Monday, 31 March 2008

Game theory from game developers?

I noticed that Keith Stuart on the Gamesblog over at the Guardian's tech pages recently wrote a short piece on game theory. I'm currently in the process of writing a lecture on approaches to studying digital games for MAC281 and was wondering how the students were going to take to what can be quite an abstract debate with seemingly little real world relevance.

It's not often that debates surrounding ludology and/or narratology make it in the mainstream media. They tend to be the obsession of academics within the emergent discipline of Game Studies, so it was reassuring to see Stuart's story. There has been polarised debate surrounding the two terms - narratology comes from wider studies within the arts which considers the significance of narrative, whilst ludology privileges the significance of gameplay and experience.

Academics like Frans Mäyrä seek a multi-disciplinary approach. However, Clint Hocking the developer for the forthcoming Far Cry 2 has recently took a pop at the game Bioshock for what he calls 'ludonarrative dissonance' on his blog. It is well worth reading as Hocking presents a valid argument. Bioshock has been lauded for the fact that it offers the player multiple trajectories throughout the game based upon key moral choices, yet the narrative drive of the game's programme offers some contradiction to the option of free choice.

Hocking's position seems much more than a rant directed at a competitor, although it does veer in that direction in a few places. Far Cry 2 is looking to address the problem that the intersection between narratology and ludic accounts offer by offering layers much more freedom of choice. (Far Cry 2 is due out on Xbox 360 and PS3 in Autumn 2008).

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