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Brief Notes on the Ludic Century Manifesto

by John Quick on 09/30/13 10:18:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



Game designer Eric Zimmerman publicly released a manifesto describing his tenets of our present time, which he calls the Ludic Century. Having read the manifesto, I feel that there is little of value to comment on. All in all, I find the work to be wrought with empty techno-babble and baseless speculation. Nevertheless, I would like to bring attention to two worthwhile points that can be drawn from the document.

Ironically, the Ludic Century starts off with its high score, as Zimmerman notes that games are a fundamental, and ancient, aspect of humanity. The relevant section is quoted here in full.

Games are ancient.

Like making music, telling stories, and creating images, playing games is part of what it means to be human. Games are perhaps the first designed interactive systems our species invented.

In the age of digital games, it is all too easy for designers to forget about non-digital games. Some of the youngest designers may have little to no experience with games that are not digital. Furthermore, many people do not realize that games are prehistoric in nature and were likely played by even the earliest humans. It is therefore critical for anyone who might design future games to realize that their abundant exposure to digital games constitutes a mere blip on the overall timeline of gaming history. There is much more to be learned from the history of non-digital games than the new anomaly of digital games.

I also have to point out a potential caveat with this section of the manifesto. While I don't think, based on his wording, that Zimmerman is suggesting such, I will nevertheless note that humans did not invent games. We can readily observe that animals play games with one another to practice their survival skills. I'm inclined to think that even more ancient creatures that cannot be easily observed, like insects and microbes, also have games of their own. Thus, while games may be a fundamental part of humanity, they are not exclusive to, nor invented by, humans.

The second portion of the manifesto that I will call attention to comes from the final section. Zimmerman suggests here that games need no justification. I believe that we have recently witnessed a widespread acceptance of games as a valid topic of discussion. As of just five years ago, any academic daring to write about games had to include a lengthy introduction just describing why games are a valid topic of scholarly discussion. Today, this is no longer the case. Similarly, we have seen (some degree of) advancement in mass media, governmental, and artistic portrayals of video games. These are indeed signs that games are becoming a natural part of society, rather than an outcast activity that are distinct from everyday life.

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