Intermediality between Games and Fiction: The “Ludology vs. Narratology” Debate in Computer Game Studies: A Response to Gonzalo Frasca

Open access


In the last ten or fourteen years there has been a debate among the so called ludologists and narratologists in Computer Games Studies as to what is the best methodological approach for the academic study of electronic games. The aim of this paper is to propose a way out of the dilemma, suggesting that both ludology and narratology can be helpful methodologically. However, there is need for a wider theoretical perspective, that of semiotics, in which both approaches can be operative. The semiotic perspective proposed allows research in the field to focus on the similarities between games and traditional narrative forms (since they share narrativity to a greater or lesser extent) as well as on their difference (they have different degrees of interaction); it will facilitate communication among theorists if we want to understand each other when talking about games and stories, and it will lead to a better understanding of the hybrid nature of the medium of game. In this sense the present paper aims to complement Gonzalo Frasca’s reconciliatory attempt made a few years back and expand on his proposal.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Aarseth Espen J. 2001. Computer Game Studies Year One. Game Studies. vol. 1 no. 1.

  • Aarseth Espen. 1997.Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore MD.

  • Atkins Barry. 2003. More Than a Game: The Computer Game as Fictional Form. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

  • Avedon Elliott Morton and Brian Sutton-Smith. 1971. The Study of Games. London: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Barthes Roland. 1977. S/Z. An Essay. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang.

  • Bolter D. J. and R. Grusin. 2000. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge MA: MIT.

  • Bruss Elizabeth. 1983. The Game of Literature and Some Literary Games. New Literary History vol. 9: 153-72.

  • Caillois Roger. 1961. Man Play and Games. Trans. Meyer Barash. New York: The Free Press.

  • Compagnio Dario and Patrick Coppock. 2009. Introduction: Computer Games: Between Text and Practice. E |C Journal (Serie Speciale). Associazione di Studi Semiotica. Anno III no. 5: 5-11. http://www/ Last Accessed at 25. 03. 2014.

  • Crawford Chris. 1984. The Art of Computer Game Design. htpp:// Last Accessed at 25. 03. 2014.

  • Detweiler Robert. 1976. Games and Play in Modern American Fiction. Contemporary Literature XVII: 45-62.

  • Entertainment Software Association. 2013. Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry. The ESA Report. p. 2. Last Accessed at 30. 03. 2014.

  • Eskelinen Markku. 2004. From Markku Eskelinen’s Online Response. First Person: New Media as Story Performance and Game eds. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan 120-121. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

  • Eskelinen Markku. 2001. The Gaming Situation. Game Studies 1. Last Accessed at 30. 03. 2014.

  • Eskelinen Markku and R. Tronstad. 2003. Video games and configurative performances. In The Video Game Theory Reader eds. M. J. P. Wolf and B. Perron 195-220. London: Routledge.

  • Frasca Gonzalo. 2003. Ludologists Love Stories Too; Notes from a Debate That Never Took Place. Paper presented at the Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Utrecht. In Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Proceedings eds. Marinka Copier and Joost Raessens 92-99 . Utrecht: DiGRA and University of Utrecht.

  • Frasca Gonzalo.. 1999. Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and Differences between (Video) Games and Narrative. htpp:// Last accessed at 28. 02. 2014. Game n.d. Dictionary. Last accessed at 15. 10. 2013.

  • Gee Paul James. 2006. Part 3: Games as Literacy. A Lecture entitled A Productive Approach to Video Games Learning and School delivered at the Centre for Educational Media Monash University Melbourne on Saturday 19 August. Last accessed at 10. 12. 2013

  • Huizinga Johan. 1970. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Trans. R. C. F. Hull. New York: Harper and Row.

  • Hutchinson Peter. 1983. Games Authors Play. London and New York: Methuen.

  • King Geoff and Tanya Krzywinska eds. 2002. ScreenPlay: Cinema / Videogames / Interfaces. London and New York: Wallflower Press.

  • Kokonis Michalis. Under Publication. The Reader as Author and the Ontological Divide: Rome Total WarTM and the Semiotic Process. Gramma/Γράμμα: A Journal of Theory and Criticism/Περιοδικό Θεωρίας και Κριτικής eds. Alexandros-Faedon Lagopoulos Karin Boklund-Lagopoulou. School of English Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. University Studio Press.

  • Kokonis Michalis. 1991. Metafictional Games: The Play Element in Cinema and the Novel. Ph.D Dissertation. School of English Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki Greece.

  • Kοκκώνης Μιχάλης [Kokonis Michalis]. 2010. Ψηφιακή Ψυχαγωγία: Παιχνίδια υπολογιστών και βιντεοπαιχνίδια [Digital Entertainment: Computer and Video Games]. In Ψηφιακά μέσα: Ο πολιτισμός του ήχου και του θεάματος [Digital Media: The Culture of Sound and Spectacle] eds. Michalis Kokonis Philemon Bantimaroudis and Grigoris Paschalidis 339-399. Athens: Kritiki Publications.

  • Κοκκώνης Μιχάλης [Kokonis Michalis]. Under Publication. Η σημειωτική ως διέξοδος στο δίλημμα Αφηγηματολογία ή Παιγνιολογία; στις Σπουδές Ηλεκτρονικών Παιχνιδιών. Μια απάντηση στον Gonzalo Frasca. [Semiotics as a Way out of the Dilemma: Narratology or Ludology? in Computer Game Studies. A Response to Gonzalo Frasca]. In 10o Διεθνές συνέδριο Σημειωτικής: Kόσμοι που αλλάζουν Σημεία των καιρών. [Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of Semiotics: Changing Worlds and Signs of the Times] eds. Maria Papadopoulou and Polyxeni Manoli. Hellenic Semiotic Society.Volos Greece.

  • Loftus G. R. and E. F. Loftus. 1983. Mind at Play: The Psychology of Video Games. New York: Basic Books.

  • Mateas Michael. 2002. Interactive Drama Art and Artificial Intelligence. Ph.D Dissertation. Technical Report CMU-CS-02-206. School of Computer Science Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA. Last accessed at 15. 05. 2009.

  • Mäyrä Frans. 2008. An Introduction to Game Studies: Games and Culture. London: Sage Publications.

  • Myers David. 2003. The Nature of Computer Games: Play as Semiosis. Peter Lang series (Digital Formations).

  • Myers David. 2010. Play Redux: The Form of Computer Games. Ann Arbor: The University of Chicago Press and the University of Michigan Library. Last accessed at 18.10.2013.

  • Newman James. 2004. Videogames. London and New York: Routledge. NPD Group The. March 2013. Entertainments Trends in America. Last accessed at 18.10. 2013

  • Peirce C. S. 1932. Collected Papers. Vol. I and II. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1931-1958.

  • Rome: Total War™ Gold Edition. Activision / Sega The Creative Assembly 2004.

  • Rouse Richard. 2001. Game Design: Theory and Practice. Plano Texas: Word-ware Publishing.

Journal information
Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 1708 883 64
PDF Downloads 1011 501 70