I blinked twice when I read this:
“Espen Aarseth is unabashed in calling himself a narratologist. Building on the theories of French literary theorist Gerard Genette and narrative theorist Seymour Chatman, Aarseth’s work is really about how literature may be generated by gameplay mechanics in contexts from the I Ching to the FPS. For Aarseth, gameplay is part and parcel of what makes the story; in some senses, it is the story.”
From The Plays the Thing by Mark Wallace
It does sound much like the Aarseth of 1997 but none the less. When Espen Aarseth and Henry Jenkins met in HUMlab in January 2005 it was not so much a debate as informed discussion with just a few points of disagreement. From their chat I got the idea that there really is not so much to debate about between narrative and ludology. It is like debating which is better, apples or pears. Both Jenkins (who I think said the apples and pears line in the HUMlab chat) and Aarseth seemed reconciliatory at the end of their meeting. Very little blood was spilled. However, as Andrew Sterne does point out, the debate does/did have value, but there are many debates that could be had as well. Why don’t we talk about the industrial military complex and gaming? Is it hindering the narratological development of games? Yes, maybe, depends.
I have since attended a lecture and a workshop given by Espen where I had a chance to talk to him. He qualifies his narratology with the simple point that playing a game is not a text. I have thought a lot about this in the last year and I believe it to be an accurate point of view. A game is not the same thing when played as when read. Driving a car and designing a car are different things. So is critiquing the design of a car.
Wallace’s article is a brief survey of four of the “big names” (couldn’t The Escapist find a single female game theorist or designer?) Frasca, Aarseth, Juul and Barrett. They all seem to be moving on from polarities to more integrated descriptions of the narratology-ludology conundrum. That’s if they were ever really as polarised as it has been sometimes painted.
“a masturbatory, ego-driven, politically-motivated debate that is never going to help anyone make a better interactive product”
Mark Barrett sums up the ludology-narratology thing.