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