Two New Dissertations on Role-play

J Tuomas Harviainen, Systemic Perspectives on Information in Physically Performed Role-play (to be defended October), http://urn.fi/urn:isbn:978-951-44-8914-3.

Abstract

This dissertation examines information phenomena that take place in, and related to, physically performed pretence play. The emphasis is on one hand on the play experience and the elements constituting it, but underneath that all exist information processes which essentially define the perimeters of what can be done during play and how.
Being primarily a metatheoretical work, the dissertation draws on the empirics of earlier researchers and practitioners, further supported with the author’s own experiments and field observations. References are analyzed with the use of systematic analysis, a hermeneutical method for finding their key essences, which are then compared with other works. Through this process, new data emerges from the combinations of the old, as seemingly disparate concepts are shown to actually discuss the same things.
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Markus Montola, On the Edge of the Magic Circle: Understanding Pervasive Games and Role-Playing (to be defended September), http://urn.fi/urn:isbn:978-951-44-8864-1.

Abstract

On the Edge of the Magic Circle studies two threads of contemporary western gaming culture: Role-playing and pervasive games. Recreational role-playing includes forms such as tabletop role-playing games, larps and online role-playing games, while pervasive games range from treasure hunts to alternate reality games. A discussion on pervasive role-playing connects these strands together.

The work has four larger research goals. First, to establish a conceptual framework for understanding role-playing in games. Second, to establish a conceptual framework for understanding pervasive games. Third, to explore the expressive potential of pervasive games through prototypes. And fourth, to establish a theoretical foundation for the study of ephemeral games.

The central outcome of the work is a theory complex that explains and defines role-playing and pervasive gaming, and allows them to be understood in the context of the recent discussion in game studies.

In order to understand these two borderline cases of games, the work establishes a theoretical foundation that highlights gameplay as a social process. This foundation combines the weak social constructionism of John R. Searle with the recent game studies scholarship from authors such as Jesper Juul, Jane McGonigal, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman.

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