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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Book "Playing at the World"

Let me preface the following by mentioning that my BA is in History. In the late 80's and early 90's, I read a shit ton of dry, historical writing.

We are now in 2013, and Gaming at the World is "dry, historical writing".

It's not bad at all. Actually, it's very informative. I just find that I can only stomach reading it using the Kindle app on my phone when I'm in the crapper, waiting for the bus or something else that is of a limited yet random time frame.

I tried reading it in bed on my iPad and it put me to sleep. Apparently getting that History BA in my 40's would have required much more discipline than it did 20 some odd years ago.

If you want an interesting history of RPGs that can actually be engaging to read, try Designers & Dragons (currently out of print - soon to be a multi-volume release from Evil Hat). If you want a textbook approach to many of the background events leading up to D&D, Playing at the World could very well be your cup of tea.


  1. You and I usually agree on most things, but here I'm going to have to disagree. I thought "Playing at the World" was very engaging and I burned through it at a rapid pace (even though it is enormously long). And I have a BA in History, too!

    I never read "Designers & Dragons" originally, but I'll certainly get the Evil Hat edition. One thing worries me, though; on the splash page for the book, they tout "an improved page and book design oriented on attractive readability".

    Sounds like a lot of needless graphics on the page. If I'm reading a book, I want text and appropriate illustrations, tables, or photos. I don't need fancy-schmancy headers, footers, corner-graphics, centerlines, call-out boxes, etc.

    1. I'm with Joseph here: I thought Playing at the World was a page-turner.

      Of course, I am also a college professor at a Research-I school.

      This may be a factor.

    2. I suspect I'd have a greater ability to focus on the material if I was younger.

      Very interesting, but only digestible in small chunks for me ;)

    3. I agree with Joseph as well, it is very readable and not at all like the academic work I read.

      It is much better written and more engaging than many blogs I read.

  2. I found it interesting in the beginning chapters, and then near the end. The middle of the book was full of details, but it was not something I found exciting. Much like you, I had to take my time and read it here and there.

  3. Read not because it's required, read because it's a chance at engagement.

  4. This is going on my list to read as soon as I am done with Christopher Hitchens' "Arguably".

    I really enjoyed "Designers & Dragons", but I am mentioned in it too.

  5. I'm reading it currently, and in the chapter on fantasy. I think the opening wargames chapter was much more interesting because it was clearly original history culled from obscure documentation, while a great deal of the fantasy chapter is just a very thorough retelling of the story of swords & sorcery fiction.

    You would have been better off reading the physical book, FWIW. Footnotes on the Kindle app suck, and this book has a lot of meat in its footnotes.