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):
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….”


  1. A friend of mine was ostracized by his D&D group for swearing during a game... though I suspect this is a local idiosyncrasy that has little bearing on any possible "sacred vs. profane" aspects.

    PS "Dorkness visible"?

  2. A journey into the heart of dorkness.

  3. The La Farge piece is a classic. (I was actually just looking at it today, in the Blvr anthology READ HARD!!!)

  4. There is always dorkness before the dawn.

    I once read a literary view of D&D that said it was more related to picaresque than any other kind of literature, which partly explained why efforts to turn game scenarios in to Tolkienesque epic literature fail so amusingly.