Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Q: Is Moulthrop really a Ludologist?

Personally I don't think so. I think he spends 1/4 of his essay citing murray, who is the figurehead of "cyberdrama," without actually condemning (rather promoting) her ideology, because he is essentially in the same boat. He argues with Aarseth and Eskelinen more than Murray or the other cyberdramatists.

Which isn't to say he is a "cyberdramatist" to mint a revoltingly frivolous neologism (will they ever end?) He seems to be a frustrated political scientist or social engineer, or would be editorialist. His paper is half rant, one quarter relatively logical discourse and one quarter Murray.

The rant largely concerns the idea that, for lack of a better term (although God knows they've tried as many as they could fit in any given sentence) "interactivity", which he calls "configurative" after Aarseth and Eskelinen, but more in Murray's sense--that new "configurative" are for freedom, right and the American Way! ...And that "interpretive" (equated here with passive) storytelling is 2500+ years of useless, tyrannical, and the big business Bush way. Storytelling=Bush and a dark future a la Orwell's 1984, I'm sorry, I should say that Mac ad from 1984.

He makes some good points, but so does everyone else in this book and this field so far. However, of the six writers so far Mateas, Aarseth, and the obtuse Eskelinen stand out.

This joker, on the other hand, responded to Aarseth's description of chess as non-narrative and without the definite trappings of narratives, as: "By his reasoning, chess would be the same game even if the pieces were replaced with bottle caps and called minks, warts, and chevrolets instead of bishops, knights, and pawns....If these claims seem indisputable at face value it is only because they are alarmingly narrow. Mink takes chevrolet may contain no reference to chivalric hierarchy but it does assert a logic of territorial domination and unequal privilege. No doubt one can play the game without connecting this logic to European history, but such an approach reduces chess to a series of abstract transactions, which may work well enough for mathematics but seems far too narrow for any serious cultural critique."
Of course a serious cultural critique should probably have its facts straight. Chess was invented more than a thousand years before feudal Britain became feudal, and the pieces had different names and connotations. Its sociological connotations are well within the domain and age of legends rather than the kind of simplistic social ranting Moulthrop takes as his simplistic rhetorical model.


At 8:48 AM, Blogger flook said...

Brilliant Curtis. I agree with most of what you said, especially your displeasure with, "revoltingly frivolous neologism[s]." I wish the academics would not label and provide vocabulary for everything.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Sarah "Intellagirl" Robbins said...

A few points here:
1. Academics don't make up terms just to make the world a more pretentious place. These fields are new, finding their place among interdisciplinary works, making efforts to justify their place in academic realms and therefore the research must work to define itself and what it will look at without confusing itself with other areas by borrowing terms. If you don't accept the terms you'll have trouble partaking in the conversation.

2. The comment on chess here is blatently off the point of the author's intentions. First, it would be far easier to understand your comments if you provided page numbers for your quotes. This quote regarding chess is from 47 and is in Crawford's article not Aarseth's . We must consider the weight of the comment in its context as being part of another work and not straight from Aarseth's mouth.
Next, I feel I must point out that arguing about the age of Chess, its origins, or the symbolic systems of its peices is rather mute in the overall importance of the conversation between Aarseth and Crawford. Crawford's point is that if we reduce the game to simple rules then we remove much of the narrative possibilities of the game. Crawford's argument helps us understand the that stories of games lie, not in the game itself, but in the player. Whether it's a bishop, Lara Croft, or is US who are in the story, constructing the story and experiencing the narrative.
Disagreeing with unimportant minutae is neither helpful nor a valid contribution to the conversation.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Curtisgeist said...

1. The word is shibboleth. Inventing terms for the purpose of limiting argument is not good practice. Terms are not invented in serious scholarship to create barriers to entry (in an ideal world) but to define or categorize, may be at odds with the overall rhetorical stance of some of some authors who argue for purely situational realism. Further, in this particular field we have seen again and again confusing, arbitrary, badly-thought out terms popping up again and again--e.g. game theory, game theory and game theory. These authors often create words which are accepted as part of the field of narratology or ludology, etc., which are then redefined by every other author in the field.

2. Perhaps you are not seeing the author, which is Moulthrop in "From Sutart Moulthrop's Online Response" page 47, not Crawford, which is written in the adjoining sidebar. Moulthrop's comments on chess refer to Aarseth's article not Crawford's response. Moulthrop is talking to Aarseth and taking him to task for not being socially aware--while Moulthrop is being socially/historically confused. Moutlhrop, again, not Crawford, is not merely getting "MINUTIEA" wrong, his error grotesquely invalidates his argument, which is on a subject close to his heart, as seen in his very socio-political essay.


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