Gaming the Stage

Playable Media and the Rise of English Commercial Theater
Gina Bloom
Illuminates the fascinating, intertwined histories of games and the Early Modern theater


Rich connections between gaming and theater stretch back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when England's first commercial theaters appeared right next door to gaming houses and blood-sport arenas. In the first book-length exploration of gaming in the early modern period, Gina Bloom shows that theaters succeeded in London's new entertainment marketplace largely because watching a play and playing a game were similar experiences. Audiences did not just see a play; they were encouraged to play the play, and knowledge of gaming helped them become better theatergoers. Examining dramas written for these theaters alongside evidence of analog games popular then and today, Bloom argues for games as theatrical media and theater as an interactive gaming technology.

Gaming the Stage also introduces a new archive for game studies: scenes of onstage gaming, which appear at climactic moments in dramatic literature. Bloom reveals plays to be systems of information for theater spectators: games of withholding, divulging, speculating, and wagering on knowledge. Her book breaks new ground through examinations of plays such as The Tempest, Arden of Faversham, A Woman Killed with Kindness, and A Game at Chess; the histories of familiar games such as cards, backgammon, and chess; less familiar ones, like Game of the Goose; and even a mixed-reality theater videogame.


 “A smart, invigorating intervention into early modern theatre history and historiography. Not only specialists in Renaissance Drama, but also cultural historians, game and gaming scholars, and specialists in performance studies will find this book accessible and engaging. Bloom moves masterfully across scholarly registers, showing how theatre remembers and reconstitutes the chanciness of everyday life.”
—Ellen MacKay, University of Chicago

 “Bloom's central argument concerns the ways the strategies of playing different kinds of games are worked into the action of early modern drama, and how the affectual and kinesthetic structure of playing/watching these games provides an index into the plays’ potential theatrical experience . . . a deeply researched, well-conceived, thoroughly engrossing book.”
—W. B. Worthen, Barnard College, Columbia University

Gina Bloom is Professor of English, University of California, Davis.

Praise / Awards

  • "It is a tour de force, the kind of book that could be written only by someone with comprehensive knowledge of their period, an acute sensitivity to the embodied experience of theatre and gaming, a firm critical-theoretical hand, and practical grounding in the design of playful theatrical experiences." - Theatre Journal
  • "...Gaming the Stage convincingly presents its case for the strategically participatory structure of early modern theatre. The author's passion to correct gaps in current game studies scholarship is evident throughout, and the monograph deserves a wide readership." - Theatre Survey
  • "By intersecting interactivity with game play and theatrical experience, Bloom is able to examine—indeed, play with—the evidence offered by early modern stage plays to create new and fresh methodologies that game scholars, theatre scholars, and historians would all do well to learn from. Bloom fluently brings together a number of concepts, threads, and ideas that help to construct the foundation upon which Gaming the Stage presents its compelling readings, opening up game studies and early modern literary and dramatic history to conceptualize anew an approach that accounts for embodied experience as much as textual record. " - Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England
  • Runner Up, Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education
  • Finalist, George Freedley Memorial Award, Theatre Library Association
  • Honorable Mention, David Bevington Prize, Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Gina Bloom gives Folger's Annual Shakespeare Birthday Lecture Link | 4/19/2019

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 304pp.
  • 25 color illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07381-8

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  • $55.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05381-0

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90108-1

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  • Audio Download
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-00462-1

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  • — U.S.