Hooligans at the Table: The Concept of Male Preserves in Tabletop Role-playing Games





masculinity, discourse, sociology, inequality, gamer characteristics, tabletop RPGs, role-playing games


This paper examines the nature of conversations that occur at gaming tables in tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs) and the degree to which gendered communication impacts how individuals participate in gaming sessions. There is a host of research discussing barriers for women and minorities in terms of full representation and interaction in gaming and “geek” spaces (Garcia 2017; Reagle 2015; Stang and Trammell 2019). I assert that one rationale for this limitation is the domination of gaming spaces by men, particularly middle-class White men, and the subculture that comes along with this demographic. Dunning (1986) discusses the concept of male preserves, how sports in particular create subcultures that prize behavior and language that are associated with men and embodied in the male form. I discuss how the TRPG table is a male preserve, encouraging a level of dominance that colors table talk and acceptable norms (Dunning, Murphy and Williams 2014). The masculine nature of the discussion style of this table talk is more difficult by subaltern groups because of the clear association with “stereotypical” gamers, commonly White and male, and this difficulty is demonstrated in various ways (Bowman 2013; Hendricks 2006; Ilieva 2013). I surmise that while diversity has always existed and proceeds to improve in tabletop gaming, the subcultural elements of a male preserve remain difficult to uproot.




How to Cite

Dashiell, S. L. (2020). Hooligans at the Table: The Concept of Male Preserves in Tabletop Role-playing Games. International Journal of Role-Playing, (10), 26–39. https://doi.org/10.33063/ijrp.vi10.274