Dungeons & Dragons is not a game. The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss notes that “Games… appear to have a disjunctive effect: they end in the establishment of a difference between individual players or teams where originally there was no indication of inequality. And at the end of the game they are distinguished into winners and losers.” Which is, as noted above, not true of D&D: “there is neither an end to the game nor any winner.” But if D&D isn’t a game, then what is it, exactly? One theorist of fantasy role-playing games proposes, following Lévi-Strauss, that D&D is, in the strict sense of the term, a ritual. “Ritual, on the other hand,” this is Lévi-Strauss again, “is the exact inverse: it conjoins, for it brings about a union... or in any case an organic relation between two initially separate groups….”
Sunday, January 02, 2011
"This thing of dorkness"
It is an old piece, but I enjoyed rereading Paul La Farge's essay on D&D in the Believer. One bit that caught my attention (the underlying reference is to Christopher Lehrich's essay on ritual in role-playing games):