Towards Computer Game Studies






  • Part 1: Narratology and Ludology
    It is relatively stress-free to write about computer games as nothing too much has been said yet, and almost anything goes. The situation is pretty much the same in what comes to writing about games and gaming in general. The sad fact with alarming cumulative consequences is that they are under-theorized; there are Huizinga, Caillois and Ehrmann of course, and libraries full of board game studies, in addition to game theory and bits and pieces of philosophy-most notably those of Wittgenstein’s – but they won’t get us very far with computer games. So if there already is or soon will be a legitimate field for computer game studies, this field is also very open to intrusions and colonization from the already organized scholarly tribes. Resisting and beating them is the goal of our first survival game in this paper, as what these emerging studies need is independence, or at least relative independence.


  • Notes
    1. Caillois, R. (1979 l1958]). Man, play, games. Translated by Meyer Barash. New York: Schocken Books; Ehrmann, J. (1969). Homo ludens revisited. In Yale
    french studies 41: 38-57.

    2. For instance, Parlett, 0. (1999). The Oxford history of board games. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

    3. Aarseth, E. (1997). Cyhertext perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press; Aarseth, E. (1998 [19951). Dataspillets
    diskurs. In Espen Aarseth, Digitalkultur og nettverkskommunikasJon, 75-98 . Bergen: Espen Aarseth; Aarseth, E. (1998). Aporia and epiphany in Doom
    and The Speaking Clock: Temporality in ergodic art. In Marie-Laure Ryan (ed.) Cyberspace Textuality, 1-14. Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of
    Indiana Press; Crawford, C. (1982). The Art of Computer Game Design. URL:;
    Frasca, G. (1998). Ludology meets narratology. URL:; Juul, J. (2000). What computer games can and can’t do. Paper presented at the Digital Arts and Culture conference in Bergen.

    4. Chatman, S. (1978). Story and discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Chatman, S. (1990). Coming to terms. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Genette, G. (1980 [1972]). Narrative discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Genette, G. ( 1988 l 1983]). Narrative discourse revisited. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Prince, G. (1981). Nan-atology. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter; Prince, G. (1987). The Dictionary of Narratology. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press .

    5. Vatsyayan, K. (1996). Bharata: The Natyasastra. Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

    6. Keene, D. (1995). Japanese aesthetics. In Nancy G. Hume (ed.) Japanese aesthetics and culture, 27-41. Albany: State University of New York.

    7. Ehrmann,). (1969). Homo ludens revisited. In Yale French studies 41: 55-57.

    8. Motte, W. (1995). Playtexts. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 25.

    9. “Nokia Game” ( is interesting in how it makes use of the immediate media environment of the player as the following excerpt from its rules makes clear: “The player must complete various kind of challenges and puzzles based on the given clues in order to proceed to the next stage of”Nokia Game.” A time period for completing a task in question may be limited for some tasks (e.g. for couple of hours or the clue might be given at an exact time). This time limit will be notified to the player with the task or clue in question. The player may find the clues via received short messages to his or her mobile phone or via other various kinds of media, such as Internet, TV, radio, magazines or newspapers. At most stages of”Nokia Game” the player has only one chance to complete the task in question. At each stage part of the players will be excluded from “Nokia Game” based on a wrong answer or action, or not being among the announced number of best players that has performed the task in question.” The game continues for a month (for the winner and a little less for others).

    10. Sternberg, M. (1978). Expositional modes and temporal ordering in fiction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    11. Aarseth, E. (1997). Cybertext perspectives 011 ergodic literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, I.

    12. Aarseth, E. (1997). Cybertext perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 60-62.

    13. Genette, G. (1980 [1972]). Nan-ative discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 215.

    14. “Hegiracope,” a web fiction by Stuart Moulthrop, limits the reaction time of its readers to 30 seconds per node. Within that period of time the reader must
    decide which narrative thread to follow and choose a link; otherwise the program makes that decision for the player. J n “Reagan Library,” also by Moulthrop, the content of the nodes change when they are revisited for the first three times (there is more text available for the persistent reader). This affects or at least has the capacity to affect and alter the temporal relations between story time and discourse time. See Moulthrop, S. (1995). Hegirascope. URL:; Moulthrop, S. (1999). Reagan Library. URL:

    15. “The Last Express” (CD-ROM, Broderbund 1997, see also is an adventure game (a murder mystery) happening in the
    real-time of the game world. The player must find the culprit in time, that is, he may run out of time to solve the crime, as there’s a temporal limit to the
    duration of the exploration. In other words the wasted time also counts, and  the player has to manipulate discourse time and condense it to contain the relevant
    story events.

    16. Chatman, S. (1978). S101y and discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 32- 56.

    17. Bremond, C. (1980). The logic of narrative possibilities. New Literary History 11:398-411.

    18. Aarseth, E. (1998). Aporia and epiphany in Doom and The Speaking Clock: Temporality in ergodic art, 9.

    19. Schechner, R. (1988). Pe1f01ma11ce theo,y. London: Routledge, 6-7.

    20. Here’s a preliminary example of how to apply some of the key concepts utilized in this paper to “Tetris,” probably the most successful abstract computer game ever.