Gamers on Stage: Theatrical Elements in Role-playing Games

By Maria Pamela Punzalan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Typical definitions of games and gameplay discount the most integral part of the role-playing game: that fact that it is a game, and that gameplay is very much involved in the process of propelling the narrative forward. It also ignores the principal appeal of role-playing games; that is, the emulation of social drama through fictional situations, or the manifestation of the fundamental human inclination towards play. It can be said, therefore that participants in an RPG cannot simply be regarded as players, nor can they be viewed as passive consumers of a narrative through their control of a character, they are gamers, readers and storytelling agents all in one. Because they role-play, these individuals are immersed in the imaginary world of the RPG, becoming the characters that they control, performing the roles that have been assigned to them (or, in some cases, roles that the player decided to take for himself or herself) in a simulation that is less like writing out a part of a narrative and more like the acting out of a role in a dramatic text on stage. As such, it may be possible to say that the element of role-play in RPGs makes them, in a sense, theatrical. Exploring the commonalities between role-playing games and the act of role-play with theatre and stage performance presents one with the possibility of gaining a new perspective on both forms while taking their unique characteristics into account.

Keywords: Theater, Performance, Game Studies, Media Studies, Cyberspace

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.65-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 621.706KB).

Maria Pamela Punzalan

Lecturer, Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines

Pamela Punzalan is a lecturer at the Department of English in Ateneo de Manila University. She has been teaching for three years, and is on the brink of completing her master’s degree in Literary and Cultural Studies. Her area of interest in research includes media studies, video game studies, fandom studies, and comic books.


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