I’m Not Playing Anymore: Player Subjectivities, Identity Performance, and Ludic Limitations in Tabletop Games
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMy research examines the interplay of subjectivity, ideology, and tabletop games in order to consider the productive possibilities afforded by conflict, contradiction, and tension. In chapter two, I map the statistical co-occurrences of words in 3,395 board game rulebooks via topic modeling, a digital tool that uses algorithms to reveal patterns in large corpora. My findings validate cultural perceptions of games as competitive and violent and illustrate a trend in the (re)production of dominant ideologies (many oppressive) in games. The following chapter builds on these findings by weaving autoethnographic reflection with visual, rhetorical analysis of popular fantasy game, Small World. In this chapter, I show how game materials (e.g., rules, pieces, boards) construct “players” in ways that can complicate, contradict, or even undermine a participant’s lived reality. The fourth chapter analyzes the results of a survey I designed and distributed to collect information about tabletop gameplay experiences, showing how in-game activities both shape and are shaped by social circumstances, player subjectivities, and cultural beliefs about it what it means to “play a game.” Players, through in-game performance and agreement to the rules as written, enact the values embedded within the game materials. Ultimately, I argue that by positioning players in ways that complicate, contradict, or even undermine their lived realities and experiential knowledges, games, at once, restrict and open possibilities for the performance and (re)construction of identity.