Saturday, January 07, 2012

Studying Computer Games - The Narratology/Ludology debate

This is following up on my post is the novel dead?  As promised here is more on computer games in a classroom. Firstly definitions:

  • Ludology – argues that narrative or the story or plot is not the central structure of games.

  • Apologists believe that games have the potential to become great, just the right people aren’t making them.

  • Narratology – regards computers and games as merely a new medium of narrative or story potential.

  • Trivialists believe that computer games cannot be taken seriously by literary studies and therefore should not be taught in a classroom.

I am firmly on the side of Narratology and Apologists. I believe that games can sit alongside other texts, printed or not, and they can be consumed and learnt from and theorised about. I do think there are some great games out there, and I've played some great games, but I think that in a curriculum setting we could do more in devising games or ICT that can connect with students much much more. I'll be posting more about what sort of games I believe would be beneficial in a class in another post.

Espen Aarseth devised the terms apologists and trivialists and is a vocal Ludologist in the debate. What you are also reading about in this post is what's known as game theory.

However it could be argued that even the most orthodox ludologist must acknowledge that games do try to tell stories, or at least give the players the raw materials to construct the story themselves. Aarseth acknowledges this by dividing narrative into two levels: ‘description’ and ‘narration’. Games are rich in ‘description’, they show us visually and aurally the material the player requires in order to construct stories while they are poor at providing an over reaching narrative voice
 (Apperley, 2010).

So, this brings me to the question, which side of the debate do you feel supports your own thinking regarding computer games being taught in school?

The final point I want to raise, is have all you readers out there think about what it is you read? Or perhaps a better term, what do you consume? This can be anything from books (of course!), to newspaper, blogs (again, of course!), movies, and all manner of things. Once you have done your mental list, take another moment to think about how you read.

I'm asking this of you because as readers we are always interpreting texts to make our own meaning. This is called decoding and Stuart Hall made this distinction in 1973. Therefore, when you are reading you are constructing meaning in an authored environment (Cavallari, Hedbury, Harper, (1992). I wholeheartedly believe in this sentiment and this is why I think that games do belong in a classroom. What do you think?

Images taken from some of my favourite adventure games found at

Apperley, T., (2010), What games studies can teach us about video games in the English and Literacy classroom, Australian journal of language and literacy, 33, 1. pp 12-23, Education Research Complete, Ebscohost.

Cavallari, B., Hedbury, J.G., & Harper, B., (1992), Adventure games in education: a review, Australian journal of educational technology, 8 (2), 172-184


Raine said...

hmm, I'm also in the side of narratology and apologists. I think they can a place in the classroom. I haven't encountered these terms before tho. I'm sort of an informal screenwriting student and have come across articles and books where screenwriters branch out into other mediums like writing for animation and these days writing for games is also next. I'm not much of a gamer and haven't tried any of those MMPG environments (I would love to but my resources are limited), I think it would be interesting how story is broken down in the gaming genre. Interesting post. :D

scribeswindow said...

I think that adventure games - it is a genre in its own right - needs more script writers. One of the other things I found when I was researching this topic for an assignment, but didn't quote here, is some game theorists think that the right kind of games for schools aren't being made. And I think if it were to be studied with a more literary bent, there would have to be some talented screen writers on board.

I still have to do a post on games that can be used in classrooms as these games I'm talking about are more like interactive fiction. So keep posted (pardon the pun!) :)

Also thanks so much for commenting with your opinion.

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