Week 1:        What are Games?   …

So what are games? Play? Fun? Pleasure? Socialization? Stimulation for boredom?

This was the first time I had really considered the theory of game design. There seems to be 2 terms related to game design: Narratology, where games are looked at for their stories, and Ludology, the study of game play focusing on actions/interactions/goals/events. In this class it seems Narratology meets Lodology.

The basic components of a game:

  • Player/Players
  • Objective/Conflicts
  • Medium/”Magic Circle”/Boundaries
  • Rules
  • Outcome

Game designer Chris Crawford list the 5 major regions of games:

  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Athletic Games
  • Children’s Games
  • Computer Games


Concept of Play

The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s publication ‘Homo Ludens’ (1938) was a landmark study in the modern concept of play.  All ‘play’ means something. In this study he examines the cultural role of play.  He writes, “in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized  life have their origin : law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primaeval soil of play.”(p.5)

Why does ‘play’ come so naturally to both humans and animals? And if we look at the concept of play broadly, taking Huizinga’s declaration, we can see that we all have different roles to play for each occassion we participate in.  And these roles are performed in a setting appropriate to their roles and the roles have rules that guide ones actions. Take for example a minister in his church on a Sunday preaching to his congregation, a doctore in his office giving his patient a diagnosis, a fireman heading in his vehicle racing towards the fire, a mom in her home consoling her child…. role play in reality.

The Metaphorical Magic Circle

The introduction of the ‘magic circle’, a space, where the environment, sounds, rules and interactions suspend the player’s disbelief.  We ask the player to leave their reality and enter the metaphorical magic circle whether it’s a game, a movie, a play or even a compelling presentation.

Keep the attention of the player and suspend their disbelief.