Volume XI, Issue II

An Elegant Little Instrument: The Japanese Standards Association and the Birth of the Modern d20 – Peter D. Evan

50 Years of Gen Con Events: A Dataset Analysis – Neal Baker

From Consumers to Creators: Bridging Game Play and Playful Game Design for Impactful Civic Education – Sabina Belc and Joseph Dumit

As Analog Game Studies looks forward to another ten years of gathering, exploring, publishing, and collaborating on the “academic and popular study of games,” we must remember the journal’s humble beginnings but provocative dream as expressed by Evan Torner, Aaron Trammell, and Emma Leigh Waldron’s “Reinventing Analog Game Studies” in 2014:

…analog games hold the potential to allow a new and different set of voices into design processes, voices which might resist the pathological displays of racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence native to the video game industry…Analog Game Studies is committed to providing a periodically published platform for the critical analysis, discussion of design, and documentation of analog games. By offering sharp narratives that highlight the most interesting features of individual games, we hope to increase the visibility of analog games within the sphere of game studies.

And from that spark, the brilliant constellation that is AGS was born.  Now in our tenth year, in our eleventh volume, we must remember, honor, and eventually grow the mission of the journal, our editorial board, and our community (including the stellar stars and worlds of Generation Analog):

Rather than conceiving of analog games as a “pure” game form, we recognize their specific histories, trajectories, and potential…this forum will help us maintain a shared language across these mostly private networks and across disciplines such as history, psychology, media studies, sociology, anthropology and literary studies. Bridging these diverse networks is the purpose and reason for existence for this journal.

This issue is no different, expressing an interdisciplinary range, and reveling in the past, present, and future of analog games and of analog game studies itself.  They reveal the long and often invisible histories and memories of making and playing different games and speak to the longevity of playing at home, in schools, and even in industry, politics, and other institutions.  These three essays delve into the materiality of games, into the archives and ephemera of games and gaming communities, and into the prototyping, production, and possibilities of new, different, even (politically) progressive analog games.

First, Peter D. Evan rolls a critical hit with their essay “An Elegant Little Instrument: The Japanese Standards Association and the Birth of the Modern d20,” which excavates the modern history and near predominance of the twenty-sided die.  Evan’s genealogy of the d20 uncovers a fascinating tale that spans three decades and across Asia, Europe, and North America, beginning with the Japanese Standards Association in the 1950s and ending with the Bristol Wargames Society and TSR in the 1970s.

Next, Neal Baker takes a deep, deep dive into Temple University’s Best 50 Years in Gaming! dataset, which logs event data from fifty years of Gen Con’s physical and digital programs, to explore the gaming convention’s long-term transmedia presence and educational function as a format to teach and learn about gaming.  “50 Years of Gen Con Events: A Dataset Analysis” surveys five “eras” from the convention’s D&D beginnings (1968-1977), to its move to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (1978-1984), to the integration of other licensed RPGs and burgeoning fandoms (1976-1980s), to the rise of Dragonlance, computer games, and transmedia productions (1984-1990s), to the arrival of Paizo’s Pathfinder (2009-2017), to the current and future possibilities of Gen Con (2017 and beyond).

Finally, Sabina Belc and Joseph Dumit’s autotheoretical “From Consumers to Creators: Bridging Game Play and Playful Game Design for Impactful Civic Education” narrates their creation of and experiences with a project supported by the US Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Belc and Dumit designed and ran “Project Board Games Design as a Tool in Civic Education,” which covered game design and civic education in response to the 2021 theme of the European Union Youth Dialogue program: “Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation.”  Over five days, they worked with youth workers and educators to think about ways to incorporate playful-critical game design in their engagement with young people.

2024 is already half over, the summer solstice has passed, but we are keeping the home fires burning as we move into the next six months!  In fact, Generation Analog 2024 is only a month away coming this July 24 and 25 online organized around the theme of “HOME”; the preliminary schedule is already available and registration will be announced soon.  Look forward to an upcoming special issue on Latin American analog game studies and a call-for-papers for a future special issue on queer analog game studies.

With that all said, we have one last special announcement to share with the community… We hereby welcome Dr. Edmond Chang into the role of Editor-in-Chief!!!! Our journal has benefitted tremendously from Dr. Chang’s expertise as an editor this past four years and we are thrilled that he is willing to nurture, guide, and tend to both the journal and community’s longevity in the years ahead. Welcome Edmond, you have both our support and gratitude!!! And, of course, thanks to all of our readers, authors, artists, players, presenters, designers, friends, family, and fans—here’s to the next decade(s) of AGS!

—The Editors, June 24, 2024

Featured image by Erik Witsoe.  Free to use under the Unsplash License.