gewalt im Computerspiel: Facetten eines Vergnügens

(Violence in Computer Games: Aspects of a Pleasure)

By Christoph Bareither

transcript, 2016. ISBN: 978-3837635591

Christoph Bareither’s book is an investigation into the nature of the pleasure offered by the violent aspects of computer games. The approach is neither psychological nor pedagogical, but ethnographic, and there is a deliberate avoidance of the question as to why people like violence in computer games. Given that they do, it investigates instead the nature of that pleasure. The research is based on three main bodies of evidence: an historical survey of computer games magazines covering the period from 1983 until 2014; a selection of “Let’s Play” YouTube videos; and, finally, direct comments from gamers themselves obtained through interviews and through participating in multiplayer games with them. This evidence is used by Bareither to discover the emotional experiences that players have when interacting with computer-mediated representations of physical violence. read more

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. read more

Book Review: Understanding Counterplay in Video Games

Understanding Counterplay in Video Games

By Alan F. Meades

London: Routledge: 2014. ISBN: 9781138804920

An insightful and interesting read, Alan F. Meades’ Understanding Counterplay in Video Games explores one of the most problematic issues within multiplayer video games: the antisocial and oppositional forms of play, such as cheating, hacking, griefing and illicit game modifications, which is known collectively as ‘counterplay’. Meades’ intention is to reframe the debate, away from the suggestion that these acts are simply ‘childish’ or ‘malicious’, to recognise the meaningful value(s) that counter players attribute to transgressing the authority of game rules. The book shows that the motivation to cheat the game, modify the system or grief another player, is a complex and often contradictory experience, one which reveals a key tension within Western play philosophy: that violent, destructive and unrestricted play is not only pleasurable, but often provides the impetus for social and political change. Meades navigates this argument carefully, across seven chapters, and draws from ethnographic research with counter players to consider the moral imperative(s) that underwrite their transgressive behaviour. read more