Friday, July 01, 2005

A new taxonomy for interactive entertainment

Types of Play, an article by Evan Robinson published at Chris Crawford's Erasmatazz proposes a new classification system for computer entertainment systems.

Among the definitions presented by Robinson, the one that better applies to nongames would be "Unstructured Play"

Unstructured Play: Interaction with a system in which the primary goal of the user(s) is examination of the system's behavior. Also called 'Exploration'.

This definition indicates an interesting characteristic of the genre.

Even taking in consideration that, as put by Robinson, "one user's Toy is another user's Puzzle and yet another user's Game", it is fair to say that this kind of Unstructured Play is often meant to be a sort of toy. Toys offer a kind of freeform play often refered to as "Paidea" (as in Frasca's MA thesis), where there is not a 'win' or 'lose' situation (which would be present in games better defined by the term "ludus".

"Ludus", then, suggests a set of defined rules and game mechanics that don't give the player the impression of being manipulated arbitrarily by the system with no palpable explanation inside the game rules. In "paidea" (and therefore in toys, nongames and unstructured play in general), the absence of the system as a foe might liberate it to surprise the player more often and unexpectedly - something even desireble when exploring the system's behavior.

The "interesting characteristic" is that, since there is no struggle for control of the game state and outcomes between the player and the system, the player might as well abdicate his "mastering" of the system more often during play.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your registration system seems to be lagging...

I've argued that 'exploration' may be the most basic expression of ludus. While this isn't my most steadfast viewpoint, the act of exploring [something] is certainly an activity with a quantifiable outcome esp. in reference to video games.

Video games and toys have set limits of space and time...at some point they have to officially end, thus at some point there can be no further exploration.

If you take a Star Trek approach to things where 'space' is limitless, then I could see exploration as a paidia activity as the actions in the activity are quantified in a manner that perpetuates the activity rather than concluding it (as they would in ludus).

Dakota Reese
Avantgaming.com

chico queiroz said...

Thank you for writting (and pointing out the registration error - I will check that as soon as I can).

About your comment:

"I've argued that 'exploration' may be the most basic expression of ludus. (...) the act of exploring [something] is certainly an activity with a quantifiable outcome esp. in reference to video games."

I imagine your might be refering to the paper that you have published at http://www.avantgaming.com/papers/paidialudus.pdf .
I will have to read this later, but I must say that I agree - in fact, I believe most videogames rely on the exploration (not only of the game's environment, but also its mechanisms) in order to produce,and sometimes reward, quantifiable outcomes.

And about:

"If you take a Star Trek approach to things where 'space' is limitless, then I could see exploration as a paidia activity as the actions in the activity are quantified in a manner that perpetuates the activity rather than concluding it (as they would in ludus)."

That's a good point. To keep the sci-fi theme, I think Elite (and its sequel Frontier) is a good example of a game that manages to present this kind of exploration in both "paidia" and "ludus" contexts: the first made possible by the open-ended nature of the game, the latter by its goals.

Again,thank you for the message, and keep writting.

best,
chico queiroz

Copyright, Chico Queiroz