Authored by: Andrew Burn

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533324
eBook ISBN: 9780203114261
Adobe ISBN: 9781136290510


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Playing roles is fundamental to human society and culture. In relation to play and games, it belongs to Caillois’s category of mimicry ([1958] 2001): the kind of play in which we behave “as if” (to use Dorothy Heathcote’s term ([1983] 1991, p. 149): as if we were someone else, somewhere else, in imaginary bodies, worlds, or identities. In sociological terms, role is central to socialization, to childhood development, and to the playing out of social functions in families and jobs. It is the quotidian dramaturgical process represented by Goffman’s “performance of self in everyday life” (Goffman, 1959). However, while the role-play of festival, carnival, theatre, pantomime, commedia dell’arte, nativity play, and a multitude of other spectacular forms of mimicry seem opposed to the routinized, invisible nature of social roles, the two are related, and can both serve as analogs for forms of roles we find in digital games and virtual worlds.

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