Thursday, January 11, 2018

De-roling: an inflated concept ? [micro-essay, part 2]

Philosopher mask,
maybe a replica from an Athens Museum*
This second part provides more details about the previous post.

Pseudo-bibliometric analysis with Google tools

  • A basic search in Google Scholar shows that almost all the documents retrieved are from the field of Psychotherapy or Theater.
  • The concept seems to be born around the mid-70s (1973 in GB; 1977 in GS) in the field of psychotherapy. No Google trends or ngrams are available.

Comprehensive bibliography on de-roling

Personal bias and previous knowledge

  • I have a strong bias against psychoanalysis and other kinds of "personal interpretation of case studies". I ask empirical experiments as a minimum scientific requirement for social psychology claims.
  • Based on my knowledge, humans are good at switching roles, assuming different conflicting roles and knowing effortlessly if the roles they are playing or they are watching is fiction or reality. (forthcoming posts on that).
  • I remember reading a genuine personal experience of a Vampire: the Masquerade french player [impossible to find it again online]. He was telling how, to his own amusement, after more than 24 hours of continuous play, being a vampire, he found himself waking up at his home and jumping out of his bed because he saw a strong ray of light on his sheet. (cf. an article about Edgework I reviewed).

Comments on Mazes and Monsters

  • The book and the tv-movie are telling the story of a tabletop role-playing game AND a live action role-playing game. Here, a pretty funny summary of the plot of the tv-movie.
  • Hobgoblin is another book based on obsession with fictional characters was released the same year.


  • De-roling (more rare: deroling
  • de-roling is a sub-topic of debriefing

Lost in TV-Tropes

 My hypothesis

  • Even if 
    • de-roling is proven to be a viable concept 
    • and it's describing an existing psychological phenonemom
  • I think, usually, a tabletop role-playing game 
    • is not a place in which we embody, embrace or assume completely a role 
    • but it's a setting where the players are constantly 
      • negociating the relations between their character, them as player and their own person ;
      • and exercising and enjoying their ability to switch layer-of-play.

Engagement and distance at the table

« When their are transcribing sequences of tabletop role playing games, scholars and designers are often cleaning the text to give it some fluency. In these texts, the roleplayers seems completely focus on the game (...) I think we are missing something specific to RPG when we ignore these moments: daily life talks, examples from other fictions or from the news, exchange of cookies, coffee breaks, expressions of exhaustion,...  This switching between engagement and distance can be seen at every tables and it deserves to be studied as "second level of interpretation" [second degré, in french] in the communication of the fiction. » [p.185. My translation from Olivier Caïra. 2007. “Au carrefour des niveaux de communication.” In Jeux de rôle: les forges de la fiction, 189–204. Société. Paris: CNRS.] [Read more on engagement et distance: Norbert Elias, Engagement et distanciation, Paris, Fayard, 1993.]

Reportedly (and not verified by me), a rule of the japanese RPG Ryuutama (2007) punishes the players for being sleepy, leaving the table or making jokes. The game start and the exitgame are ritually codified in the american RPG Polaris (2009). The rules in the first volume of the french RPG game Sens Hexalogie (2010) have an incentive to keep the communications of the players in-game with the design of Negative Immersion Points.

* and maybe a inspiration for the infamous «green devil face» of the Tomb of Horrors.

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