14 thoughts on “Are You a Ludologist?”

  1. I decided to skim this at work, and I was disappointed to see,

    “[People studying games] fall roughly into two camps: Ludologists, who feel that only perfectly balanced gameplay can create the kind of ‘flow’ that makes a game truly great, and narratologists, who feel that story is king and even the most balanced game mechanics can’t make up for an empty main character and mindless hordes of enemies.”

    Apparently, whether you’re a narratologist or not is just a value judgement about what makes games good. Similarly, ludologists don’t care about storytelling, just about thumb-sports.

    I enjoy tetris and I enjoy a good story-driven game or a social game, as well. Where do I land? This sort of story-writing just seems like more of what we see in the news — of creating opposing factions where there are none (or where there are factions, but it’s a bit more nuanced than just a binary opposition).

    Certainly, I’ll have to read the rest, but this sort of stuff really annoys me.

  2. The article concludes that the distinction is moot, thought Andrew Stern takes issue with this over at GTxA.

    If I had to draw the line I’d say I’m a narratologist, because I want to build interactive storyworlds, or drama games, if you prefer. However, I understand that balance and flow are essential and can be imported to such a social symbolic system that might produce interesting narratives, in fact one of my goals is to find a way to automate balancing for procedural content. So its not really a question of which side you’re on, but which direction you’re going around the circle.

  3. And here I thought I’d get comments on really important issues such as favorite songs in Donkey Konga!

    Seriously, we need new binary dichotomies. I am tired of the old ones.

  4. I actually thought that this kind of approach on the LxN debate was gone. Incidentally, my review of Half-Real on amazon – posted before I knew about this Escapist article – goes: “Going beyond the ‘Ludology x Narratology’ discussion. Juul balances the ‘Rules’ and ‘Fiction’ elements of video games, emphasizing how they relate to each other”. (That’s right, isn’t it ?:))

    By the way, congratulations on the book, Jesper. It’s really, really good and made me think how unapropriate the name of my website could be. But, who knows, that’s something you could be going through as well :)

  5. Heres some new dichotomies for you:

    Ludus vs. Paidia (or explicitedly goal-oriented, structured gameplay versus open, player induced aesthetic goal-oriented toyplay)

    Agon vs. Mimicry (or competition versus subversion/collaboration/social manuevering)

    Um, its probably sad that I have to default to Roger Callois to come up with something “new”, but there you have it, I find those to be fairly useful.

  6. “Seriously, we need new binary dichotomies. I am tired of the old ones. ”

    “I actually thought that this kind of approach on the LxN debate was gone. ”

    Agree, agree. It’s not the first time that this old dichotomy has been dragged out and flogged again. I’m frustrated about it, because I think back to how much time I wasted fretting over it, and if I had just opened a book and read up on it. Ahrgh. Lingering on this issue without treating it as a *past* debate is a bit too much like misinformation, if you ask me.

    And now I’ll actually READ the article.

  7. You have a point there… I got carried away by the first paragraphs quoted above… I do apologize.

    Still, I would’t dismiss the debate as an unimportant one (even if a past debate), and certainly not infertile. It?s just the manichaeist trait it often gets I don?t agree with.

  8. To be frank, my largest problem with the debate is that it usually mischaracterizes “ludology,” at least the term as Frasca writes about it. Often, you’ll find that when people talk about “ludology vs. narratology” what they’re really talking about are people who value the mechanical agon vs. others who value the storytelling aspects of games.

    In other words, somehow the characterization is narratology = Myst and ludology = Tetris. If people were really debating whether to use the tools of narratology to talk about games or whether the study of games requires something more drastic than an evolution of narratology — hence, ludology — well, at least that would be a more worthwhile debate. Even so, I think it’s one that’s been had.

    I say, bring on the ludology!

  9. Good point. Plus, I don’t think one necessarily excludes the other. Quoting Frasca in “Ludology meets Narratology”, “Our intention is not to replace the narratologic approach, but to complement it. “.

    Oh my god, here comes that discussion again…

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  11. At least one serious reply:
    Best song got to be ‘sing sing sing’ on gorilla. Wonderful intro. Best real version of course is by Louis Prima. For Donkey Konga II, I’m not quite sure. Haven’t played that much, but finally got a second set of drums. Don’t talk, play, you ludologists :-)

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