Resources

Books on Gaming

Below is a short list of books focusing on the history of gaming and gaming culture. If you have suggestions for the list, please email them to us.

Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventure--From Chess to Role-Playing Games by Jon Peterson

Explore the conceptual origins of wargames and role-playing games in this unprecedented history of simulating the real and the impossible. From a vast survey of primary sources ranging from eighteenth-century strategists to modern hobbyists, Playing at the World distills the story of how gamers first decided fictional battles with boards and dice, and how they moved from simulating wars to simulating people. The invention of role-playing games serves as a touchstone for exploring the ways that the literary concept of character, the lure of fantastic adventure and the principles of gaming combined into the signature cultural innovation of the late twentieth century.

Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games by Stewart Woods

While board games can appear almost primitive in the digital age, eurogames--also known as German-style board games--have increased in popularity nearly concurrently with the rise of video games. Eurogames have simple rules and short playing times and emphasize strategy over luck and conflict. This book examines the form of eurogames, the hobbyist culture that surrounds them, and the way that hobbyists experience the play of such games. It chronicles the evolution of tabletop hobby gaming and explores why hobbyists play them, how players balance competitive play with the demands of an intimate social gathering, and to what extent the social context of the game encounter shapes the playing experience. Combining history, cultural studies, leisure studies, ludology, and play theory, this innovative work highlights a popular alternative trend in the gaming community.

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you probably know someone who has: the game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974—decades before the Internet and social media—Dungeons & Dragons inspired one of the original nerd subcultures, and is still revered by millions of fans around the world. Now the authoritative history and magic of the game are revealed by an award-winning journalist and lifelong D&D player. In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt recounts the development of Dungeons & Dragons from the game’s roots on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, to its apotheosis as father of the modern video-game industry. As he chronicles the surprising history of the game’s origins (a history largely unknown even to hardcore players) and examines D&D’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.

The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers, from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit by Philip E. Orbanes

The Monopoly game, Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Boggle, and Risk are more than games - they're part of Americana. All of these games were published by one company, Parker Brothers, which began as a dream inside the mind of a sixteen-year-old boy, over one hundred years ago. In The Game Makers, industry expert Phil Orbanes reveals how, by adhering to the principles of its founder, Parker Brothers rose to prominence, overcame obstacles, and forged lasting success. Orbanes, a game historian and former executive at Parker Brothers, draws from company archives, interviews with surviving family members, and the newly discovered records of founder George Parker to tell a story rich in examples of business acumen that spans world wars, family tragedy, the Great Depression, and global competition.Pairing Parker's enduring business lessons with little-known historical anecdotes, Orbanes reveals the often whimsical origin of classic games-Tiddledy Winks, Monopoly, Nerf, Sorry!, the modern jigsaw puzzle, and more-and how Parker Brothers turned them into cultural icons. Engaging and insightful, "The Game Makers" explains the rules that popularized the games we play and reveals the people who built an American business empire.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest For Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, And Other Dwellers Of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdort

In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to Wisconsin, New Zealand to France, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. On a quest that begins in his own geeky teenage past and ends in our online gaming future, he asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood. He questions Tolkien scholars and medievalists. He speaks to grown men who build hobbit holes and speak Elvish, and to grown women who play massively multiplayer online games. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds, and mentally inhabit faraway magical lands. Gilsdorf records what lures them--old, young, male, female, able-bodied, and disabled—into fantasy worlds, and for what reasons, whether healthy, unhealthy, or in between. Delving deeper and deeper into geekdom, our noble hero plays WoW for weeks on end. He travels to pilgrimage sites: Tolkien’s hometown, movie locations, castles, and archives. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands. At a LARP, he dresses as a pacifist monk for a weekend. He goes to fan conventions and gaming tournaments. He battles online goblins, trolls, and sorcerers. He camps with medieval reenactors—12,000 of them. He becomes Ethor, Ethorian, and Ethor-An3. He sews his own tunic. He even plays D&D. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening.

Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games by Lizzie Stark

Exposing a subculture often dismissed as “geeky” by mainstream America, Leaving Mundania is the story of live action role-playing (LARP). A hybrid of games—such as Dungeons & Dragons, historical reenactment, fandom, and good old-fashioned pretend—larp is thriving, and this book explores its multifaceted communities and related phenomena, including the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group that boasts more than 32,000 members. Author Lizzie Stark looks at the hobby from a variety of angles, from its history in the pageantry of Tudor England to its present use as a training tool for the US military. Along the way, she duels foes with foam-padded weapons, lets the great elder god Cthulhu destroy her parents’ beach house, and endures an existential awakening in the high-art larp scene of Scandinavia.

The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange by Mark Barrowcliffe

Summer, 1976. Twelve-year-old Mark Barrowcliffe had a chance to be normal. He blew it. While other teenagers were being coolly rebellious, Mark—and twenty million other boys in the 1970s and ’80s—chose to spend his entire adolescence pretending to be a wizard, a warrior, or an evil priest. Armed only with pen, paper, and some funny-shaped dice, this lost generation gave themselves up to the craze of fantasy role-playing games. Spat at by bullies and laughed at by girls, they now rule the world. They were the geeks, the fantasy war gamers, and this is their story.

 


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