These are pseudo-academic platforms presenting opinion as fact with no rigour, no attempt at objectivity and seemingly much more about pushing particular agendas rather than determining what is true/correct, or what is useful to people who make games or want to make games.
We desperately need an alternative.
Building an alternative will not be an easy matter and so I think it is best to start relatively small and idealistic, and then to let things change over time as needed, allowing such an attempt to adapt and fulfil its role – provided that it doesn’t lose sight of its core principles.
As I say, this is a daunting task but one I think that can be accomplished. It just needs a little push and I intend to give it the good ol’ college try.
In essence we’re creating a new field here, as ‘ludology’ is dominated by extremely soft humanities and the aforementioned activist pseudo-academia. This would be something more akin to hard science or engineering, dedicated to providing practical information and experience and sharing it amongst game creators with the stated aim of improving games and game creation as a whole.
‘Ludics’ maybe? I don’t know… ludogineering? It’s something that needs to be distinct from ‘ludology’ or ‘game studies’ which are grounded in literary criticism and critical theory and, so, don’t provide anything of actual use.
So the goals of the group/discipline would be.
- Preserving and enumerating game-maker experience.
- Providing genuine, objective, scientific, academic and experiential insight into aspects of game design and experience.
- Providing a genuine academic alternative to DiGRA and their ilk, rooted in harder science and practical purpose.
Contributors must have:
- Relevant practical experience in the field of fames (a game maker with a commercial release, a board/card or RPG designer).
- A high level of educational attainment in a relevant field (a degree in hard science, statistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology)
- Their entries must at least strive for objectivity – creator anecdote being something of an exception, if clearly stated.
I would also suggest that all material produced as this enterprise gets under way be considered open source, perhaps under a creative commons license allowing people to reformat, freely distribute or even to sell independently or as part of larger treatise etc in order to help support projects and help to make the work worthwhile for people who contribute.
I would hope to get groups like League For Gamers on board and to get the support of independent gaming news sites to reproduce the entries in some form (another reason for going open source).
As a way of starting this off from humble beginnings I would suggest that it begin with an open call for ~1,000-1,500 word essays/notes on a topic, every couple of weeks or every month, just to see if there’s the interest or that the interest can be built up. This would, then, form a short ‘journal’ of sorts, on a particular topic or aspect of game design that would-be game designers or existing game designers could tap into or look at.
Now, obviously this is starting from #Gamergate, since the impetus to provide an alternative to DiGRA that is more genuinely game and design based comes from there, but it would not remain (or even really start out as) a #Gamergate thing. Much like Based Gamer, Deepfreeze and the various indie games sites that have sprung up, it would carve its own path to become something more long lived.
It should also seek to move into testing and confirming (or debunking) its own hypotheses, conducting surveys and eventually providing harder data.
- Would you be interested in reading such a ‘journal’?
- Would you be interested in contributing to such a ‘journal’?
- Would you like to see a more practical, pragmatic and useful field of game study?
- Do you have a better idea for a name than ‘Ludics’? (It mixes Greek and Latin, so is ‘bad’, perhaps ‘paichnidics’ instead? – from the Greek ‘paichnídi’, meaning toy, game or trick, and already used as part of the Greek for ‘video game console’)*.
- Would you be interested in contributing to a first attempt, perhaps on the topic ‘What is a game and what is the appeal of games?’
Let me know.
I can be contacted via the comments here, on Twitter (@grimachu) or via email – grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk.
*I can’t for the life of me work out how to spell this phonetically in English, or pronounce it from these letters. Peuch-a-nidyics is the closest I can get).