A list of links between RPGs and the discipline of anthropology (+ethnology +sociology).
a) games and role-playing games sessions are mainly small societies with rules, structures and values.
b) a lot of role-playing games have their game design based on retension-fascination where players like to explore and to investigate. Also, a lot of game settings like to run thoughts experiments with imaginary cultures. To decipher the story the gamemaster cooks to them, the players are building guesses and theories based on perspective-taking, and they are negociating differents points of view.
c) Call of Cthulhu, a major RPG for 40 years, has Academic professor as character profile, with a lot of skills related : Anthropology, Archeology, Cthulhu Mythos, Geology, History, Languages, Library Use, Occult, Psychology, Psychoanalysis (sic)...
d) the sociologist Gary Alan Fine was the first renowned scholar to study RPG players (sociology). Now, several academic scholars are studying RPGs through [anthropo/ethno/socio]-logy : Sarah Lyne Bowman, Olivier Caïra, Nicholas Cragoe, Sébastien Kapp, Nicholas J. Mizer, Heather Shay; Laurent Trémel,...
e) several famous game designers have an anthropology background :
- M.A.R. Barker, linguistics: Empire of the Petal Throne
- Pete Fenlon, anthropology: Rolemaster, MERP
- John Snead, anthropology: Blue Rose, Exalted, Trinity, Mage
Or they created game settings with a strong anthropological flavor :
- Greg Stafford: Glorantha/RuneQuest
- Greg Stolze: Reign
f) this spring 2017 an anthropology undergrad course is taught on RPGs (UC Davis)
g) anthropology can help understand RPG what happens at the game table (rituals, liminality, symbolic manipulation,...).
h) a blog about geek stuffs with an anthropological point of view : The Geek Anthropologist