Rhizomatic Epistemology- Play to Find Out What Happens Article (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Cox, Jason M


  • The following abstract has been accepted: Lack of distinction between rpgs and larps as an experience or as a storytelling medium may limit how we think about the connections that we bring into, experience, and take out of a game. It is in our interest as gamers and as scholars to consider alternative ways of thinking about and modelling what they may mean for us and for our games. Community oriented rpgs and larps view players as stakeholders and co-creators who have a say in the diegetic world that emerges through play. This approach is associative and collaborative, oriented towards emergent play, as opposed to a “mimetic” approach, which is more focused on a pre-existing plot or story world into which characters are placed. To analyze this kind of structure, I developed an epistemological approach derived from Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and rhizomatic thought as described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Many games follow a narrative that is externally determined by a referee, game-master, or administrative team (Stenros 2014). These games often follow a traditional rhetorical model (Phelan, Rabinowitz, 2012), wherein rhetorical, thematic, and synthetic elements all provide a coherent linear structure. Deleuze and Guattari refer to this as an “arborescent” structure due to the focus on an operational core that branches into procreative and generative sub-systems. In an emergent narrative, players are often urged to “play to find out what happens”. Though the context, characters, and situation may suggest how a scene may end, it is not a forgone conclusion, and the end of one scene may also suggest the beginning of the next. Players are co-creators of the diegetic world (Herman, 2012), though they have more agency in that act than the term denotes in literature. This is what Deleuze and Guatarri term a rhizomatic approach, which is a web defined by the multiple intersections rather than by a single generative point. What ANT does in the rhizomatic structure is it highlights the relationships between the various actors in play by framing them in different moments. It may include the characters, costumes, and props, but will also incorporate non-diegetic details that affect play, such as emergent themes, current events in the players lives, the real-world interruptions of diegetic spaces, and the development of relationships after a game has ostensibly ended.


publication date

  • 2019

published in


  • 3