Ludology: A Snapshot

Frasca, G. (2003). The Video Game Theory Reader. In M. Wolf & B. Perron (Eds..), Simulation Versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology (p. 221-235). New York, NY: Routledge.

Ludology argues that games use different mechanics and tools to engage people compared to narrative ones. “’Ludologist’ grew in popularity among the game academic community to describe someone who is against the common assumption that video games should be viewed as extensions of narrative (p.222).” Ludology does not cast aside storytelling in games, but contends that games are not held together by narrative. The gameplay, mechanics, and structure of the game create and hold the game. Ludologist’s look at games as a simulation of real world events, experiences, and behaviors. Playing a game of the event is a different experience compared to watching the event. Frasca states that games can convey experiences that narratives cannot. The experience of flying a plane or sneaking through an enemy camp is different in a game than a movie or novel because of the simulated effect of actually taking that action. Players’ experiences are different and the emotions are different based on the difference in medium.

Frasca claims that the multiple endings and resolutions that videogames offer add to the overall emotional experience of the player. He is correct. In a many games, a player knows that if they go back through the game and 2nd, 3rd, or even more times that the experience both in gameplay and narrative. Going through a game multiple times is not only a possibility, but for some games it is the only way to unlock all the content, gameplay, and narrative within the game.

“Narrative may excel at taking snapshots at particular events but simulation provides us with a rhetorical tool for understanding the big picture (p. 228).”

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