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A Look at the Study Known as Ludology

Published May 6, 2005 in Gaming
By Beth Rodio | Image property of official site
Ludology A look at Ludology
Just about every twelve-year-old wants to play, talk about, and think about video games for the rest of his or her life. Especially now that the market for video games spans generations for the first time, making video games a career is plausible.

The possibilities of creating video games has long seemed a lucrative career for technology and science-minded people, but the lessons gaming teaches us is creeping into the humanities as well.

Now Lit. Nerds Get a Piece of the Action

Sometimes compared to the rise in film theory a few decades ago, the idea of studying video game theory might appeal to the generation now entering the work force. As these individuals become the thinkers and instructors, the concept of looking at gaming from a cultural context no longer seems radical.

Universities across the country have begun to incorporate the idea of studying the once-frowned-upon activity. The California Institute of the Arts has dedicated a class to "Post-Modern Studies and Popular Culture" in which "the 'texts' examined will include…video games." The post-modern studies class is only one (of many) that utilizes what many now refer to as video games theory, sometimes known as ludology.

Taking courses is not the only way to learn about ludology; books and websites are popping up and helping to bring video game theory into the mainstream. Right now The Video Game Theory Reader, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron, is the definitive text on the subject, used in many of the syllabi for classes that include video game theory. The best website is, which includes a blog, updates about conferences, and calls for papers on the topic.

Overall it seems that those interested in video game studies, or the possibilities of such a field as a legitimate theory, need to follow in the footsteps of such popular culture critics as Slavoj Zizek, who link subjects normally viewed as frivolous to highly-respected subjects. Video game theory is not storming its way into the ivory tower; it is burrowing in through half-dug tunnels. The description of the California Institute of Arts class that includes the word "text" in quotes indicates that perhaps the academic world is not yet ready to add yet another "low" art (if in fact many would even admit the "art" aspect of video games) after they incorporated film theory not that long ago.

As difficult as it is to imagine, literature itself, frequently the inspiration for many critical theories, became a legitimate subject of study only a little over a hundred years ago. Before that it was considered a waste of time, a bad influence, and a sure way to deteriorate ones eyes. Sound familiar?

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Sources: Image property of official site

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