Scholarly research isn’t all fun and games: Sometimes it’s just games. Several years ago, brothers Edwin Murray ’72 and Terry Murray donated a sizeable collection of comic books to Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. It quickly became one of the most frequently requested collections. Recently, the Murray brothers added to the library’s popular-culture holdings with an equally colorful companion collection—a virtual treasure trove of role-playing games.
Although not your standard research library fare, role-playing games—RPGs, in gaming parlance—represent an exceptional resource for scholars interested in print and pop-culture influences in twentieth-century America. The games’ vivid depictions
of heroes, heroines, villains, monsters, and fantasy environments offer intriguing
insights into twentieth-century understanding of gender, storytelling, sexuality, politics, ethnicity, and even international relations.
The Murrays’ collection of hundreds of tabletop games encompasses nearly every gaming genre, from fantasy (many editions of Dungeons and Dragons) to science fiction (Star Trek adventures), and history (a Jack the Ripper murder mystery). Their methodical collecting has resulted in a vast assortment of games representing dozens of gaming universes from the 1970s to the present. The collection also preserves other important aspects of role-playing game history, including miniatures and playing pieces, collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and its many offshoots, modules and game manuals, novels based on various gaming worlds, and magazines and fanzines devoted to gamers. Altogether, these materials amount to one of the largest collections of role-playing games and their accompanying reference materials ever acquired by an academic library. The collection is being processed and will be available to scholars beginning this summer.
—Meghan Lyon, Library Associate