Games Research Network

Researching analogue and digital games

Tag: Book Reviews

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 – Connected Gaming

Connected Gaming – What Making Video Games Can Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

By Yasmin B. Kafai and Quinn Burke

MIT Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780262035378

This book presents an introduction to the ‘Connected Gaming’ approach of using video games for learning, advocating for an integrated methodology that encompasses both an instructionist and a constructionist mindset. Central to this thesis is that for students to maximise their learning it is essential for them to not only play video games but to make them as well. The authors of this book build on the work of the noted gaming scholar James Paul Gee, and indeed the title is itself an homage to Gee’s 2003 text What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. read more

Book Review: Die verspielte Gesellschaft

Die verspielte Gesellschaft: Gamification oder Leben im Zeitalter des Computerspiels

(Society at Play: Gamification, or Life in the Era of the Computer Game)

By Nora S. Stampfl

Hanover: Heise, 2012. ISBN: 978-3936931778

This is an introduction into gamification, the process by which elements from various games, especially computer games, are used in non-game situations. The book starts with an overview of games in general, in particular with the establishment of the academic discipline Ludology in the 1990s. In order to answer the question “What is a game?” posed near the start of the book, Nora Stampfl summarises the work of Johan Huizinga, Bernard Suits, and Roger Caillois, stressing the fact that this work pre-dates the era of computer games. For Stampfl, one of the key aspects of computer games is their potential to bring large numbers of players together in various forms of online interactions. Clearly, the MMOs are one of the best examples of this aspect of gaming, with many people seeing them as an opportunity for players to escape grey reality in favour of various fantasy worlds. However, Stampfl’s focus is very much on the reverse direction, namely the numerous ways in which elements from online gaming are being used in real life, through a process of gamification. Her goal is to explore how these features are able to influence people’s behaviour in various areas of their own lives. read more

Book Review: Digital Games as History

Digital Games as History: How Videogames Represent the Past and Offer Access to Historical Practice

By Adam Chapman

Routledge, 2016. ISBN: 9781138841628

In this timely and provocative work, Adam Chapman argues ‘for the serious consideration of the nature and possibilities of digital games as a historical form’ (p. 265). It is timely because the massive popularity of digital historical games means that they are now one of the most significant forms of public engagement with the past, surpassing academic and popular history texts, visits to museums or heritage sites and participation in re-enactments and rivalling the consumption of film and historical fiction. It is provocative because this text is aimed as squarely at academic historians as it is at scholars of Game Studies, yet it demands of its readers a rather uncritical acceptance of the conceits and fallacies of postmodernist critiques of History as an academic discipline. read more