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Tuesday, March 29

New Review: Flawed, yet very useful,

Compared to earlier works on the history of role-playing games, Tresca does an admirable job. From Tolkien to tabletop to digital, as well as some other variants, he shows the main paths by which role-playing games have changed and evolved, in style and content. He even pays special attention to the way certain phenomena (particularly larps) have much more complex roots. Tresca has made a serious attempt at being inclusive, even as he concentrates on American fantasy games, and while he does not get all of the facts always right, the effort has to be applauded. Nordic immersion debates and Forgean design theorists, for example, do get discussed, so it is obvious that he has done his homework.

There are some more serious problems, though. Most prominently, the author tends to ramble. He spends loads of time explaining unnecessary things like game minutiae, quoting friends and family, and mentioning anecdotal material probably of interest to mostly just himself. Certain definitively significant games are never discussed, and several references he uses are missing from the list at the end. The effect is that the whole work comes through as ambitious and impressive in scope, yet sloppy.

Somewhat flawed as it may be, Tresca's book is nevertheless absolutely mandatory reading for all serious role-playing scholars. As far as providing an "official history" of role-playing games goes, I think he has all in all succeeded quite well.

Read more at Amazon.


posted by Michael Tresca at 3:46 PM

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