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Formalized role playing games first became popular around 1975 with the broader discovery of the game, Dungeons and Dragons. Since then, many follow-on games have been created, some replacing the paper-and-pencil mechanics with software, and many using a setting other than a romanticized Arthurian legend. The popularity of reenactment groups such as the Society for Creative Anachronism and, in the U.S., groups reenacting battles of the American Civil War dates to about the same time.

While some people participate in these activities for the sake of history, for the sake of playing a game, or for simpler social reasons, these activites all offer the opportunity to try new personae -- PersonaTourism. Participants are urged to take up a new name, a fictitious station in a fictitious world, and new standards of behavior and social mores. It's fun, and provides a safe way to experiment with different attitudes, methods, and behaviors.

In "real life," being able to change facets of one's self in response to conscious desire is a critical skill for personal growth. One might decide to swear less often, for example. Such personal change is much easier without relationships that reinforce the status quo; free from all-pervasive IdentityOppression. Changing one's self requires a strong committment to implement, and can only be done slowly and infrequently to avoid violating people's expectation of consistency.

PersonaTourism provides a vehicle for experimenting. A new persona detaches the self from the status quo, eliminating the social reinforcement that makes change more difficult. With each new persona, one can chose how vulnerable to be, how outgoing, what views to express, what ideas to withhold. Observing the social response to each persona provides valuable lessons in group behavior.

Also known as "identity tourism." (Namakura, 1995; Namakura, 2002).


The OutwardBound program reshuffles its "patrols" about two-thirds of the way through each course. That is, each participant is split off from their prior peer group and moved to a new one. That way, they can apply the lessons learned early in the course and attempt personal change without fighting to change their image.


Namakura, L. (1995). Race in/for cyberspace: Identity tourism and racial passing on the Internet. Works and Days, 13(1-2). Available from http://www.humanities.uci.edu/mposter/syllabi/readings/nakamura.html

Nakamura, L. (2002). Cybertypes: Race, ethnicity, and identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge.



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