“I like the dragon to be there”: Role-playing studio spaces and the delivery of the paid game experience in Singapore

I presented this at the superfun Generation Analog 2022: Space and Materiality, which turned out to be one of my favourite virtual conference experiences ever–there’s nothing quite like nerds fluent in Discord chatting unstoppably on a channel about games. Every talk I listened to was enthralling and fun and inspired lots of continued thinking.

In this paper, I look at how the material environments of TTRPGs extend beyond the domestic environment of the home game by focusing on the sites of TTRPG studios in Singapore, where players pay a premium to enjoy a D&D experience run by professional game masters (GMs). I focus on material elements of the D&D game that are fuzzier, more permeable, and more atmospheric in nature: light and sound. By drawing together these two areas of analysis, I show how the material environments of TTRPG studios are engineered to quickly position players as fateful agents. This is to broaden and solidify their player base as studios seek to make their businesses viable. It also serves a secondary purpose: to scaffold the experience of tabletop roleplaying games for new players interested in the game in the wake of its popular culture resurgence, especially in the context of play-starved Singapore, where gamers must learn how to play.

The slides can be found here and the talk is publicly available, as below, which really covers only a fraction of my paper.

Homebrewing Asia: How D&D in Singapore is remaking Western fantasy

I talked to two DMs of homebrewed worlds in Singapore about how they’re remaking D&D from its Tolkien/American midwest origins. I thought I’d get answers about how we make D&D Asian, but I was spellbound instead as we stalled on questions of what being Asian even means. This article was published on both The Homeground Asia and The Anthropolitan.

“D&D isn’t a history lecture. There’s something magical when things are mundane. Like, it’s not special that there are temples or shrines: it’s just another thing between you and where you’re going. Or it’s not special that everyone in this world is a mongrel, and that very few characters are ‘pure-blooded’. It’s reflective of our world, where we are defined by generation upon generation of migration.”

Ramji Venkateswaran, DM of The 4th Culture

Narrativity, contingency and play in Dungeons and Dragons

I presented on my PhD project for University College London’s Material Culture Presentation Day on June 10. My supervisor thought there was not enough theory, but I felt there were not enough dragons (I am kidding, Danny!).

Slides as follows. There were lots of things I wanted to talk about (like solarpunk and wuxia D&D universes set in Singapore! Folks in New Zealand who take a ferry out to an island to play D&D in a lighthouse DM’d by a teenager!) but I was unable to do so, so it will just have to come out elsewhere.