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Ludologie ( Latin ludus , play ' and Greek λόγος lógos , German , teaching', meaning ',' speech ',' Reason ' ) is the "doctrine" of games: board game , analog game and digital game .


Ludology works on a sub-area of game science . In contrast to the older, broader game science, the interest of the ludology discipline, transferred from the Anglo-Saxon area, focuses primarily on digital games. It describes the still young, transdisciplinary branch of research that deals with the aesthetic , cultural, communicative , technical and structural aspects of the phenomenon “play” at the interface between cultural and structural sciences . The focus is on the history, development, analysis and theory of digital games .

The term is mostly used in the Anglo-Saxon language area and is mostly used synonymously with the term (video) game theory. In Germany, this term is mostly understood more comprehensively in the literal sense of "the doctrine of play" in the meaning of Johan Huizinga's culturally related human image of the gay community .

In the narrower context of "Ludology vs. Narratologie " debate against it designates Ludologie the paradigm in which the principle of simulation is seen as the core concept of the game. For this reason, the neutral term game studies is used as an alternative.

The narrower game concept of ludology can also be seen in the reduction to the historical word ludus , whereas "game science" encompasses and researches the entire complex of phenomena, which, according to the systematics it has developed, is divided into the categories ludus (rule games, sports games in contrast to free play board game), Agon (= fighting game , sports game), Alea ( gambling , gamble ), mimicry (masque, puppet play), Circenses (circus games, drama ) and Ilinx- (= ritual) Matches covers (see. Roger Caillois ).

Another orientation to the term Ludologie results from the categorization of the American developmental psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner (1917–2005). It divides the following five stages of development: exploration games, fantasy games , role-playing games , construction games and rule games. As a child, a person must first acquire various play skills before they can enjoy something as complex as a rule game, an invented order with regulative ideas. German game scientists not only reduce ludology to digital rule games, but also incorporate these developmental psychological foundations into their experiential object of play and their cognitive object of play .


After the philanthropists with GutsMuths or Basedow carried out systematic game science research in the 18th century and researchers from various disciplines such as Herbert Spencer (1865), Moritz Lazarus (1883), Karl Groos (1899) or Jean Piaget (1975) engaged in systematic game science research in the 19th and 20th centuries In the 19th century, having dealt intensively with the phenomenon of play, game science reached the first climaxes of scientific game theory with the analyzes and findings of Friedrich Schiller , Johan Huizinga and Frederik Jacobus Johannes Buytendijk . The ludology, which emerged with the advent of video games and the computer age, was able to build on this and find its focus in the field of digital games.

It was only towards the end of the 1990s that publications on the topic began to pile up, and the basis of a new scientific discipline was formed. This was largely due to the increasing establishment of digital games, their effects on contemporary culture and their growing economic importance. The term "Ludologie" became known to a wider professional audience in 1999 through an article by Gonzalo Frasca .

In the 2015/2016 winter semester, the University of Bayreuth introduced the master’s degree in computer game science for the first time in Germany . The focus of learning and research is in the areas of game studies, media studies, cultural studies and computer science . In the bachelor's degree in media studies and media practice , the focus can be placed on computer games. Since 2018, the design akademie berlin, SRH University for Communication and Design has had a bachelor's degree in Game Studies .


Ludology as an independent, transdisciplinary research branch is still in its early stages. To a large extent, it initially deals with questions of canon formation and the agreement on basic concepts and categories. This is difficult not only due to the sometimes high interdisciplinarity , but also due to the diverse forms of terms that are already firmly anchored in everyday use of different languages, the meaning of which must be redefined in the scientific context. The term “game” itself may serve as a concise example of this, but there is no agreement on the clear definition of this. In 2003 Salen / Zimmerman and Jesper Juul (not to be confused with his namesake ) made significant contributions to clarifying the question of definition .

Jens Junge suggests orientation towards the historical development of mankind as well as the use of English for a differentiation.

  1. Just as animals play also people (play) .
  2. On the basis of the language development of imaginatively imagining things that really do not exist, the artistic design of toys began around 37,000 years ago.
  3. With the founding of the first cities and the emergence of religions, the first games , board games (game) emerged as invented orders.
  4. On the basis of the first means of payment, games of chance would be organized ( gambling ) .
  5. From the natural play with the own body and the movement games arise competition-oriented sports games (sport) .

The scientific discourse is currently predominantly dominated by academics from Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries . In particular, their efforts to create and coordinate suitable institutions for research, teaching and industry are already well advanced. In addition to the high number of game-specific courses, primarily in Great Britain and the USA , the establishment of the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU), which functions as a think tank for European ludology, should be mentioned. In Germany, the game - Association of the German Games Industry, has been providing an overview of all players in the industry with since 2018. In addition, all courses of study offered by universities in Germany relating to game development and the training courses offered by vocational schools are included in the training compass games.

In German-speaking countries, the self-organization of game researchers has so far been structured in a rather non-binding and multidisciplinary manner. There are also less well-founded industrial contacts, and impact research has a higher priority than abroad for political reasons. The formation of the AG Computer Games of the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft eV is, however, a sign that something could change in the foreseeable future. The first German professorships with a corresponding focus were filled in December 2002 at the Institute for Simulation and Graphics at the University of Magdeburg and in March 2006 at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at the Technical University of Ilmenau . The Institute for Ludology was founded at the design academy berlin, SRH University for Communication and Design in October 2014. The media are now taking up the basic human phenomenon of games more often in order to question it and to look for explanations.

Research content

The primary focus of ludology is digital games, for which there are fundamental reasons as well as their status as a mass cultural phenomenon: the computer is considered a universal medium . As a result, not only any traditional games can be implemented, simulated or played with the aid of a computer, but also a whole range of new types of games, sometimes in combination with content and techniques from other media forms (e.g. literature and film ), only becomes possible in this way. This development of convergence makes digital games the ideal object for demonstration in order to gain general knowledge about gaming, whereby the elementary basics of free play and board and card games can be identified as such. Relevant questions deal with the following areas, among others:

Ludology vs. Narratology

In the course of its birth pangs, game research allowed itself a heated debate on principles, the effects of which in the form of ideological trench warfare can still be felt in some cases.


The starting point was the approach of some literary and media scholars , such as Janet Murray and Celia Pearce , to transfer their traditional tools for analyzing texts to those of digital games. For this purpose, games are declared as a further form of text , which then follows the known laws. "Text" is understood here as a communicative general concept, as a universal means of "constructing meaning" and thus also includes theater , film and any other narrative form; even a game like chess is considered a narrative in this paradigm .


This was categorically rejected as inapplicable by the growing group of ludologists around Espen Aarseth ; Instead, they rely on the principle of simulation, acting "as if", as the core of the game itself:

“Simulation is the hermeneutical counterpart to narration; the alternative mode of discourse, bottom-up and emergent , while stories are pre-planned top-down . In simulations, knowledge and experience are generated through the actions and strategies of the player instead of being reproduced by the writer or filmmaker. "

- Aarseth, 2004

Each game is characterized by the following elements: rules (the explicit set of rules, but also implicit rules of the game mechanics), the game world (a material / semiotic system ) and the gameplay (the events that result from the application of the rules to the game world and the actions of the players result).


The vehemence of the original debate is primarily explained by its perception as a key conflict over the authority to interpret the phenomenon "game". The position of the narratologist was seen by the ludologists as an attempt at occupation by imposing inadmissibly generalized concepts from a foreign subject, which subsequently led to a conscious radicalization and polemization of the argumentation of some simulationists. An example of this is a quote from Markku Eskelinen that has become relatively famous in this context :

"If I throw a ball at you, I don't expect you to drop it and wait until it starts telling stories."

"If I throw you a ball, I don't expect you to drop it and wait for it to start telling stories."

- Markku Eskelinen

In the meantime, a moderate ludological perspective has predominated in international game research. In addition to the simulation as a basic principle of the game, this recognizes the usefulness of a traditional textual analysis of game content, but only if there are originally narrative elements, which is common for many games, such as B. Chess or Tetris , is negated.

See also


  • Natascha Adamowsky (Ed.): Digital Modernism. Matthias Zimmermann's model worlds . Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-7774-2388-3
  • Jens Junge together with Jonas Vossler and Stefanie Talaska: Playful Design - Ludology as a transdisciplinary research approach . Heidelberger Hochschulverlag, Heidelberg 2016, pp. 100-131, ISBN 978-3-942648-15-8
  • Stephan Schwingeler : Computer game artwork - digital games as artistic material. An image science and media theoretical analysis . Transcript, Bielefeld 2014, ISBN 978-3-8376-2824-1
  • Special Issue on the Philosophy of Computer Games , Patrick John Coppock, Graeme Kirkpatrick, Olli Tapio Leino, Anita Leirfall: "Introduction to the Special Issue on the Philosophy of Computer Games", in: Philosophy & Technology , June 2014, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp. 151–157, doi: 10.1007 / s13347-014-0152-0
  • Stephan Günzel (2012): first person shooter. The spatial image of the computer game . Campus, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Niklas Schrape (2012): The rhetoric of computer games. How convince political games , Campus, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Mary Flanagan (2009): Critical Play: Radical Game Design MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Stephan Schwingeler : The space machine. Space and perspective in computer games . VWH Verlag, Boizenburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-940317-24-7
  • Ian Bogost (2008): Persuasive Games. The Expressive Power of Video Games . MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Andreas Jahn-Sudmann & Ralf Stockmann (2008) (Eds.): Computer Games as a Sociocultural Phenomenon. Games Without Frontiers - War Without Tears. Palgrave, Basingstoke, New York.
  • Espen Aarseth (2004): Genre Trouble , in: electronic book review , May 21, 2004
  • Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman (2003): Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals . Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Jesper Juul (2003): The Game, the Player, the World: Looking for a Heart of Gameness . In Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Proceedings , edited by Marinka Copier and Joost Raessens, 30-45. Utrecht: Utrecht University.
  • Jesper Juul (2002): The Open and the Closed: Games of emergence and games of progression . In Frans Mäyrä (Ed.): Computer Game and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings. Tampere University Press. p.323-329.
  • Claus Pias (2002): Computer game worlds . Diaphanes, Zurich / Berlin.
  • Gonzalo Frasca (1999): Ludology Meets Narratology: similitudes and differences between (video) games and narrative . Originally published in Finnish as Ludologia kohtaa narratologian in Parnasso, 3: 1999 .
  • Janet Murray (1998): Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace . MIT Press.
  • Espen Aarseth (1997): Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature . Johns Hopkins University Press.

Web links

Wiktionary: Ludologie  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Online magazines

Research institutes


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll: Greek-German school and hand dictionary
  2. Ludological management , interview with Jens Junge on ludological management. In: Accessed August 10, 2018.
  3. Roger Caillois , Play as a question of inner attitude. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  4. Five game categories in child development. In: Urie Bronfenbrenner: The ecology of human development. Natural and planned experiments ; Klett-Cotta, 1981; ISBN 3-12-930620-X .
  5. Gonzalo Frasca , English language Wikipedia.
  6. Master | Computer games. Retrieved August 19, 2017 .
  7. Thomas Hartmann: University of Bayreuth: Master's degree in computer game science for the 2015/2016 winter semester. In: PC Games Hardware . June 9, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2017 .
  8. ECHT Oberfranken: New course: Computer game science: ECHT Oberfranken - Edition 35 . KOBER Verlag & Marketing GmbH, May 20, 2016 ( online [accessed August 19, 2017]).
  9. Bachelor | Computer games. Retrieved August 19, 2017 .
  10. Game Studies , The Game as a Method and Profession. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  11. Play? What's this? , Blog article on accessed on October 16, 2018.
  12. ^ [1] , website of the Center for Computer Games Research, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  13. , website for the games industry in Germany.
  14. , website for courses and training programs at universities and vocational schools in Germany from game - the Association of the German Games Industry and the Institute for Ludology.
  15. ^ Website of the Institute for Ludology , Berlin.
  16. dpa interview before the SPIEL board game fair in Essen 2016 , interview with game researcher Jens Junge , published on on October 12, 2016, accessed on August 10, 2018.
  17. Interview on Pokémon Go Hype 2016 , interview with game researcher Jens Junge , published on (website of the Kölnische Rundschau) on July 24, 2016, accessed on August 10, 2018.