Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tabletop role-playing games as hospitality and hosting rituals (introduction)

It seems the first exchanges of board games were part of transaction rituals of diplomatic gifts between social elite of the Antiquity. First, as luxury objects,

« Many of the first board games appear to have been diplomatic gifts to signify status (…) » (Mark Hall, interview with Discovery News)
British Museum Royal Game of Ur
British Museum Royal Game of Ur
But also, thanks to the intrinsic functions of games, as a source of social interactions.
« As an arena of performance they [the games] can both foster interaction and exchange and sublimate competition. They can be taken readily from one cultural context to another with or without changes of meaning, which do not have to be immediate. » (Hall et Forsyth 2011, 1335)
Recently, on the french podcast of La Cellule, a person said :
« 00:55:00 (...) I think what upset me is that this kind of people came to my living room and its was very invading. And having jerks in other activities outside is okay: the day after we forget them and next time we avoid them. [But] the fact of inviting them [it's different], maybe also because it's a small group, that there is engagement, that the game is well prepared, we invest maybe a lot in this kind of things (...) » (Briand, 2018)
The gamemaster of TRPG can be associated to the roles, expectations and status of a host. We said « inviting our players », « welcoming them at the table », « playing my own campaign », « managing the characters »,... By extra-diegetic set-ups (ie. around the game played) or by ludic mecanisms (mainly around the role of gamemaster), I propose that tabletop role-playing games be analyzed as a variant of the ritual of hospitality (for unknown peoples) or hosting (for familiar people).

Indeed, in my opinion (reading and listening about TRPG since 1985), a lot of moments of game fun, of annoying situations, or of problems can be analyzed through the lens of hospitality/hosting.

A series of posts will follow.
Briand, Romaric, Jérôme S, Pierre Rozier, Adrien Cahuzac, Frédéric De-Nève Leroy, and Emmanuelle Meffray. “Podcast JDR : Pourquoi les rôlistes ont-ils une mauvaise opinion des rôlistes ?” Podcast. La Cellule (blog), March 22, 2018.
Hall, Mark A., and Katherine Forsyth. “Roman Rules? The Introduction of Board Games to Britain and Ireland.” Antiquity 85, no. 330 (November 2011): 1325–38.

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