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Feb 27, 2009



I've often thought that major world conflicts should be decided in football (soccer) or chess games.


I wonder if the "ludo" part of "ludotpian" might be not quite the right idea. If "goods can be derived from participation in acts that make up the game," doesn't this directly contradict Huizinga's definition of the ludic element, which he says is "connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it"?

I don't disagree that *games* may have this character, but if they do, then they are no longer "ludic" in the sense intended by Huizinga.

That being said, I have only read Huizinga, and not anything that has come after, so apologies if I am simply being ignorant.


To be clear, by 'goods' i meant forms of good in the sense of human flourishing.

However I think that an issue that many have with Huizinga is his insistence on game having no 'material' gain. Other theorist certainly do not share this view. More importantly I think that not all the the writings that would fall under the category I'm trying to carve out would go with, at least that theory of game.


Buckminster Fuller's 'World Game' (1961)?


Not to be pedantic, but I have always thought of ludic as coming from the Latin notion of Ludus, which means play, not game. Those things are different.

It is also possible that Huizinga was wrong.


Ditto mention of Buckminster Fuller's World Game and the New Games of the 60s in general as, probably not the first, but an important moment in utopian thinking about games. Fred Turner has a very nice short piece on New Games here.


I've been guilty of ludotopianism myself in the past, but I've always been careful to point out the concurrence of participation and exploitation in virtual worlds (and by extension in other virtual public spaces). While I am sympathetic with McGonigal's and Castronova's work, I find their evangelism tends to erase the complexity of the biopolitical relationships in games and virtual worlds, so I think there is a need for a ludodystopianism that serves as a chaosmotic (rather than dialectical) corrective to ludotopianism. This is also why I am fond of the psycholudology project (see e.g. Christian McCrea's comments on my review of Wark's Gamer Theory) and Greig de Peuter and Nick Dyer-Witheford's Games of Empire. Both highlight the agonistic relationship between and within game players, and thus open up avenues of inquiry that go beyond the binary opposition between ludotopianism and ludodystopianism.


I get all of my ludotopian ideas from Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories." It is worth reflecting on what a terrible life he had as a child. One of his earliest concepts was The Cottage of Lost Play, where children could go to be happy forever.

In that essay, Tolkien says that reality is a prison and our imagination is the only way out.

He grounds this idea within the tradition of Christian spirituality, something that makes me feel comfortable but is disturbing to many.

An alternative root (and for this I owe a debt to an early Lastowka presentation) might be Jung -> Wagner -> Shakespeare -> Plato -> Lascaux.


I'm certainly not up-to-date on ludotopianism, but as an economist, I'm left with an uncomfortable impression about it (and this also connects with happiness research).

How much ludotopianism assumes material comfort? It's one thing to apply game ideas to the life of people who needn't worry about food and shelter, but I think any -topianism needs to consider how material needs will be provided to those who lack them.


Magister Ludi probably deserves mention as a cautionary note about putting too much stock in Ludotopianism.

I would also caution that the finger pointing to the moon should not be mistaken for the moon itself. I know of many anecdotes regarding non-game uses of gaming platforms for beneficial purposes, but I'm not aware of any examples of,say a card game or board game with similarly beneficial results. I think you may be attributing to game benefits that rightly belong to platform. Mind you, I am first and foremost a technologist, so perhaps I am missing some things that others are seeing.


Evidence of benefits? Where? Show us.

"Playing" "Modeling" and "Gaming" are very different concepts and activities.

"Gaming" and the "zero sum" as well as "win/lose" scenario has done more to damage society than to make "it better" ever since it became the vogue of the Rand, Wall Street and other "think tanks" that were in fact insular AND elitist and finally led this country toward our current political and economic mess.

Society is a "game" of balance. Gaming culture is your high score vs the others low score.Its a culture of "you win" flashed on a screen.

Some evidence please, because overall facts look like the opposite is true.


While Castronova might have the grandest statement I think that McGonigal in her various keynotes and blog posts presents possibly the most evangelistic and enthusiastic case for the broad good of the practice of game participation.

Yeah, sure, that's what all the pve'ers say.


Meanwhile, does the Julian comment mean we all have to go and try to read that darn Chaosmosis book again?



Yay for fixing TN. Now where's the twitter?



Remember, "Game theory" =/= "Theory of games".

The theories "in vogue" at Rand in the 1950s (and now virtually ubiquitous in Political Science, Economics and Business Management) were theories of rational decisionmaking where choices by all individuals impacted overall welfare. Not the same thing as a ludology (by anyone's definition).


Bo Brinkman > Not to be pedantic, but I have always thought of ludic as coming from the Latin notion of Ludus, which means play, not game. Those things are different.

Probably what I would have said if I had not written the piece. And indeed Play and Games are not the same. I think that is taking on a broader use as a prefix and is denoting a game / play mix. Moreover I think that the writers that I reference would tend to say that play also has benefits as well as play withing the context of a game.


daniel > Evidence of benefits? Where? Show us.
"Playing" "Modeling" and "Gaming" are very different concepts and activities.

As Adam said above, I think you are confusing games with game theory. I and the writers I'm talking about do not have game theory at the center of their thesis - it is used as a tool in some game design but so is photoshop.

As to benefits well - I enjoy playing games, there's a benefit. If you want a different type of outcome look the work of TN's own Constance Steinkuehler's work on educational outcomes of MMO use.


dmyers [...] Now where's the twitter?

Actually quite a few of use twitter, I can be found at RenZephyr.

Maybe other TN Tweeters want to add their tweet ID's below...


Off topic, but is it intentional that the new TN doesn't identify the author of each post?


Yep, sounds like some kind pre-early human, but count me in.


twitter: lisaga

please fix sidebar links?


Hi Ross --

In fixing the borked comments, I went with an off-the-shelf solution. So no, not intentional. Fixing.

Sidebar links?


Any time a new mass media technology pops up there's always hope that it can be harnessed for the greater good. Games are just the latest example: television and film are two of the more recent examples.

There are always difficulties involved however in determining what exactly serves the greater good. "Battleship Potemkin"? "Triumph of the Will"? Or perhaps "Cannibal Holocaust" or "Street Fighter: the Revenge of Chun Li"?


greglas: meatspace = metaspace but the links themselves seem to be functioning OK..


oh, not sure if I mentioned that the recently completed (not proofed yet) diss is all about this: http://tinyurl.com/d9jhx8

comments appreciated.


Lisa -- Awesome & thanks, I didn't know you had posted it!


Tom Boellstorf's "Coming of Age in Second Life" coined the term "creationist capitalism" (deliberately punning on creation and Creationism) to describe an ideological position he often encounted.

"This creationist capitalism is, indeed a millenial capitalism 'that presents itself as a gospel of salvation'"

"Ludotopian" doesn't cover exactly the same territory, but I think there's a fair degree of overlap.

(For sure, there are Ludotopian positions that aren't capitalist, too).


oh man -- I am so late in picking up this thread... I'd like to see a DiGRA panel just on this topic. I'd be up for it.


"This creationist capitalism is, indeed a millenial capitalism 'that presents itself as a gospel of salvation'"

The same was seen in the 1920s... Blue Skys..
no cycles for me:)

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