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Video game studies (Ludology) is the still-young field of analyzing video games from a social science or humanities perspective.
Ludology and narratology
Although departments of computer science have been studying video games from a functional perspective for years, the study of them in the humanities is still in its infancy. Unlike most computer science efforts which aim to make video games, video games studies, like film theory, attempts to understand video games, players, and the interactions between them. Like most fields, those who study video games often have differing approaches. While scholars use many different theoretical frameworks, the two most visible approaches are ludology and narratology.
The term ludology arose within the context of non-electronic games and board games in particular, but gained popularity after it was featured in an article by Gonzalo Frasca in 1999. The name, however, has not yet caught on fully. Major issues being grappled with in the field are questions of narrative and of simulation, and whether or not video games are either, neither, or both.
The narrativists approach video games in the context of what Janet Murray calls "Cyberdrama." That is to say, their major concern is with video games as a storytelling medium. Murray puts video games in the context of the Holodeck, a fictional piece of technology from Star Trek, arguing for the video game as a medium in which we get to become another person, and to act out in another world. This image of video games certainly has widespread popular support, and forms the basis of films such as Tron, eXistenZ, and The Last Starfighter. But it is also criticized by many for being better suited to science fiction movies such as those than to analysis of real world video games.
The narrativist approach can also be found in the works of Lev Manovich as well as in the works of Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, which deal more with the concept of new media in general than with video games as such, but still fundamentally approach video games as a text that can be read much like a book, poem, or film, and that has many of the same elements.
The ludologists break sharply and radically from this. Their perspective is that a video game is first and foremost just that, a game, and that it needs to be understood in terms of its rules, interface, and in terms of the concept of play. Ludologists such as Espen J. Aarseth argue that, although games certainly have plots, characters, and aspects of traditional narratives, these aspects are incidental to gameplay. In one essay, he memorably claims that "the dimensions of Lara Croft's body, already analyzed to death by film theorists, are irrelevant to me as a player, because a different-looking body would not make me play differently... When I play, I don't even see her body, but see through it and past it." Stuart Moulthrop, another ludologist, takes a slightly more moderate perspective, arguing that one cannot completely divorce games from their social context, but still fundamentally arguing that games are not narratives in any meaningful sense.
In another opinion, the dualism ludology-narratology is quite artificial. Ludology does not exclude the so-called "narratology". The intersection of emerging film and videogame forms is explored further by Matt Hanson in the book, The End of Celluloid with chapters dealing with First Person Documentaries (derived from the first-person shooter gaming genre), avatars, synthespians, capsule narratives, and machinima.
- List of books on computer and video games
- Center for Computer Games Research
- ^ Frasca, Gonzalo (1999). Ludology meets narratology: Similitudes and differences between (video) games andnarrative (HTML). Ludology.org. Retrieved on 2006-06-14.
- ^ Murray, Janet (1998). Hamlet on the Holodeck. MIT Press. 0262631873.
- ^ Aarseth, Espen J. (2004-05-21). Genre Trouble (HTML). Electronic Book Review. Retrieved on 2006-06-14.
- ^ Frasca, Gonzalo (2003). Ludologists love stories, too: notes from a debate that never took place (PDF). Ludology.org. Retrieved on 2006-06-14.
- Gamestudies.org: an online academic journal about video games.
- PlasmaFire.org How science is used in the design and play of modern video games. User-published informal reports and a discussion forum are some of the foci of this site.
- Ludology.org: online discussion of ludology.
- Gameology.org: commentary and resources for the game studies community.
- Buzzcut.com: critical videogame theory.
- EternalGamer.com: exploring games through philosophy, theory, and criticism.
- Digital Game Research Association
- Joystick101.org: online gaming and education site sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Grand Text Auto: about machine narrative, games, poetry, and art.
- Terra Nova: online discussion about virtual worlds.
- Games * Design * Art * Culture
- The Ludologist: Blog on computer game studies.
- Ludonauts: exploring ludic media
- Association for Applied Interactive Multimedia: Software and Game Techniques to Enhance Teaching and Learning
- .brain Critical videogame theory and ludology.
- Sirlin.net Videogame theory site focusing on competitive gaming.
- Thoughts from the Ludologist Blog Chronicling a student's attempts to Bring Ludology to his campus as a Major.
- Ludologica: blog on game studies]
- Ryan, Marie-Laure - Narrative as Virtual Reality - Johns Hopkins University Press 2001, ISBN 0-8018-6487-9
- Manovich, Lev - The Language of New Media - MIT Press 2001, ISBN 0-262-13374-1
- Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin - Remediation: Understanding New Media - MIT Press 2001, ISBN 0-262-52279-9
- Aarseth, Espen J - Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature - Johns Hopkins University Press 1997, ISBN 0-8018-5579-9
- Hanson, Matt - The End of Celluloid: Film futures in the digital age. - Rotovision 2004, ISBN 2-88046-783-7
- Salen, Katie and Zimmerman, Eric - Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals - MIT Press 2003, ISBN 0-262-24045-9
- Newman, James - Videogames - Routledge 2004, ISBN 0-415-28192-X
- Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Harrigan, Pat (eds.) - First Person. New Media as Story, Performance, and Game - MIT Press 2004, ISBN 0-262-23232-4
- Juul, Jesper - "Games Telling Stories: A brief note on games & Narratives", Games Studies, Vol 1 Issue 1, July 2001.