“Online Role-playing Games and the Definition of Theatre” has been published by New Theatre Quarterly (Vol. 33, issue 4, pp. 345-359). The abstract reads:
Online role-playing games are a form of entertainment in which players create characters and improvisationally perform scenes together within a digital virtual world. It has many theatre-like aspects, which raises the question of whether it is in fact a form of theatre. To answer that question, however, one must first have a definition of theatre – an issue with disciplinary consequences – and in this article Tobin Nellhaus develops a definition founded on social ontology, suggesting that theatrical performance, unlike other social practices, replicates society’s ontology. From that perspective, online role-playing meets the definition of theatre. But its digital environment raises another set of problems, since embodiment, space, and presence in online role-playing are necessarily unlike what we experience in traditional theatre. Here, Nellhaus brings these three aspects of performance together through the concept of embodied social presence, showing how they operate in both customary theatre and online role-playing.
If you have journal access, you can download the published version here: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266464X17000483. The article is currently available only in print; a PDF version will be released in a year. In the meantime you can download the original manuscript from the Publications and Drafts page. There are some small differences between the original manuscript and the published version.