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The Privilege of Play

Oct 20, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Book Cover. The Privilege of Play

The Digital Cultures Collaboratory (sponsored by the Center for 21st Century Studies), in cooperation with the Honors College and Student Involvement, is very excited to present a series of Fall Geek Weekend events on the afternoon of Friday, October 20th.  

Southeast Wisconsin has a special status in the history of the globe-spanning phenomenon of tabletop roleplaying games, and Dungeons & Dragons (born in Lake Geneva) has never been more popular than it is now. At the same time, D&D has also been almost exclusively fueled by the fantasy imagination of Northern Europe, leading many to call for an expansion of the source material so as to reflect the global inclusivity of D&D players.  

These events center around these reflections, kicked off by a talk at 2 pm in Curtin 386 by Dr. Aaron Trammell (UC Irvine), who will speak about his recent work related to inclusivity and game culture. 

2:00-3:30 PM, Curtin Hall 368
The Privilege of Play: Connecting Games and Race in the 20th Century 

The histories of race and games in the 20th century have long been siloed. Popular histories of games often render invisible the race of the white men that they celebrate, thus inviting readers to take for granted the somewhat homogenous demographics of the games industry. Far from being coincidental, Trammell argues that race has been central to the history of games. He will present historical research in this talk that shows how the early leaders of the game industry were able to thrive due to their community ties. He terms these white communities “networks of privilege” and offers evidence for how these networks developed of the course of the 20th century and used dog whistles to keep BIPoC people out. Thus, in this talk he will foreground how the invisible politics of whiteness have shaped the history of games itself. 

Then, join us for associated Geek Weekend events beginning with a discussion on diversity and inclusion in gaming with Dr. Trammell in the Union Fireside Lounge at 4:30 PM 

Wizards of the Coast (the publisher of D&D) has also recognized these issues, and last year published Journeys through the Radiant Citadel, a series of small adventures for D&D groups, with each of the fourteen chapters written by a BIPoC contributor. We’ll follow the 4:30 discussion with Dr. Trammel with a playthrough of “The Salted Legacy,” the first in that series of Dungeons & Dragons adventures. Students are invited to join tables of 4-5 players, each led by a “Dungeon Master” who has prepped specifically for the event. 


Aaron Trammell is an Associate Professor of Informatics at UC Irvine. He is interested in how tabletop games further values of white privilege and hegemonic masculinity in geek culture. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Analog Game Studies and the co-editor for the Tabletop Gaming series at University of Michigan Press. He has two books Repairing Play (2023 MIT Press) is a theory of play that centers BIPOC people and The Privilege of Play (2023 NYU Press) is a history of games and race in the 20th Century. 


Oct 20, 2023
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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