ludology vs narratology

As some of you know, HUMlab hosted a debate/discussion on game studies in January 2005 with Espen Aarseth and Henry Jenkins (realmedia stream here). The intention was not primarily to support confrontation or to resolve the so-called ludology/narratology issue.

Interestingly Janet Murray has recently published a preface to a keynote talk she delivered at DiGRA 2005, Vancouver, June 17, 2005. It is entitled “The Last Word on Ludology v Narratology in Game Studies” and is a good read I think. Murray makes reference to the HUMlab debate:

The most recent attempt an encounter between Henry Jenkins and Espen Aarseth in Umea Sweden in January 2005 — was judged by the participants and observers as lacking in the expected formalism of a contest. There was too much mutual interest and agreement, though some clear differences in emphasis.

One of our aims, I guess, was the opposite of confrontation, and mutual interest is often a good thing. But it was also clear that there really are some paradigmatic differences of perspective. The question is who defines the agenda and the positions. Murray claims that narratology is the authority against which the ludologists have rebelled and she suggests that there might be no narratologists:

In fact, no one has been interested in making the argument that there is no difference between games and stories or that games are merely a subset of stories.

And if the narratologists are being definied by the ludologists there is no resolution (unless the ludologists come up with a resolution themselves I suppose):

The ludology v narratology argument argument can never be resolved because one group of people is defining both sides of it. The “ludologists” are debating a phantom of their own creation.

I wonder whether the ludologists also could be seen as a kind of construction? Maybe not. Anyway, while I agree with many of Murray’s points (without being a real game scholar myself) I also find myself liking both the rich and contextual analysis that Henry Jenkins represents and the systematic beauty of the analysis that Aarseth and others propose. I do not particularly see the need for having to exclude other perspectives than your own but I am sure the paradigmatic tension (even if it is created by one party) contributes to our understanding of games.