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Without fear and reproach

The role-playing games community as a challenge to mainstream culture

Tat'iana Barchunova and Natal'ia Beletskaia

The article describes one of the most developed networks of intellectual youth in post-Soviet Russia. This network originated in science-fiction clubs and the 'Zarnitsa game' of the 1960s to 1980s. Yet unlike Zarnitsa games, which have been used at Soviet schools as an instrument of political mainstreaming, the current role-playing games community is opposing itself to mainstream politics and popular culture. The article approaches this network as a community of practice, which is constituted by three basic elements: learning, doing, and justification of meaning. Both leaders and rank-and-file members of the community justify their agency within the community through the concept of rule. It is the rule-governed community, which according to them, helps them to feel secure and fearless in a society that they see as devoid of any strict regulations. The article closes with an analysis of the inner and outer conflicts of the role-playing games community.