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date: 21 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores the notion of role-playing as a form of “emergent authorship,” a bottom-up, procedural process leading to co-created, unexpected narrative outcomes. The essay begins with an overview of role-playing practices in the context of what might be termed the “participatory turn” in performance and culture, providing examples tabletop and live action role-playing games. Goffman’s concept of “engrossment” (from his writings on games) is compared to Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of “flow” as applied to role-playing and emergent authorship. The relationship of character to role-play is also explored through Schechners “not me, not not me” paradox, in which a character is seen as a hybrid between the performer and the fictional entity. Finally, drawing on Goffman and Fine, I outline a series of sociological “frames” that describe the functions within role-playing, and conclude with further discussion of role-playing as it fits into the larger participatory turn in performance and culture.

Keywords: performance, role-play, live action role-play, larp, games, improvisation, participatory culture, participatory narrative

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