I2GD:5 – Analysing games, rules and narrative

The fifth lecture of the online course that I am taking has been released. I have not done any commentary on lectures 3 and 4, they contain little theory and are mostly enumerations of old video games and video game genres respectively.

This lecture has the form of an interview with Jesper Juul, done over Skype but with pretty decent audio quality.

0:00 – Introduction

2:20 – Presentation of Jesper Juul

5:58 – The book ‘Half real’
The relationship between game rules (system that the player is interacting with) and game fiction (fictional world). A theory war where people focused on one of either side, rules OR fiction. ‘Half real’ describes a system of rules AND fiction, from Jespers dual background in both literature and game development.

8:11 – The origin of ludology
Jesper speaks about his blog, linked below.

9:56 – The classic game model
Definitions of games. The history of boardgames, back to the ancient Egyptians. Games have had goals until recently, but modern games often lack a proper goal. Games must no longer have a goal. RPGs are one of the origins of the goal less games, since the rules are up to the GM (I find this very strange reasoning).

14:03 – What are rules?
Two schools:

  • Rules as limitations. The rules tell you what you can’t do. “Achieving a goal using less efficient means.” (I liked this definition.)
  • Rules both specify what you can’t and can do.

The rules are the game, esp for board games and card games.

In video games the computer upholds the rules. Therefore video games can have more complex worlds (Did he mean rules?) When playing real games you have to know the rules, video games include discovering what the rules are.

18.11 – Where does enjoyment come from in games?
From the interaction between the player and the game. Humans generally like goals with challenges, with direct feedback.

20:14 – The difference between single player and multiplayer games
Multiplayer games introduce social aspects.

The beauty of the rules in go.

21:47 – Emergence
Go has simple rules, but is complicated to play. Emergent games are asymetric as for rules contra complexity. The rules of go can be explained on a piece of paper, the strategy of the game fills bookshelves. Emergent games have more complex strategies than rules.

Tic-tac-toe is not an emergent game.

23:38 – The notion of fiction
Any kind of imagined world is the fiction.

The difference between the rules and the fiction. You have to follow the rules, but the fiction is more subjective. Example, some skip cut-scenes in video games.

26:27 – The creation of fictional worlds
“Space Invaders” tells a whole story in those two words. Just naming ink blots on a piece of paper creates fiction.

27:44 – Coherence
Mass Effect and Fallout try to create worlds that make sense, therefore they could be seen as coherent. Super Mario is less so, since Mario has three lives. Games don’t have to have coherent fictional world, depending on the game style. (I would link this to “immersion”, not discussed in the interview, especially Jespers discussion on KotOR.)

30:15 – The role of narrative in fiction
You can have fiction that is not narrative, for example a painting. Narrative describes a sequence of events. The Quests in WoW are narrative, but the game itself is fiction. Some claim that interactivity precludes narrative.

A discussion on why Tetris/Bejewled could be seen as having a fiction follows.

33:42 – More on ‘Half real’
Rules – Fiction.
You navigate games through both rules and fiction.

(Then a discussion on Tekken follows, but I can’t hear what they are talking about. At 34:52 he says a word that sounds like ‘penman’, but it makes no sense in the context.)

When playing you engage in both rules (real) and fiction (not real) at the same time, hence the title ‘Half real’.

36:24 – Jesper’s new book
It’s about casual games.

intro2gamedesign.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/5th-week’s-podcasts-and-assignment – Assignment five, the podcast can be found in the block on the right.

www.jesperjuul.net/ludologist – Jesper Juuls blog, mentioned during the interview.


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