TABLETOP BOARD GAMES AND THE TELEVISUAL IMAGINATION (SCMS - Chicago, March 6 - 10, 2013) - submission deadline: July 25, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
David Scott Diffrient / Society for Cinema and Media Studies

Tabletop Board Games and the Televisual Imagination

Call for Papers: SCMS 2013

[panel proposal for next year's Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Chicago (March 6 - 10, 2013)]

Beginning in the early 1950s, when the Milton Bradley Company contributed to the widespread appeal and fervent fan following of the DuMont Television Network's science-fiction series Captain Video (1949-1955), tabletop board games have played an important, if critically overlooked, role in expanding the paratextual horizons of cult TV programs. Indeed, because play itself is such an engrained part of the board game experience, the many television shows blessed (or, perhaps, "burdened") with such paratexts can likewise be said to exude a kind of ludic aura, luring audiences into a playfully participatory arena of "textual gaming." Although much of the recent scholarly work on immersive and extendable fictions in popular culture (such as Frank Rose's The Art of Immersion, a chapter of which is entitled "Television: The Game") has focused on video games, online RPGs, and virtual worlds, little attention has been given to older, more "traditional" forms of gameplay, which continue to draw TV audiences to material sites of individual strategizing and small-group interaction where luck and skill each play a part.

This panel seeks to fill a gap in the critical discourse surrounding both board games and television, two mediums with distinct, yet overlapping, histories whose reciprocal influence can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s. During those decades, programs as diverse as Dragnet (1951-1959), Perry Mason (1957-1966), The Munsters (1964-1966), Lost in Space (1965-1968), and Star Trek (1966-1969) spawned a host of fun and interactive, if sometimes crude and simplistic, board games, setting a precedent for more recent releases built around such contemporary TV series as The Simpsons (1989- ), Futurama (1999- ), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000- ), NCIS (2003- ), Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009), Lost (2004-2010), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005- ), The Office (2005- ), The Walking Dead (2010- ), and A Game of Thrones (2011- ). Many of these board games are considerably more complex than their 1950s and 1960s predecessors, matching the narrative intricacies of their respective television series while fostering a deeper understanding of the original shows' textual universes.

Panel participants are encouraged to select any TV-themed board game and adopt a variety of methodologies or modes of critical engagement so as to highlight its cultural significance.

Potential paper topics include, but are not limited to:

• Theories of play and their applicability to televisual hermeneutics
• Theories of fandom and their applicability to board gaming culture
• Online board game communities (, etc.)
• In-game social interaction (player partnerships, negotiation, bluffing, etc.)
• Paratextuality and television's game-related promotional culture
• Board game collectability and connoisseurship
• Material culture and the physicality/tactility of play (game pieces, dice, cards, bodies, etc.)
• The aesthetics of board games (visual design, layout, colors, etc.)
• Game-play mechanics, televisual "turn-taking," and narrative organization
• Character-based role-play and board game performativity
• Ethnicity, gender, and identity in TV-themed board games
• Board game/TV franchise crossovers (Seinfeld Monopoly, Family Guy Operation, etc.)
• Gaming subcategories/subdomains:
o TV-themed card games (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Pergamum Prophecy, Doctor Who: The Twelve Doctors, Vampire Diaries, etc.)
o TV-themed party games (Bullwinkle and Rocky, The Bachelorette, Big Bang Theory, etc.)
o TV-themed trivia games (M*A*S*H, Friends, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Modern Family, Nick at Night Classic TV, etc.)
• Board game auteurs and production companies:
o Designers of TV-themed board games (Cory Jones, Corey Konieczka, Christian Petersen, etc.)
o Publishers of TV-themed board games (Cardinal, Edge Entertainment, Cryptozoic Entertainment, etc.)

Please send a 250-300-word abstract with at least 3 bibliographic references and a brief biographical note to David Scott Diffrient ( by July 25, 2012. Selections for the panel will be made by August 1, 2012.