10-2 | Role Playing in Children’s Literature


Role Playing in Children’s Literature
Zilpha Keatley Snyder and The Egypt Game

Cathlena Martin


Game historians usually trace the literary roots of role-playing games to J. R. R. Tolkien and other fantasy authors. In this article, the author argues that, although Tolkien indeed provided pioneer game creators with specific content, historians have missed the important early influence on game history of children’s literature that advocates and illustrates role playing. Game scholars nod to such child’s play as make-believe and playground games, they often cite accounts of personal experiences in the childhood play of game designers, and they credit game books as an interactive link to fiction, but they have not included children’s texts in their histories. The author argues for placing children’s novels in such histories, particularly Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game, which this article describes in full as a cultural forerunner in the history of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Keywords: games and play; game history; role playing; The Egypt Game