This thesis, conducted by research and creative practice, develops a framework for generating utopian, anti-hierarchical storytelling strategies. It mobilises the queer potential of the “Fantastic Genres” (broadly, science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction), and the narrative structure of tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs), to illustrate how fantastical world-building, character creation, and collaborative play can become tools of resistance.
It outlines the contribution of TRPGs to the fields of performance and play studies, as well as the ways in which performative approaches to space, embodiment, and liveness feature in the design of a politically disruptive, queer storytelling game.
These inquiries are accompanied by the project’s practical output; a tabletop roleplaying game called Otherwards. This game demonstrates the possibilities of collaborative queer narrative and world-building, providing its players with the space to explore and shape alternate dimensions, and the freedom to imagine themselves into any body, gender, or life-form.
I am a queer, trans game designer, illustrator, and writer, arriving at TFTI through a BA in Fine Art, and an MA in Theatre Making (UCT). Alongside my PhD research at York, I have worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in both Theatre and Interactive Media. I write and run tabletop roleplaying games and Live Action Roleplaying games with anti-Capitalist approaches to bodies, gender, relationships, and community.
I have facilitated various participatory workshops about world building and character creation (IMT Gallery’s I am a Not Me, 2020, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, 2021), and am part of a team developing an isometric turn-based computer game called Teen Witch Tactics, inspired by all the queer bits of Sailor Moon, The Craft, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Despite my many criticisms of the franchise, I am currently playing in nine Dungeons & Dragons campaigns (three Sorcerers, two Warlocks, one Wizard, two Druids and a Bard).
My creative practice and research are both orientated towards collaborative play, world-building, and the exploration of queer experiences through the lens of science fiction and fantasy. As such, my research areas include play, utopian, narrative and queer studies. I work across a range of media, including performance, illustration, video, text, and analogue game design.
Kawitzky, F R. 2021. “"Magic Circles: Tabletop role-playing games as queer utopian method", Performance Research. Vol. 25:8 Training Utopias