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Required Reading: ‘A Theoretical War, Part 3′

Ludology, Wired Magazine, 2006

Me: i was reading this tonight
Me: http://www.electrondance.com/a-theoretical-war-part-3/
Me: i was feeling out how joel goodwin feels
Me: i think i like where he takes it
Me: how much about games criticism do you read

Julian: not much

Me: LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY: THE FUNNEST ARGUMENT

Julian: man I hate it when things become binary

Me: mhm

Julian: that said, I was thinking that I don’t want my game-playing to be interactive infographs either, you know?

Me: ah, here it is!

Narrow definitions of games are perfectly valid within little contextual spaces. Ludology can have its rules-based framework. Narratology is free to pursue games through narrative. Art games can co-exist with the FPS, the RTS and the platformer. They don’t have to compete. Why can’t we have different theories for different situations, each one handling their own definition of game?

Every voice and viewpoint is valuable. What’s so maddening are the destructive attempts to own the word game. Mathematics blossomed into a thousand different branches, so has games and so should the theory. Some will care about narrative. Some will care about rules. Some will care about player experience. Some will care about monetization. And some will try to change the world.

There’s enough space for everyone.

Julian: music is kind of like that too
Julian: hardcore music theorists are all about structure (and usually against tonality)

Me: i inadvertently read that the wrong way
Me: as people who are not hardcore into music theory,
Me: but rather, into hardcore music……… theory

Julian: haha

(This all came up because Julian had actually sent me this, and I became very, “oh, hmm.” )

(P.S. If you happily follow all Goodwin’s endnotes, you might suddenly discover it is a quarter after 10pm and you have not yet washed a single dish or glass.)

5 responses to “Required Reading: ‘A Theoretical War, Part 3′” »

  1. Jenn, thanks! Although keep the link under your hat, I fear I’ll get a full-blown ludology vs narratology debate in the comments. That’s right, I wrote something I don’t want people to read. I suppose if I wanted to be even more topical I could have thrown in “dumb games can co-exist with smart games”.

    Odd timing; I am planning to link to an earlier piece of yours tonight. It looks like a link exchange…

    • Jenn Frank says:

      Oof! May I ask right here? Is this not OK? I can pull it down, but I feel like your end point—that there is room enough for every philosophy—is really the correct one. I’ve posted things I’ve hoped no one would read as well, so I do understand. :>

      Still! This was one of the best things I’ve read in a long, long time! I didn’t take much time to really explain or extrapolate on my own blargh, only because I very much feel it needs neither. (Also, I was a latecomer to the post, and my apologies for not seeing it earlier in the week!)

      • Oh I’m just joking really, although I do worry about having a comment thread of rage! I can’t really complain about the linking, I shouldn’t have posted if I didn’t want to be linked =) Kotaku has been in the last couple of days yesterday but no-one spotted the lead article. Phew, dodged a bullet there.

        And if I’m correct on the timezones, you probably should be asleep and not replying to my comments.

      • Jenn Frank says:

        Ha! While I ought to be asleep, I had a late start today.

        If I may: your post is an enormous help to any gamedev who feels trapped in the crosshairs of some made-up debate, and for my own part I want to encourage that gamedev to approach game-making from whatever vantage she intuitively prefers. As a reader/writer I think I’d probably make a narrative game, but as a player, I prefer purely mechanical games. What does that mean! And it doesn’t mean anything, really. Or it means both things. I don’t know! But thank you for acknowledging that Venn intersection of game design, because there is no real “debate,” here, only various elements to consider.

        Anyway. Thank you thank you thank you.

      • Nice to hear that, Jenn. These have not been particularly popular articles even though the comments have been alive with the sound of music.

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