Essays on Actual Play and Tabletop Role-Playing Games

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Shelly Jones, PhD

Essays on Actual Play and Tabletop Role-Playing Games

This peer reviewed edited collection will be a part of McFarland & Company, Inc.’s Studies in Gaming series.

Actual Play is a movement within the role-playing gaming hobby in which players livestream or record, audibly and/or visually, themselves playing tabletop RPGs to be watched by others for entertainment. Recently at the 51st GenCon, the largest gaming convention in North America, the concept of “actual play” won the prestigious Diana Jones Award, an annual award given for excellence in gaming. This is only the second time that a movement or abstract concept has won the award, which typically is given to a particular designer or game. Moreover, a recent Polygon article (“‘Actual play’ RPG experiences like Critical Role, Adventure Zone are having a moment”) noted that actual play is bringing RPGs up out of the basement and providing a space for more people to enjoy these games. It is clear that this movement is changing our expectations of tabletop gaming and what we think of when we think of Dungeons and Dragons or other RPGs. Given the recent acceptance and interest of these types of gaming media, this edited collection seeks to explore the impact of actual play on tabletop role-playing gaming and game studies overall.

This edited collection will critically examine how the actual play movement is changing and challenging how we think about analog gaming, particularly as technology begins to blur the line between analog and digital.  We’re interested in in-depth looks at specific actual play media as well as trends in tabletop RPGs overall. This collection is open to articles from a variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, game studies, digital humanities, communication studies, pop culture studies, sociology, performance studies, fan studies, etc.  


Possible Chapter Topics Include, but are not limited to:

  • Discussions of how actual play is changing and challenging the hobby of board games/RPGs and game studies overall
  • The interplay of internet platforms such as Twitch and Youtube in a previously analog game play
  • Discussion of the impact of celebrities in actual play on the popularity of gaming (e.g. “confessions” of playing RPGs by celebrities like Vin Diesel, Stephen Colbert, Joe Manganiello, etc.)
  • Analysis of celebrity actual play media versus non-celebrity media (e.g. looking at the performance aspects of the professional voice actors of Critical Role versus podcasts created by non-actors/average people; production quality, edited versus unedited actual play media, etc.)
  • Analysis of audience participation in actual play podcasts/videos (e.g. charity games; audience voting that aids players or the DM, etc.)
  • Increased access to and accessibility of gaming with the advent of actual play
  • Diversity of tabletop role-playing games in actual play (i.e. popularity of D&D versus Pathfinder versus indie RPGs in actual play media)
  • Issues of diversity in representation (of gamers, of characters, of settings, etc.) within actual play podcasts or videos
  • Issues of economics and gaming. Many actual play groups are sponsored or created by corporations key to the industry (e.g. Wizards of the Coast, Wyrmwood, etc.). How do these economic and corporate connections change or even dictate casting choices, narrative choices, game choices, etc.
  • Issues of privacy and performance (e.g. how actual play confounds the notion of gaming as a private act that takes place in one’s home versus a performance that viewers watch and interact with gamer-performers live through technology)
  • Analysis of actual play podcasts or videos of role-playing games (e.g. The Adventure Zone, Critical Role, Drunks & Dragons, etc.)

This list is far from exhaustive. We welcome any academic discussion of actual play media or the concept of actual play. 


Please submit a 300 word abstract including title and keywords to: Please also include a short bio with your abstract submission.

Submit Proposals by: October 15, 2018

Acceptance Notifications by: November 1, 2018

Chapters Due: April 1, 2019