Ludology vs. Narratology

In conjunction with my previous post, I will again be discussing an aspect of storytelling in video games. Ludology is the study of video games and narratology is the study of narratives. Ludologists focus mostly on gameplay itself, while narratologists look at the narrative of game. This is not a mutually respected relationship however, ludologists think that narratologists should stick to novels, movies and TV shows, and leave video games to them. Narratologists disagree because they see games as just a new way of telling stories (as I discussed in my previous post). This is because they study the content of a story, the container does not affect their judgement. Therefore, ludologists believe that video games are their container, and that they should be the only ones who get to critique the content. In the opening paragraph of Game Design as Narrative¬†Architecture,¬†by Henry Jenkins, he claims that “a blood feud threatened to erupt between the self-proclaimed ludologists, who wanted to see the focus shift onto the mechanics of gameplay, and narratologists, who were interested in studying games alongside other storytelling media.” This is evidence of the two opposing sides having strong opinions of their studies. Jenkins also points out in his article that there are many games, Tetris is one example, that don’t have a narrative to them, this means that ludologists can have these games to themselves. There are also plenty of games that do have narratives to them, which can be viewed from both spectrums of gameplay and narrative. There is one specific point that Jenkins makes that I want to key on. This is especially important since narrative gaming is growing exponentially popular. He says that if game designers are going to tell stories, shouldn’t they tell them well? This is important because game designers are most commonly educated in computer science and graphic design, so if we want good stories, they also need to be educated on narrative theories and concepts. Of course, this is not the “ludologist” approach, but I think it’s safe to say that passionate video game players do want the story mode of games they play to have a strong story line and satisfying conclusion. With that being said, I think the need for ludology and narratology are both sufficient enough that they both make strong cases in the development and studies of video games.


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