Sunday, September 19, 2010


I believe I've mentioned this a few times, but in case I haven't, I am going to grad school for Media Studies or Communication Studies, as my program calls it.  I am interested how media affects people and also what it says about individuals, society and culture.  More specifically, I want to look into how the Internet and video games fit in with or challenge traditional concepts of community.

With this in mind, I usually try to keep my work easily understandable by people who aren't in my field, at least as much as possible.  After all, I'm writing about the things they use and the media they participate in on a daily basis.  This puts me at odds with the academic tendency to use big words and new terms in circumstances where it often seems unnecessary.  In particular, I dislike the fact that some academics have started to refer to games studies, my main field of interest, as "ludology".  As far as I can tell, game designer and researcher Gonzalo Frasca was one of the first to propose the term in this article.  And I will admit that he gives some good reasons for it.  For instance, he mentions the fact that people in many disciplines study games and therefore need some term to refer to their work independent of their official area of focus.  He also mentions the difficulties of defining what constitutes a "game" between languages and cultures, which does make it seem like a new term would be helpful.

However, I have two main issues with that argument and the term itself.  To begin with, I feel the easiest term to use to describe the study of games is just that-- "game studies".  If you feel like that doesn't sound cool enough, I suppose you could call it "critical game studies" or introduce some other adjective, but over all, I feel it just makes more sense to have a clear, easily understood name.  Now, I can see where this could cause a problem in languages that, as Frasca mentions, only have a single word for "play" and "game".  The term would need clarification, and that's why he proposed ludology.  However, any good academic will tell you that a key aspect of a paper is clarifying what you mean by your main terms.  Therefore, calling the field "ludology" will not prevent the need for explanations, as you will still need to say what you as the author mean when you use the term "game", regardless of what language you're writing in.  On top of that, how likely is it that someone could say "I study ludology" or "I am a ludologist" and have their audience recognize the term?  Chances are you'll have to explain yourself regardless of what you call it.

It just seems unnecessary to create an entirely new term for something that, in my opinion, doesn't need it.  I can't help but see it as an attempt to get a field that is usually marginalized to be taken more seriously, and I don't think that will work.  People who believe games are influential and need to be studied will think so regardless of what the field is called, and those that don't are probably not going to change their minds because it is called "ludology" rather than "game studies".  But that's just my view on it.  Perhaps I'm being overly cynical.  Or perhaps I haven't been an academic long enough.

1 comment:

  1. At least you could try and make a rap reference to your work and say it is


    haha wait maybe thats a bad thing