The Ludologist My name is Jesper Juul, and I am a ludologist [Noun. Video Game Researcher]. This is my blog on game research and other important things. Wed, 30 Sep 2015 09:06:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Well Played 4.2 – Learning and Games Wed, 30 Sep 2015 08:58:20 +0000


Well Played: volume 4 number 2
Stephen Jacobs and Ira Fay et al. 2015


Medulla: A 2D sidescrolling platformer game that teaches basic brain structure and function
Joseph Fanfarelli, Stephanie Vie

Play or science? a study of learning and framing in crowdscience
Andreas Lieberoth, Mads Kock Pedersen, Jacob Friis Sherson

Barriers To Learning About Mental Illness Through Empathy Games – Results Of A User
Study On Perfection
Barbara Harris, Mona Shattell, Doris C. Rusch, Mary J. Zefeldt

Zombie-based critical learning – teaching moral philosophy with The Walking Dead
Tobias Staaby
Distributed Teaching and Learning Systems in Dota 2
Jeffrey B. Holmes

An Analysis of Plague, Inc.: Evolved for Learning
Lorraine A. Jacques

Purchase from, or Download for free

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Another day, another Apple rejection of a Game with a Message Mon, 21 Sep 2015 08:20:02 +0000

Dan Archer’s project Ferguson Firsthand was rejected from the App Store because … as often is the case, Apple is unclear, but they’ll know it when they see it.

You can get it on Google Play instead.

Is Apple Evil, ignorant, or just culturally conservative?


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Stats: 68 percent of Australians play video games Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:16:36 +0000

Another day, another report about how common video gaming is.

The Digital Australia 2016 report says that 68% of the Australian population plays video games.

Summary here.

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Miyamoto and Tezuka on Super Mario Bros World 1-1 Tue, 08 Sep 2015 09:43:55 +0000

It is hard to imagine a conversation more central to video game history than this:  Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka explaining the design of Super Mario Bros world 1-1.

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Are you a Narrative or a non-Narrative? Mon, 07 Sep 2015 07:49:10 +0000

Somewhat tangentially (but tied to the type of pan-narrativism that I used to go up against when writing about games), there is an ongoing discussion about whether we constitute our identities through narratives what we make about ourselves, or not.

Galen Strawson covers it well, The Dangerous Idea that Life is a Story. Here is Jeremy Bruner quoted:

In the end, we become the autobiographical narratives by which we “tell about” our lives”.

Strawson argues that it may well be that many people really do conceive their lives as having narrative form, episodes, arcs, but that this is not universal.

I think it’s false – false that everyone stories themselves, and false that it’s always a good thing. These are not universal human truths – even when we confine our attention to human beings who count as psychologically normal, as I will here. They’re not universal human truths even if they’re true of some people, or even many, or most. The narrativists are, at best, generalising from their own case, in an all-too-human way. At best: I doubt that what they say is an accurate description even of themselves.

[…] it does seem that there are some deeply Narrative types among us, where to be Narrative with a capital ‘N’ is (here I offer a definition) to be naturally disposed to experience or conceive of one’s life, one’s existence in time, oneself, in a narrative way, as having the form of a story, or perhaps a collection of stories, and – in some manner – to live in and through this conception. The popularity of the narrativist view is prima facie evidence that there are such people.

Perhaps. But many of us aren’t Narrative in this sense. We’re naturally – deeply – non-Narrative. We’re anti-Narrative by fundamental constitution. It’s not just that the deliverances of memory are, for us, hopelessly piecemeal and disordered, even when we’re trying to remember a temporally extended sequence of events. The point is more general. It concerns all parts of life, life’s ‘great shambles’, in the American novelist Henry James’s expression. This seems a much better characterisation of the large-scale structure of human existence as we find it. Life simply never assumes a story-like shape for us. And neither, from a moral point of view, should it.

Are you the narrative type? I am not. I have already been an avid reader of novels, but never conceived my own life that way.

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Video Games and Insightful Gameplay: Special Issue of COMPASO Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:24:01 +0000

The Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology has a new special issue on Video games and insightful gameplay, guest edited by Doris Rusch.

Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology
ISSN 2068 – 0317
Special issue: 
Video games and insightful gameplay
Volume 6, Number 1

Guest Editor: Doris C. Rusch


Doris C. Rusch / Video games and insightful gameplay
[Full text / pdf]

Research articles – Special issue on Video Games and Insightful Gameplay
Matt Bouchard / Playing with progression, immersion, and sociality: Developing a framework for studying meaning in APPMMAGs, a case study
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Ioana Cărtărescu-Petrică / Those who play together stay together. A study of the World of Warcraft community of play and practice
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Joanna Cuttell / Arguing for an immersive method: Reflexive meaning-making, the visible researcher, and moral responses to gameplay
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Daniel de Vasconcelos Guimarães / Apocalyptic souls: the existential (anti) hero metaphor in the Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes games
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Mikhail Fiadotau / Paratext and meaning-making in indie games
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Sonja Gabriel / Serious games – How do they try to make players think about immigration issues? An overview
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Enrico Gandolfi / Once upon a bit: Ludic identities in Italy, from militant nostalgia to frivolous divertissement
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Kishonna Gray & Wanju Huang / More than addiction: Examining the role of anonymity, endless narrative, and socialization in prolonged gaming and instant messaging practices
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Scott Hughes / Get real: Narrative and gameplay in The Last of us
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Youn Jung Huh / Making sense of gender from digital game play in three-year-old children’s everyday lives: An ethnographic case study
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Xeniya Kondrat / Gender and video games: How is female gender generally represented in various genres of video games?
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Alina Petra Marinescu-Nenciu / Collaborative learning through art games. Reflecting on corporate life with ‘Every Day the Same Dream’
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Elisabeta Toma / Self-reflection and morality in critical games. Who is to be blamed for war?
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Max Watson / A medley of meanings: Insights from an instance of gameplay in League of Legends
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]


Other research articles
Yitzhak Alfasi, Moshe Levy & Yair Galily / Israeli football as an arena for post-colonial struggle: The case of Beitar Jerusalem FC
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Gautam Ghosh / An ‘infiltration’ of time? Hindu Chauvinism and Bangladeshi migration in/to Kolkata, India
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Adediran Daniel Ikuomola / An exploration of life experiences of left behind wives in Edo State, Nigeria
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Andra Jacob / Migrant’s houses as places and objects of cultural consumption and status display
[Abstract]          [Full text / pdf]

Book reviews
Alin Constantin /Book review – Roland Cvetkovski & Alexis Hofmeister, An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR, Central European University Press, Budapest, 2014.
[Full text / pdf]

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Amazon: Terrors of the Gamified Workplace Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:55:20 +0000

You probably heard about the New York Times exposé on work practices at Amazon, where a constant chatter of metrics monitor employees. Yes, this is gamification in practice.

Many horror stories about a complete disrespect for the life part of the work/life equation.

But there also is a simple design problem inside: The Anytime Feedback Tool apparently allows employees to comment on the performance of colleagues without their own identities being revealed to the target of the comment. Combine this with stack ranking, where every group has to rate somone in the group as lowest performing, with potential for being let go.

As I discuss in The Art of Failure, we have to ask ourselves what the ideal strategy of an employee is in this situation? The simple answer is that it is likely much easier to back stab a colleague with the Anytime Feedback Tool, thus dropping them in the ranking, than it is to genuinely improve your own performance. It is plain game design: is there a degenerate strategy? Yes, there is. It will be used. Water will find a crack.


On top of that, Jeff Bezos’ rebuttal is that this “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.”

This more or less proves the article right: When managers or CEOs say that they don’t recognize the negative experience of the employees it means either that:

  • a) the company is organized such that the CEO will never hear about the negative experiences of the employees, or
  • b) the CEO is unwilling to hear about them.

Most likely both, with a) being the results of b)

The danger of metrics, and gamification, is that it insulates you from what is going on because you only receive the data you have chosen to receive. There is no substitute for listening to people.

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Patch Wednesday on hiatus Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:29:02 +0000

I am putting Patch Wednesday on hiatus. It has been stimulating to write these general arguments (14 total), but I feel that it also kept me from writing more casual posts: why write small, when you can write big? But sometimes small just is good.

So back to free form.

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Tic Tac Toe and Conway’s Game of Life in Javascript Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:39:39 +0000

For the Half-Real website (10 years ago!) I made two example programs to support the book’s discussions: an implementation of Conway’s Game of Life and a Tic Tac Toe program that plays perfectly by simply going through all possible game states.

Time passes, and I can no longer count on browsers running the Java applets that I originally wrote the programs in. They never ran on tablets and mobile devices either. And I dislike websites with broken applets.

So I have rewritten them to work in JavaScript. They feel like they always did, except they launch faster – and run on mobile phones and tablet:

PS. Tech notes: I did this using GWT, which compiles Java code to JavaScript. The good news is that GWT really works and consistently converts all Java logic to JavaScript. The more complicated issues concern (as we may expect) that all UI calls are different, and especially that Java is Thread-based, but JavaScript is callback-based, so any program flow that relies on threads (as in my case) has to completely reworked.

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Why is Candy Crush addictive? Wed, 17 Jun 2015 08:40:49 +0000

I have a few quips about that question in this Popular Science article.

The point I was trying to make was that a game like Candy Crush both:

a) has a set of inherent design features that concern how easy it is to learn, time pressure etc..

b) is also a cultural moment, meaning that it is popular in part because being popular makes the game spread to new players. I.e. it’s popularity cannot be predicted solely from the basis of the design.

Hence “Why is Candy Crush so popular” cannot be answered exclusively as a design question, but the design is still important.

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