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You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was...

Powerful Words from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Anton Strout

Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland...

Only Days Left to Back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology!

There are only a couple days left to back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology on Kickstarter! Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger,...

Warlock 5 Author Interview: Cullen Brunn

Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn. But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat...

Kane Gilmour on The Rise of Kaiju Prose

As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while...

What’s In a Character’s Name?

Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you're more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in...

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I've found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can't...

Press Release: Blackguards Anthology Gets Facelift

Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories. Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry…

A Letter to My Past Self

Dear Greg (in 1986), So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school.  I wanted to send you...well, not a pep talk, exactly.  You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises,...

Fighting The Voices in My Head

This article by fantasy author Melanie R. Meadors first appeared Geek Mom: Geek Speaks...Fiction! Here, Melanie tells us about how she fought the voices (of the characters) in her head…and lost. When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions...
What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art

What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art

There is an immense community of video game designers that, over the last 10 years, have worked towards furthering video games as an artistic medium. While some of this progress relates directly to the rise of the video game industry, this progress is also the result of artists and designers making a conscious choice to consider video games as an artistic medium.

Despite the relative age of the medium, these efforts have made the argument of video games as art a serious academic discussion. Museums across the United States now consider the value of video game exhibits. Even Roger Ebert has taken up the discussion, lending credence to the debate despite his own conclusion that art cannot be won. While there is significant overlap between the design factors involved in video games and tabletop roleplaying games, efforts to further tabletop roleplaying games as a medium are virtually nonexistent.

How have video game designers made progress furthering videogames as an artistic medium? Here are 2 approaches that may serve as a guidepost for the future of tabletop roleplaying games as a medium.

Tell Different Stories

Designers of video games who want to reach a wider audience have made significant gains by following in the footsteps of comic book creators. In the same way that graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis have transcended the idea that comics and the superhero genre are the same (comic books are not a genre), releasing video games outside of typical genres like Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Phoenix Wright, and Dance, Dance, Revolution has increased the breadth of the video game audience.

Experiment with the Medium

While hardware limitations have always served as a catalyst for creativity in video game design, it has rarely served as the source for major innovation. Instead it has been the role of indie game studios, often on limited budgets, to create innovative game structures. Major studios may occasionally break new ground, as Lucas Arts did with its noir-comedy Grim Fandango, but for each example of innovation from a major studio, there are a dozen indie examples. Developers, thatgamecompany, are perhaps the most well-known, having released the highly experimental Flower and Journey.

Tabletop roleplaying games are a medium that has a significant amount in common with video games. Yet the community of video game designers working to further their medium has no equivalent in tabletop roleplaying games. This isn’t to say that there are none, only that those treating tabletop RPG design as an artform are limited.

These series of posts will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. The first article in the series can be found here: Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect” Our next instalment will take at tabletop roleplaying games that blur lines between simple game and artwork.

Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect”

Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect”

The first time that I sat in my friend’s basement–polyhedron in hand–I understood that Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t an activity that one advertises. The intense focus on D&D as “satanic training” from the 1980s wasn’t the issue (this was 1991). Mazes and Monsters was simply another brilliant comedic performance by Tom Hanks. While the 12-year-old me couldn’t pinpoint the issue, looking back, I think it was as simple as my subconscious realizing D&D was considered mindless entertainment. Something that “rots your brain,” like comic books or video games.

What constitutes mindless entertainment has changed a lot in 20 years. An entire generation of video game addicts have grown up–brains intact– had kids, and continue to be “gamers” while functioning as productive members of society. Family nights at the Symphony that once consisted of Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores, now include orchestral interpretations of Zelda and Mario. Even the Smithsonian American Art Museum has opened an exhibition that celebrates 40 years of games. While never reaching the commercial heights of video games, it can be argued that comic books have been more successful in claiming the title of art. Gene Luen Yang, author of the graphic novel American Born Chinese, was a finalist for the national book awards in the Young’s People’s Literature category in 2006. An achievement that follows in the footsteps of the special Pulitzer Prize awarded to Art Spiegelman for his book Maus.

Gaining acceptance as an art form is a monumental task. Early novels were seen as the frivolous pastime of aristocratic women. Fantasy novels were labeled as children’s books for decades, despite their intended audiences, and even today’s writers of the fantastic often feel the need to relabel their work as speculative fiction. It seems most mediums and genres are subject to this artistic rite of passage, forcing me to wonder why some forms succeed while others fail.

These series of posts, in the vein of Susana Grilo’s exploration of speculative fiction, will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, why don’t roleplaying games “get no respect?”