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Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds Paperback – August 14, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0226249445 ISBN-10: 0226249441

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Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds + Gaming As Culture: Essays on Reality, Identity And Experience in Fantasy Games
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (August 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226249441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226249445
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 4.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Fine's analysis of the intricacies of role-playing in context carries an authority and acuteness denied to mere observers.... His inside knowledge enables him to make fine distinctions in the strategies and functions of these games that are lost to most outside analysts." - Bill Ellis, Journal of American Folklore "As an ethnography of fantasy role-playing games and gamers, Fine's book respects his subjects and honors the complexity of their enterprise. And as an analysis of the overlap between that world and other more familiar worlds, Fine's book both honors and clarifies the still incredible skills we nevertheless take so much for granted." - Prue Rains, Sociology and Social Research

From the Inside Flap

This classic study still provides one of the most acute descriptions available of an often misunderstood subculture: that of fantasy role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Gary Alan Fine immerses himself in several different gaming systems, offering insightful details on the nature of the games and the patterns of interaction among players—as well as their reasons for playing.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By BJ Lawrence on May 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
One of the most comprehensive books on the phenomenon of role playing games as they emerged in the 80's, it explores the social psychological implications of playing these games, the personalities attracted to the games and the structure of the games themselves. I used it as a primary reference for my thesis 11 years ago and I believe it is still relevant now, even with the preponderance of computer role playing games. Although, the interactive, cooperative element of sharing fantasy around a tabletop may have faded...the same sharing takes place across continents through cyberspace.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Tresca VINE VOICE on August 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Gary Alan Fine's book, Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds, provides an enlightening overview of the state of gaming in the early eighties. Fine, a sociologist, inhabits the gaming cultures he reviews, reporting on Dungeons & Dragons, Chivalry & Sorcery, and Empire of the Petal Throne as a player and game master. He also interviews many of the leading lights of the industry at the time, including M.A.R. Barker, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

What's revealed by Fine's studies is that issues many gamers face today have remained largely unchanged over the course of thirty years. "Roll-" vs. "role-" playing figures prominently. Game masters who are unprepared or capricious, players who are petty and competitive, groups that exclude other groups...they're all here in vivid detail. What sets Fine's work apart is that he provides sociological constructs to discuss the gaming hobby, a hobby he treats with respect.

On the other hand, there are several issues that are clearly tied to the nascent gaming culture. Rampant sexism and violence towards women disturbs Fine; things have definitely changed for the better. The other major concern of most of Fine's subjects is the invasion of youngsters to the hobby who are too immature to fully grasp its rules. Nowadays we have the opposite problem - there aren't enough young players attracted to the game.

Throughout, Fine interviews his subjects and quotes their experiences as well as his own. These quotes are illustrative of the little challenges gaming groups regularly encounter, from intergroup rivalry to players having their characters to commit mass suicide as a form of protest against a particularly unfair game master. Any gamer will recognize himself and his players in Fine's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scobin on October 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
Role-playing games have really moved on since Gary Alan Fine wrote his book. If it were just for the subject matter, then, Fine's analysis would mostly be commendable for historical reasons. However, this is not the case, as the author demonstrates a fine (no pun..., all right, pun intended) piece of research that can still be used by qualitatively oriented sociologists. In fact, I will be drawing from this book myself in my PhD thesis, although its topic is different (fantastic literature readers in Poland).

There are therefore three groups of people who will probably find this book useful:

1. role-playing game fans who want to know more about the beginnings of their subculture (Fine writes to a non-RPG audience but this should not be a problem here; also, most of what he says should be accessible to the general intelligent reader);

2. role-playing game scholars;

3. qualitative sociologists (although the book could be a touch less descriptive and a little more analytical).

If you belong to any of these groups, do consider buying "Shared Fantasy". If not, chances are that you will not find the book to be very appealing.
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