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Game Design

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Excellent article! I do believe, however, videogames more focused on paidia are becoming more popular (just look at Nintendogs, Animal Crossing, Elektroplankton or even The Sims).

I run the website, dealing with game design theory and focused on those games that are usually much more about 'paidia' than 'ludus'. I have also finished a MA project about the same subjects. Please, feel free to visit the site anytime - maybe you will like it.

What I mean by adaptive content/gameplay is "the addition of intelligently organised context-sensitive elements." With an AI platform capable of dynamic content creation a desinger would have to take their design to a whole new level, no longer designing ludic rule sets they would have to devise meta-rules which creats the singular nucleus of paidia. This would complete the circle from basic mechanic paidia to heavily ludic intentive play, back again to the paidia of newly evolved/recombined rule set. The paidic nucleus would be designer in terms of heuristics rather than hard-coded rules, though there would need to be a development environment comprised of a meta-grammer, a language of langauges, in which codified hueristics could be implemented and functionally interpreted by the drama management AI. The DMAI could also, provided it had a legend of meaningful connections related to the meta-rules, tweak the gameplay in real-time, that is as specific rule-set/content pairings are presented, greatly culling back-end costs. In the meantime, we'll have to resort to cleverness and paidia which doesn't coalesce into narratively or otherwise ludically interesting focuses.

Hmm, I think your example of sinking a floating object is actually very very ludic. It has very tightly constrained rules, a clear objective, and it's a cooperative game. Why do you feel it is an example of paidia?

I also didn't mean to imply that all paidia play is about social rules; sandcastles are about physics, for example. It's still an importation of rulesets from the world, whereas ludic games are strongly characterized by a tightly bounded magic circle, and highly "modeled" rules that are not literally those of the real world but simulations of some aspect thereof.

Many of the examples of games that offer more paidia are in fact examples of ludic games (such as GTA or Halo) which import more and more broad "rulesets" from the real world (such as physics).


I'm absolutely thrilled to learn about your site! I will get a link up as soon as I get a chance.

Incidentally, the games you mention are all examples of games of Mimicry (one of Caillois' four patterns of cross cultural play). I'll be posting on this soon.


I really like the way you're trying to take your (future) games - although your descriptions of your intentions become quite complex! :)


There might be a terminological disconnect between the way you use the term ludic and the way Caillois and I employ it. Ludic rules, in Caillois' eyes, are enforced not implicit. Sink has no such rules. The clearest evidence of this is that it does not need to be taught - it occurs again and again, freely and spontaneously.

I agree with you that paidia can occur in ludic contexts (I thought I expressly said that in the post!) Paidia occurs wherever people have the freedom to play spontaneously, both in and out of ludic contexts.

Thanks for the clarification about the social rules issue - but surely you are mistaken that sandcastles are about physics... aren't they about having fun with sand? :D

Thanks for the comments!

To me, having fun with sand is in the end, having fun with the physical properties of sand, which is physics. ;)

As far as Caillois' terminology -- as you know, I tend to think that his definitions are fuzzy anyway. To my mind, when you play something like "sink," the rules usually get socially enforced, just as the rules in any other game tend to be.

Just because a given game is "obvious" and tends to reappear, doesn't mean that its rules are implicit. IMHO, of course.

I understand the relationship between ludes and paidia by this analogy, the laws of physics are implicit, but the formations of crystals, caves and mountains are explicit in and of themselves; in the soup of paidic space many lattices of ludes can emerge. In games this emergence is largely gravitated by volition, where user intentionality takes the role of a figurative "quantum gravity" sublty guiding the formation of concrete structures.

I just read Raph's book and have this to say:

Chris: Thanks a lot for the compliments and the link. I do agree that my examples would mostly follow the Mimicry pattern. But I must say that Electroplankton also has a more Ilinx-like quality: some players often play it in a aleatory, instinctive fashion to be, if you wish, "intoxicated" by the outcome.

I am waiting for your next post. Keep up the good work!

I confess, I haven't seen Electroplankton yet... your description makes it sound fabulous! We haven't had games (or nongames, if you prefer) like this since the days of Jeff Minter.

In the book, and in my lectures, I use the term 'toyplay' to describe non-performance oriented play and 'gameplay' to describe performance oriented play (that is, play with either a goal, or a process metric). I resisted the temptation to use the term in this piece, but I felt it worth mentioning. :)

'Toyplay'is a nice term - I must use it sometime, maybe quoting yours "Story... Narrative... Game... Toy". It´s a shame I didn´t find your website back when I was still doing my MA... I still have to check out your book too...

Speaking of Jeff Minter, I haven´t seen Neon running on the Xbox360, but read some nice reviews on it. Have you tried it?

Not yet, no, but it's by far the most interesting thing about the 360 for me! :)

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