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RPG syllabus - books and journals

I'm creating a syllabus for a college course on the history of role-playing games. You can find out more about this project here.

As I narrow down the big list of games to a final cut (which will definitely include the coming-soon-to-Virtual Console Earthbound!!), I've been working on a bibliography of resources devoted to RPGs. The list below is a collection of books and journal articles that could be helpful to a student interested in a serious study of role-playing games. I'll also rely on this list for specific reading assignments as the semester progresses.

You'll find some esoteric stuff here, but every title is germane to the subject in one way or another. I've also included books like Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, portions of which I plan to assign as foundational texts.

So far the bibliography only includes traditional materials (books and academic journals). I'm working on supplementing the list with online and popular media resources devoted to RPGs. This part of the process is a lot of fun, but separating the wheat from the chaff is quite a hefty task. Sites like Gamasutra and Hardcore Gaming 101 are terrific resources and provide a wealth of valuable info and analysis. Unfortunately many other sites...well, let's just say peer review isn't always a priority. ;-)

Here's the list. If I've omitted a title you think should be included, please let me know. If you have a favorite website or online essay devoted to RPGs (history, analysis, special focus on a single game or developer, etc.), please feel free to drop me a comment. I'll be sure to add it to the list I'm working on, which will be posted here in a few days.

Did I mention Earthbound is coming to the VC? :-O


Aarseth, Espen. 2004. Quest games as post-narrative discourse. In Narrative across media: The languages of storytelling., ed. Marie-Laure Ryan, 361-376. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska Press.

Bartle, Richard A. 2004. Designing virtual worlds. Indianapolis, Ind: New Riders Pub.

Barton, Matt. 2008. Dungeons and desktops : The history of computer role-playing games. Wellesley, Mass: A K Peters.

Bogost, Ian. 2006. Unit operations : An approach to videogame criticism. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Campbell, Joseph. 2008. The hero with a thousand faces. 3rd ed. Projected Date: 0807 ed. Novato, Calif: New World Library.

Carr, Diane. 2006. Computer games : Text, narrative, and play. Cambridge ; Malden, MA: Polity.

Castronova, Edward. 2005. Synthetic worlds : The business and culture of online games. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. 2003. Dungeons & dragons player's handbook : Core rulebook I v.3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast.

Corneliussen, Hilde, and Jill Walker Rettberg. 2008. Digital culture, play, and identity : A world of warcraft reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Crawford, Chris. 2005. Chris Crawford on interactive storytelling. Berkeley, Calif.: New Riders Games.

Ellevold, Barbara L., and William R. Cupach. 2004. Virtual culture and fantasy : An examination of identity management in the sims online.

Fine, Gary Alan. 1983. Shared fantasy : Role-playing games as social worlds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gee, James Paul. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Howard, Jeff. 2008. Quests : Design, theory, and history in games and narratives. Wellesley, Mass: A.K. Peters.

King, Brad, and John Borland. 2003. Dungeons and dreamers : The rise of computer game culture : From geek to chic. Emeryville, Calif: McGraw-Hill/Osborne.

Mackay, Daniel. 2001. The fantasy role-playing game : A new performing art. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.

Moorcock, Michael. 2004. Wizardry & wild romance : A study of epic fantasy. Rev. and expanded ed. ed. Austin, TX: MonkeyBrain.

Montfort, Nick. 2004. Twisty little passages : An approach to interactive fiction. Cambridge, Mass: London : MIT.

Murray, Janet Horowitz. 1997. Hamlet on the holodeck : The future of narrative in cyberspace. New York: Free Press.

Nephew, Michelle Andromeda Brown. 2003. Playing with power : The authorial consequences of roleplaying games.

Peterson, Dale. 1983. Genesis II, creation and recreation with computers. Reston, Va: Reston Pub. Co.

Punday, Daniel. 2005. Creative accounting: Role-playing games, possible-world theory, and the agency of imagination. In Poetics today. Vol. 26, 113-139. Duke University Press.

Ryan, Marie-Laure. 2006. Avatars of story. Electronic mediations ;; v. 17. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. 2003. Rules of play : Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Schick, Lawrence. 1991. Heroic worlds : A history and guide to role-playing games. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.

Schut, Kevin Paul. 2004. Fantasy play-worlds : A study of culture, communication and technology as they intersect in computer fantasy roleplaying games.

Taylor, T. L. 2006. Play between worlds : Exploring online game culture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Tolkien, J. R. R. 2005. The lord of the rings. 50th anniversary edition ed. London: HarperCollins.

Underwood, Michael Robert. 2007. What's in a game? : Aesthetics, genre and subculture in role-playing games.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Pat Harrigan. 2007. Second person : Role-playing and story in games and playable media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

———. 2004. First person : New media as story, performance, and game. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Williams, J. Patrick, Sean Q. Hendricks, and W. Keith Winkler. 2006. Gaming as culture : Essays on reality, identity and experience in fantasy games. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.

Wolf, Mark J. P. 2007. The video game explosion : A history from pong to playstation and beyond. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Wolf, Mark J. P., and Bernard Perron. 2003. The video game theory reader. New York ; London: Routledge. 

Journal articles

Allison, Sara E., Lisa Von Wahide, Tamra Shockley, and Glen O. Gabbard. 2006. The development of the self in the era of the internet and role-playing fantasy games. American Journal of Psychiatry 163, (3) (03): 381-5.

Cole, Helena, and Mark D. Griffiths. 2007. Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior 10, (4) (08): 575-83.

Dickey, Michele. 2007. Game design and learning: A conjectural analysis of how massively multiple online role-playing games (MMORPGs) foster intrinsic motivation. Educational Technology Research & Development 55, (3) (06): 253-73.

Gravois, John. 2007. Knights of the faculty lounge. Chronicle of Higher Education 53, (44) (07/06): A8-A10.

Hsu, Shang Hwa, Ching-Han Kao, and Muh-Cherng Wu. 2007. Factors influencing player preferences for heroic roles in role-playing games. CyberPsychology & Behavior 10, (2) (04): 293-5.

Kociatkiewicz, Jerzy. 2000. Dreams of time, times of dreams: Stories of creation from roleplaying game sessions. Studies in Cultures, Organizations & Societies 6, (1) (03): 71-86.

Moore, Robert, Nicolas Ducheneaut, and Eric Nickell. 2007. Doing virtually nothing: Awareness and accountability in massively multiplayer online worlds. Computer Supported Cooperative Work: The Journal of Collaborative Computing 16, (3) (05): 265-305.

Smyth, Joshua M. 2007. Beyond self-selection in video game play: An experimental examination of the consequences of massively multiplayer online role-playing game play. CyberPsychology & Behavior 10, (5) (10): 717-21.

Waskul, Dennis, and Matt Lust. 2004. Role-playing and playing roles: The person, player, and persona in fantasy role-playing. Symbolic Interaction 27, (3) (Summer): 333-56

Updated 5/27/08