All the best guides for tabletop and role-playing games to obsess over post-Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves
So you’ve finished your third viewing of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves and are wondering where to go from here. While you wait for your next D&D session, dive in to some of the best books on tabletop games and more from the MIT Press—covering topics like board game design, the experience of play, and the legal battle surrounding Dungeons & Dragons.
Learn more about just a few of our books on tabletop and role-playing games, or explore even more books on gaming from the MIT Press.
Forthcoming: Monsters, Aliens & Holes in the Ground: A Guide to Tabletop Roleplaying Games from D&D to Mothership by Stu Horvath
When Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson released Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, they created the first roleplaying game of all time. Little did they know that their humble box set of three small digest-sized booklets would spawn an entire industry practically overnight. In Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground, Stu Horvath explores how the hobby of roleplaying games, commonly known as RPGs, blossomed out of an unlikely pop culture phenomenon and became a dominant gaming form by the 2010s. Going far beyond D&D, this heavily illustrated tome covers more than three hundred different RPGs that have been published in the last five decades.
Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons by Jon Peterson
When Dungeons & Dragons was first released to a small hobby community, it hardly seemed destined for mainstream success—and yet this arcane tabletop role-playing game became an unlikely pop culture phenomenon. In Game Wizards, Jon Peterson chronicles the rise of Dungeons & Dragons from hobbyist pastime to mass-market sensation, from the initial collaboration to the later feud of its creators, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. As the game’s fiftieth anniversary approaches, Peterson—a noted authority on role-playing games—explains how D&D and its creators navigated their successes, setbacks, and controversies.
The Aesthetic of Play by Brian Upton
Games have existed since antiquity; 5,000-year-old board games have been recovered from Egyptian tombs. And yet we still lack a critical language for thinking about play. Game designers are better at answering small questions (“Why is this battle boring?”) than big ones (“What does this game mean?”). In this book, game designer Brian Upton analyzes the experience of play—how playful activities unfold from moment to moment and how the rules we adopt constrain that unfolding. Drawing on games that range from Monopoly to Dungeons & Dragons to Guitar Hero, Upton develops a framework for understanding play, introducing a set of critical tools that can help us analyze games and game designs and identify ways in which they succeed or fail.
Unboxed: Board Game Experience and Design by Gordon Calleja
In Unboxed, Gordon Calleja explores the experience of playing board games and how game designers shape that experience. Calleja examines key aspects of board game experience—the nature of play, attention, rules, sociality, imagination, narrative, materiality, and immersion—to offer a theory of board game experience and a model for understanding game involvement that is relevant to the analysis, criticism, and design of board games. Drawing on interviews with thirty-two leading board game designers and critics, Calleja—himself a board game designer—provides the set of conceptual tools that board game design has thus far lacked.
The Infinite Playground: A Player’s Guide to Imagination by Bernard De Koven
Bernard De Koven (1941–2018) was a pioneering designer of games and theorist of fun. He studied games long before the field of game studies existed. For De Koven, games could not be reduced to artifacts and rules; they were about a sense of transcendent fun. This book, his last, is about the imagination: the imagination as a playground, a possibility space, and a gateway to wonder. The Infinite Playground extends a play-centered invitation to experience the power and delight unlocked by imagination. It offers a curriculum for playful learning.
The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity by Jon Peterson
When Dungeons & Dragons made its debut in the mid-1970s, followed shortly thereafter by other, similar tabletop games, it sparked a renaissance in game design and critical thinking about games. D&D is now popularly considered to be the first role-playing game. But in the original rules, the term “role-playing” is nowhere to be found; D&D was marketed as a wargame. In The Elusive Shift, Jon Peterson describes how players and scholars in the D&D community began to apply the term to D&D and similar games—and by doing so, established a new genre of games.
Player vs. Monster: The Making and Breaking of Video Game Monstrosity by Jaroslav Švelch
Since the early days of video games, monsters have played pivotal roles as dangers to be avoided, level bosses to be defeated, or targets to be destroyed for extra points. But why is the figure of the monster so important in gaming, and how have video games come to shape our culture’s conceptions of monstrosity? To answer these questions, Player vs. Monster explores the past half-century of monsters in games, from the dragons of early tabletop role-playing games and the pixelated aliens of Space Invaders to the malformed mutants of The Last of Us and the bizarre beasts of Bloodborne, and reveals the common threads among them.
Atari to Zelda: Japan’s Videogames in Global Contexts by Mia Consalvo
In the early days of arcades and Nintendo, many players didn’t recognize Japanese games as coming from Japan; they were simply new and interesting games to play. But since then, fans, media, and the games industry have thought further about the “Japaneseness” of particular games. Game developers try to decide whether a game’s Japaneseness is a selling point or stumbling block; critics try to determine what elements in a game express its Japaneseness—cultural motifs or technical markers. Games were “localized,” subjected to sociocultural and technical tinkering. In this book, Mia Consalvo looks at what happens when Japanese games travel outside Japan, and how they are played, thought about, and transformed by individuals, companies, and groups in the West.